On Parenting and Self-Control as a Mommy Missionary – Part One

The wisest of women builds her house,
but folly with her own hands tears it down. (Prov. 14:1)

As mommy missionaries a lot of our parenting takes place in the context of ministry to college students and young adults.  The other night I was at a baby shower for one of our EDGE’rs, Rachel Weakly, and we had a great prayer time for her and baby Audrey.  She is just beginning this journey of parenting in the context of campus ministry.

At the shower we were each given a piece of paper with a Bible verse and a spiritual quality to pray for her and Audrey. Mine was self-control.  So I have been thinking a lot about that and how important developing self-control in myself and in my kids has been.

One of the biggest surprises when you become a parent is that you no longer are able to do things when, where, or how you want.  For example, all of my life I had been a “wake up and get immediately in the shower” kind of person.  After I had Tom, I realized that foundational part of my routine was no longer a given.  Quite a shock.  

Then, when the kids are little, you find that the demands are constant.  If they are awake, they need you.  They are so cute, and precious and adorable…but so needy.  They need need need need you.  And if they don’t need you, they want to be near you.

God has used these constant pressures of parenting to cultivate self control in my life, both in myself and in my kids. It didn’t look pretty in the process though.

God Cultivating Self-Control in Me

I remember one day in Wisconsin I took all three kids to a home improvement store.  Rachel was an infant in a car seat, Kayla was 2 ½ and Tom was 5 ½. As we left the store, it began to pour down rain.  I ran to the car carrying Rachel in the car seat, and held Kayla’s hand with my other free hand.  I needed Tom to carry something, but I don’t remember what it was.  All I know is that when I reached the van, I looked back and there was Tom standing in the middle of the parking lot and he had dropped the item I needed him to carry and it was lying in a puddle.

I went berserk.  I began screaming at him and yelling and yelling and yelling.  I was tired, the rain was pouring down, I had just needed him to do one thing; he didn’t do it; and I lost it.

Tom just stood there in the pouring rain and took it while I screamed at him.

I got everyone loaded in the car and I sat there in the driver’s seat, shaking with anger.  

And then I realized what I had done.

In all of my mom adult power, I had lost every shred of self-control I possessed and had just ripped my five year old to emotional bits and he was powerless to do anything about it.  He couldn’t even look at me reproachfully, because when you are five, Mom is always right.

That incident is frozen in my mind; I wish I could go back and redo that day.  It kills me to think that I would treat my precious son in such a way.

But what I realized in that incident was that as a mom of young children, I had absolutely no accountability.  It was just me and the kids, all day, with no one but them to witness my behavior or words, and they had to take whatever I dished out.

When kids get older, they know when Mom is Behaving Badly.  As you are yelling at them, or having a breakdown, or shouting at the stupid driver in front of you, you are very aware by their silence or the look in their eyes that they know (and you know) that you are sinning and acting terribly. 

When my kids reached that age, I had accountability.  I had people with me who knew when I was being ridiculous.  I couldn’t get away with bad behavior.  

But when the kids are little, you can.

When I looked in the rearview mirror as I backed my enormous van out of the Menard’s parking lot, I saw Tom’s eyes and I vowed to myself that I would never allow myself to lose control like that again.

Not to say that I would never lose control again in my power.  But I knew that as a believer, with the Holy Spirit living inside of me, that self-control was a fruit of the Spirit and that by God’s power I would have it, and that it was a discipline that needed to be cultivated in my life specifically in the area of parenting.

I think that there are many many areas in our lives where we say, “Sinning in this way is not an option in my life.”  There are specific behaviors and activities that as a Christian you make the bigger decision not to do, and it cuts out all of the little ones. For instance, before that day, it was easy for me to justify speaking to the kids in anger and to give myself a list of excuses: I’m overtired! They are being obnoxious! I’m stressed about money! Norman’s been out of town for three days!! But if I told myself that it is not okay to yell in anger, no matter what, then I knew that it was always wrong.  And to be clear, I am speaking about yelling in anger.  When Rachel walked out in front of a car, or grabbed onto the garage door as it was going up…I was definitely yelling!!!

