Galatians 5:22,23 famously says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law.”
While the fruit of the spirit will influence all areas of our lives for the better, no area of life can be more positively affected by applying the fruit of the spirit to your life than in your parenting. Not only will you be a better parent, and have more positive relationships with your children, but through your example your children will begin to develop this fruit as well. So let’s take a look at what each of the fruit of the Spirit could look like in your parenting…
Love – This one seems obvious. I mean, who among us don’t love our children. Our children are our everything! We didn’t even know what true love was until we had children! But so often, in the business of day-to-day love, we forget to show them! It’s like, “hurry up! Get in the car! We have to go!” all the time. At least I know I’m guilty of this. My husband has this little thing he always says, “Love me like a verb.” You need to love your children like a verb. Don’t just feel love for them; mindfully set apart time to give them all of your attention. Tell them you love them all the time (they never get tired of hearing it, even if they say they do). Even as you discipline them, remind them that you are doing it because you love them and you want them to have a good life. Carve out time from working so hard and just give them all of your love and all of your energy.
Joy – Yes, life is hard. Life is busy. Parenting is hard, parenting is busy. But don’t lose sight of the joy. Take a break from work. Look up from your screens. Watch your children playing together. Listen to the way they are pretending. Watch them riding their bikes. Have a game night. Go to a park. Play with them on the playground Soak it all in! Let yourself feel all of those magical moments! Enjoy your kids! Don’t lose the fun!
Peace – Do your best to create a peaceful home for them to grow up in. This means working on your marriage, having those hard conversations with your spouse and setting time apart to be a couple and enjoy your marriage. This means not just telling your kids to stop fighting but teaching them how to communicate with one another and how to problem solve. Be a peacemaker in your home and give your kids the tools to be peacemakers themselves.
Patience – This is the hardest one of them all, I think. As moms, we are so exhausted and torn in so many different directions. But there are tools and strategies that help with this. First of all, self-care! Take the time to be alone, to pray, to read, to exercise, to have coffee with a girlfriend. In my house, my kids know that I do nothing for them (unless it’s an actual necessity) before I have my coffee in the morning. Most mornings I wake up earlier than them, but sometimes I don’t. Secondly, recognize the things that are driving you crazy (constant messes? Constant fighting? No one helping you?) and develop a plan to remove those problems from your life. For example, my 4-year-old is really into art these days – so there are forever things all over the house: little snips of paper that she cut into confetti, all the tape is gone. Every marker, crayon and colored pencil we own is on the floor! I couldn’t get one mess cleaned up before there was another one right behind it! So, I made some guidelines to control the situation. First, she had to clean up one mess before another could be made. Second, she had to beat the timer in cleaning up. If she beats the timer AND I don’t have to keep nagging her, she gets to put a marble in a jar. When the jar is full, she gets to pick a restaurant for a family dinner. Amazingly, fewer messes! No more nagging mom! No more yelling mom! Think strategy! Strategy = patience!
Kindness – Be kind to your kids. This goes along with loving like a verb. Do little things just to make them happy. Recognize the smallest victories they have and tell them you’re proud of them. Even when you have to discipline them, do so in kindness and not in anger.
Goodness – Teach your children right from wrong, and be sure that you are leading by example.
Faithfulness – This one has a few different applications. First of all, instill faith in your children. Teach them about God and His goodness and His love. Speak openly with your children about your own faith experiences. Secondly, let them know that you have faith in them! Instill confidence. Give them the tools to be resilient and persistent problem-solvers! Finally, be consistent. Be faithful in what you teach them and what you expect of them.
Gentleness – Speak to your children gently. A soft tone actually commands more authority than a loud one. Obviously, if they’re running into the street, yell for them to stop. That is not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about speaking truth in love. Telling them they are wrong without creating doubt in their heart of your love for them. I’m talking about showing speaking to them and not at them.
Self-control – Self-control is a broad term. We tend to think of it in terms of controlling our anger, but I covered that under patience, so I would like to look at this from another angle. Personal self-control. As a parent – especially if you are parenting teenagers – set an example of self-control in the way you eat, engage in alcohol, behave at parties, respond to other people’s frustrating behavior. Think about the way you would like your teenager (or your one-day teenager) to behave. That is how you should behave. Be moderate in all things. Lead by example.