What’s the temperature like at your house? Where do you keep your thermostat – a cozy 71, a cool 65? We live in southern California, moderate enough that this is more or less a non-issue. But in our native New England, the thermostat is a big deal – especially in the snowy winter and the hot summer.
No matter where you live, the emotional temperature of a household is an issue. This is nowhere more true, perhaps, than in homes where moms and young kids live. Some “climate” examples from my own home:
Stuffy warm. This is what it feels like when overall crankiness prevails and everyone’s getting under everyone else’s skin. Little fights are breaking out here and there between kids and an undertone of whining has set in. My own frustration or self-pity usually contributes to the scene on temperature-rising days.
Sweltering hot. These are the moments when I bubble over with frustration and yell at my kids. When the whining and bickering volume gets too high, my patience level can max out and I snap. When a mother erupts, her anger is like lava pouring down on her young kids – it’s volatile and searing. It’s never ok, and it always merits repentance, confession, and a serious change of pace or activity so the cool breeze of the Holy Spirit can blow in.
Chilly. Sometimes I treat my children civilly and appropriately, but I fail to love them. When I’m in productivity mode, there’s nothing cherishing or nurturing about my interactions with my kids. Our children need us to meet their needs, yes – tie their shoes and get food in their bellies. But more than that, they need our attention and affection. Lack of warmth erodes relationship.
Ice cold. Let’s face it: we moms can flat-out ignore our children. I think this is more true today, in an era of multi-tasking and ever-present digital distraction than it ever was. How often do our children repeat themselves three, four, five times before we – fingers to the keyboard or thumbs on the phone – even register that they’re talking to us? It happens, some days, to all of us.
Temperatures fluctuate – real ones outside, and mood ones in our homes. That’s life. But everyone know it feels best, physically and psychologically, to hang out in the moderate, temperate zones. No one likes to be too hot or too cold.
A few ideas to keep the emotional thermostat set to a comfortable space in your own house:
• Know and anticipate the temperaments of your children. As we study and learn our children and their dispositions, we can anticipate their reactions and be better prepared to head off storm clouds as they’re gathering (or to water soil that’s drying in the heat). Equally, know your own temperament and triggers.
• Be intentional and consistent about discipline. Effective discipline is both loving and effective in limiting wrong-spirited behavior. When discipline slackens in our house, volatile situations begin cropping up more frequently and things go haywire. I tend to become frustrated and reactive, contributing to the uncomfortable climate that’s brewing.
• Simplify your life and focus more on your kids. This is a huge one for me. Things go toward chilly and cold awfully quickly when my life is over-full, and my family starts to feel like one more project on my ‘management’ list.
• Have some go-to “temperature-adjustment” plans at the ready. Hot chocolate or a seat by the fire are great warmers on cold days, just like popsicles or the sprinkler help on hot ones. What are the emotional equivalents we can have at the ready on the home front when we need them? Nothing fancy – just baking muffins; a library outing; a walk around the block. These might be all it takes to bring the climate back to comfortable for you and your kids.
It’s worth remembering that the goal in life (emotionally as physically) isn’t to be comfortable – sitting in climate-controlled homes to avoid whatever taxing elements are outside. The goal is to be like Jesus. We want our households to be so centered on Him, so fueled by His actual presence and connected to His tangible grace, that His warmth abounds. His is the climate of true Life, and it’s the one we’re after.
Next week’s Author: Jeanine Cook