Bang! Bang! Bang! I could hear little hands pounding on the bathroom door as I huddled in my bathroom closet. It was one of those days that would test the soul of any parent. One thing after another had gone wrong. I had a huge project looming on the horizon. The house was a disaster. My young children demanded constant attention. And I was pushed to my absolute limit.
Exhausted from being needed all day, all I wanted was to go to bed. Instead I found myself hiding in my bathroom closet, desperately seeking a moment of reprieve from the overwhelming stimulation and chaos. In that moment I realized I needed a power beyond myself to exhibit the patience and forbearance I expected my children to demonstrate in their own lives. So I cried out to God for help.
The Patience Connection
“Love is patient and kind” (1 Cor. 13:4, ESV). The Bible’s definition of love begins with patience. And yet patience can be one of the most challenging aspects of love. As parents, we desire our children to learn lessons of patience and self-control under provocation. But how will they learn patience if they don’t see it? By beholding we become changed. Children reflect what they observe or behold in parents. The way parents navigate difficult situations easily transfers to children’s characters.
In society today the detrimental consequences of impatience and lack of self-control are clearly evident. Many individuals struggle to respond appropriately when their expectations are disappointed. People are quick to respond with frustration, irritation, anger. This growing impatience is reflected in the alarming increase of road rage incidents. According to a recent study by Everytown Research (2023), deaths resulting from road rage shootings in the United States doubled between 2018 and 2022.1
Teachers, too, have witnessed a rise in violent behaviors. In a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (2022),2 one third of the participating teachers reported experiencing verbal threats. Further, 14 percent of teachers and 22 percent of other school staff reported being physically attacked by students, up from about 10 percent of K-12 teachers reporting threats of physical violence as recently as 2015-2016.3 Disturbingly, the high levels of verbal assaults against teachers are not coming just from students. The same study conducted by the American Psychological Association revealed that 29 percent of teachers reported being verbally attacked by parents. From this it is evident that the lack of self-control displayed by students directly reflects the prevailing atmosphere in their homes.
As people’s nerves become more and more frazzled, it becomes that much more important that home is a place of peace and joy. Speaking to the importance of parents setting the right example, Ellen White states: “Parents should exercise self-control, patience, forbearance, gentleness, and love, in dealing with their children. They should remember that the example they give their children, they will see reproduced in them.”4
When we exhibit harshness toward our children, we distort their perception of God’s character and undermine the credibility of Christianity itself. We teach that God has the power to transform hearts, but when our own character remains unchanged, it raises doubts about the authenticity of our faith. Moreover, our impatience “dries up the moisture of love and affection in the hearts of children.”5 Like delicate plants, children easily wither under a lack of sympathy and love, but with the right care and nourishment they can flourish.
Through daily interactions with others we have the opportunity to cultivate patience and self-control in ourselves and in our children. Consider our reactions in different scenarios. How do we respond when someone cuts us off while driving? When our children repeatedly ask about a lost toy, do we calmly respond, or do we let frustration seep in, accompanied by an exasperated sigh? When we feel dissatisfied with our child’s teacher, do we confront the situation with anger and veiled threats, or do we make an effort to approach it with patience and seek to understand their perspective?
And what about when we’re engrossed in an important project and our child interrupts us to show their latest artwork? Do we dismissively reply, “Not now, I’m busy,” or do we take a moment to acknowledge their creativity and bring them joy? It is important to realize that our responses to these inconveniences greatly influence how our children will handle their own challenges in life.
What can we do when everything seems to be going wrong, pushing us to our limits and depleting our reserve of patience? Jesus will walk with us through these big and little valleys if we allow Him. “Mischievous hands and restless feet create a great amount of labor and perplexity for the mother. She has to hold fast the reins of self-control, or impatient words will slip from her tongue. She almost forgets herself time and again, but a silent prayer to her pitying Redeemer calms her nerves, and she is enabled to hold the reins of self-control with quiet dignity.”6
As I huddled inside my bathroom closet, it was painfully clear that I could not summon the strength required on my own; I needed Jesus. Desperately I prayed for help from above, seeking the patience and calmness that eluded me. In that moment Jesus filled my heart with peace. Rising from my knees, I emerged from the bathroom in better control of myself. Remarkably, my children noticed the change. After apologizing for my frustration and addressing the previous issue, my 4-year-old son spoke up: “Mommy, I’m so glad you talked to Jesus. He helped you be patient.” Even my son knew I couldn’t take the credit for myself. Self-control is a gift from above. It’s the miracle of patience. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2, 3). And for the one who lacks wisdom to know how to be patient, the counsel continues: “Let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (verse 5). As we allow God to transform our own character, we can be more effective in shaping the characters of our children.
1 Everytown Research, “Reports of Road Rage Shootings Are on the Rise” (Mar. 20, 2023), retrieved from https://everytownresearch.org/reports-of-road-rage-shootings-are-on-the-rise/.
2 American Psychological Association, “Teachers, Other School Personnel, Experience Violence, Threats, Harassment During Pandemic” [press release] (Mar. 17, 2022), https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2022/03/school-staff-violence-pandemic.
3 L. Musu-Gillette et al., Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2017 (National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education; and Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice).
4 Ellen G. White, in Good Health, Jan. 1, 1880, par. 6, retrieved from https://egwwritings.org/book/b440.
5 Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1952), p. 242.