Recently, I was frustrated with a few of my children who were dawdling with their room cleaning. As I walked into their still-messy room to reprimand them for being so slow in getting their project done, I was about ready to lose all of my cool.

“Why do I have to constantly repeat myself over and over again? Why can’t they just do what I ask them to do? Why do I have to constantly be checking up on them and making sure they are following through with what I’ve asked of them?”

As my anger reached its peak and began to bubble out in heated words, my heart was pricked as I thought of all of the grace and mercy God has extended to me. And, as a Christian, aren’t I supposed to be imitating Christ in how I respond to others — including my children?

Sometimes we forget what it’s like to be little and how overwhelming a project like cleaning a messy room can seem to a young child. I’m all about teaching children to work from a young age, but we need to remember what they are capable of. Cleaning a messy room can be a audacious project for young children. It’s easy to forget this when we have decades of room-cleaning practice under our belt!

Think about how it would feel if God gave you an huge assignment and then just left you and came back a little later and scolded you for not really making much traction. I’m so thankful that He doesn’t leave us or forsake us — and that He doesn’t give up on us when we falter and fail.

Instead, He is always there for us, providing help, strength, grace, and encouragement.

Once I had contemplated the grace and mercy of God toward me, I knew I couldn’t respond to my children by yelling at them — even though I was sorely tempted to! Instead, I got down and started helping my children pick up their room. Within moments, my stress began to dissipate.

We talked and laughed while putting away the toys, and books, and other things strewn about. Before I knew it, the room was clean, my joy had returned, and my children were all smiles!

Best of all, as I worked alongside them and encouraged them, I saw them really be diligent in their efforts. I’m positive that yelling at them would have never accomplished the same results.

After this experience, I’ve adopted a new theme for dealing with my mothering frustrations: instead of yelling, try helping. When I feel like exploding in anger, I’ve been stepping back and reminding myself of God’s grace toward me, and then asking God to give me grace to pour His love out to my children and instead encourage, bless, and work alongside them. I’m amazed at what a difference this has made!

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  1. Yay Crystal! This is so true…teaching children should be more about relationship building than perfectly completed tasks – I can almost hear the giggling and conversation that occurred during your clean up time in that bedroom! Woo hoo! Big Hugs!

  2. I really needed this too! Thanks for the encouragement! And thanks for letting me know I am not alone!

  3. Oh my, how you have spoken right to my heart with this. I was frustrated that my 3 yo was having a hard time picking up her books yesterday while I tried to cook dinner. I went in to help her after much frustration and talking. The first thing she told her Daddy when he got home was that I helped her pick up her books. It meant way more for me to help her than it did for me to talk, angrily at her (which she couldn’t completely understand). I know you wrote this for me. 😀

  4. THANK YOU!!! It’s already been one of those weeks. I definitely needed to read this. It helps knowing that others face the same challenges. Thank you for reminding me of how awesome our God is!

  5. This is exactly what I needed to read! I have nightly battles with my 4 and 2 year old to pick up their toys before bed and it usually ends in yelling and spanking and threatening to throw them all away. My oldest the other day broke my heart when he yelled back “Don’t yell at me mommy!” It is hard to hold it back sometimes but you’re right — it’s not a reasonable expectation for a 4 and 2 year old to clean the room as quickly as a 30 year old would and praise God that he doesn’t expect us to do things exactly like He does!

    Thanks for the reminder!

  6. Such a convicting, yet simple, concept. I’m determined to use this method with my kids today! I have no doubt I’ll see a difference.

    Thanks, Crystal!

  7. Jessica Scott @ says:

    This is sooooo true I forget this from time to time, and it is even true of Teenagers. Sometimes with teens we forget that just because they look grown up they might not know how to accomplish a task without help. I did hear in a lecutre once upon a time that with small children if you give them 1 specific task at a time they clean up much better. So instead of saying clean your room say put all your stuffed animals back in the toy box. Or put all your dirty clothes in the hamper. I’ll say it really does work.

  8. This is definitly something I have found as well, and been trying to put into practice CONSISTENTLY.

  9. I love this! It’s so easy to be angry, but truly God to be merciful. By his grace, I hope to show his love to my kids like this more often. Thank you for the reminder, Crystal!

  10. As a mommy of grown ups I would add another word to “Helping” and that would be “Training”. The way adults clean a room usually has a specific order that is a mystery to children. I had a detailed list sometimes with pictures and we would just go through the list one step at a time. When the last item in the list was checked, usually empty the trash can, we would look up and the room would be clean. So much easier to say, “Go do the first item on your list and I’ll come in to help.” than to say, “Go clean your room.”

    1. I really like this – thanks for sharing!

    2. This is a great idea, especially the pictures. And thanks Crystal, for an inspiring article. I’m going to do this today.:-)

  11. Thank you! I definitely needed this in my life right now. I have been feeling stressed and this is exactly what I need to do instead of yelling. I’m sure my stress level will be much lower (and my house will be cleaner!)

  12. Elizabeth says:

    Love this! Thanks so much for the encouragement:)

  13. Crystal,
    I have been going through this same exact thing and came to the same conclusion. We really try to be a Love & Logic family and God really spoke to me too giving me the same advice…maybe I need to do it with them some more…I haven’t finished helping them get the tasks done. In time, I know I will be wishing that I still needed to “help” but in the moment it isn’t always easy.

  14. i try to do this as often as i can. but when i’m nursing a 5 mo old, i can’t pick up and teach my 2 yo and 4.5 yo not to fight about who has what toy first, not to hit, not to push, how to pick up legos, etc. what do i do then????

    i am at a loss.

    1. Hugs to you busy mama. The only advice I can give is to be extremely consistent when you’re not nursing. I found that being consistent with training throughout the day helped to lessen the need to correct when I nursed the baby. I also like to do a quick clean up right before nursing. Then I sit in the center of the couch and having the older kids sit one on each side of me and look at books while I nurse. Now I have 3 older kids, so I usually have two on one side, but it still helps. Sometimes my oldest (5yo) will sit on the love seat instead.

      ~Allyson, Mama to a 4 little ones under 5

      1. Wow Allyson! Nicely done! What a wonderful example to share!


    2. Russel Lassie says:

      Erica, you’re doing just fine. You can read a picture book, or watch Sesame Street, or just let them make a mess – that’s ok too. You have 3 beautiful children and all you need to do is love them and they will learn to love each other. It won’t feel like it all the time! I know! But by modelling calm and loving acceptance, you will teach them kindness toward each other. In the meantime, relax, let the prolactin (the hormone that makes you sleepy when you nurse) relax you, and worry about picking up later. Time with your little ones is fleeting and precious. God Bless!

  15. Erica, I remember back when my first three kids were real small (they are 13, 15, and 17-1/2 years old). I remember I didn’t let them take out too many toys at once (maybe a boot size box or 2-3 shoe boxes full) and ….our house was just a bit messier then. Sorry, this may not help much, but having small people that make messes and a nursing baby that takes your time and energy means you may have to concede some of the time. I think I did a bigger cleaning on the weekend when my DH was home! See, then he can help clean with them!

  16. Karrie Richert says:

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last couple of weeks myself! It’s sure a hard habit to break, but I’ve been trying to exchange “Go do that,” for “Let’s go do that.” Not only to avoid barking out orders, but I’ve been realizing how much of my kids’ days they spend mostly playing with each other, when I should be going through their days with them. The more I play trains WITH them, do chores WITH them, etc, the more instruction they get, and the less correction they need anyway, not to mention the relationship aspect. *sigh* I just keep trying to remember the kind of mom I thought I would be when I was 6, playing with my dolls.

  17. From one Erika (me) to the other Erica—- I used time outs for my children when younger—example–they start to fight—they both go to time out corners…. They are now both in college—and guess what—somewhere along the way—they learned to whisper to each other and talk it out–so I wouldn’t hear them fighting……and to this day—they still talk things out both with each other and their friends!

  18. Elizabeth says:

    Needed this tonight. My daughter (18) is in the last two days of packing for college. I found myself yelling at her for not getting done what she really needs to do – write thank you notes for graduation gifts that came in this week, take her online math placement test, get out of bed in the AM while I am at work and do something (anything), pick up her room so she can see if she has forgotten to pack anything, etc. We’re both stressed and yelling just makes it worse. Thanks for the reminders. Off to shed some tears.

  19. I have really been struggling with this
    lately. Thanks for this post. It really spoke to and hopefully changes my heart. I really, REALLY needed this!