That is what happened to me that day in the parking lot.  I committed before the Lord that screaming and yelling in anger at my kids was not an option, ever, no matter what.  I had to make that commitment firmly to myself, and draw a line in the sand because, as I said, there was no accountability anywhere else. 

I want to be clear that yelling at Tom that day in the parking lot was not an isolated incident.  There were many times that I lost my temper and yelled at the kids.  That day at Menards was just one of my worst; and it was what God used to make me see I had to make a change in my life. Making that big decision ruled out all of the smaller decisions that usually led to justifying bad behavior. It was a turning point where God was clearly cultivating self-control in my life. 


Next Monday Katie will share with us how they developed self control in their kids and included students in on their parenting. Here is a sneak peek at part two – Cultivating Self-Control in my Children – “My mom always said that there was no one she loved in the world like her kids, and she wanted other people to love her kids.  That motivated her to teach us…” Trust me, you don’t want to miss it!  

Katie and Norm have been on staff since 1998 in WI and now minister in IL. This past year was her first year of parenting to not have a kiddo at home full time! They have been married for 20 years and have 4 children ages 7-182 boys and 2 girls.  Katie brings wonderful and focused perspective on what truly matters as she is battling breast cancer for the third time in 6 years.  

Katie highlights for us the importance of self-control in parenting -I’m sure we all have our own Menards stories and times of God cultivating change. I know I do! What stood out to you in this piece? What encouraged your heart?

17 thoughts on “On Parenting and Self-Control as a Mommy Missionary – Part One

  1. On one hand, this is really relieving \”whew!\” since we are not currently a \”sit down every morning for family devotions\” family. On the other hand, it is humbling and sobering to think that what my kids see in me each day (imperfect!!) is having such an impact on their faith and foundation.Sometimes I think that my kids are learning moralism (doing the right thing) more than they are learning to have a relationship with God. My kids are young, so I am hoping this is just a season and will change and grow with time. I am curious, Dana and others, how have you emphasized relationship with God over just good behavior? It seems like the little years are so much \”obey mommy,\” and \”don't do that!\”


  2. I hear you speaking to two ideas, Linnette. The first underscores the idea in the post that our kids are more likely to catch our model and not just listen to our words. By the way, I am not saying that we should not have family devotions (it's just that we were not good at that!)…but, certainly, it is our daily words and behavior that will match those devotions and lend power to them. There is an adage, \”do as I say, not as I do.\” This adage is a complete misdirect! Our kids are the first to see the discrepancy between our words and behavior. So, bottom line our model is vital! I have great confidence that our children are also capable of perceiving not only what we do but why we do it! They see our faces, our hearts, our hands when we know we have failed or disobeyed God. They recognize our repentant spirit! Secondly, the strength to obey God as we grow up starts with the will to obey mommy and daddy! Stressing obedience as we love and lead our children will reinforce their need to follow Christ closely as they learn to obey Him when they are grown up. Proverbs 22:6 teaches us to raise up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it. So when we reinforce doing the right thing, i.e.obeying mommy, we cultivate a foundation of sincerity and love for Christ as they obey Him. I love John 14:21 for this reason. Jesus says, \”She who has my commands and keeps them…she it is who loves me.And she who loves me will be loved by my Father and I too will love her and show myself to her.\” Loving Christ is found out as we obey Him. As we obey Him our love is made evident to Him. In return He promises a closer relationship to Him. This is true for us and our children as well. So teaching them to \”obey mommy\” in essence is setting them up for their relationship with God later.Well, Linette, in responding to your comments i feel i have written yet another blog post!!! I so appreciate your sincere heart for God and your family!!! Parenting is not easy…indeed it is a central portion of \”walking by faith!\” Warmly, Dana


  3. This is so encouraging and convicting at the same time, it's so great! I'm totally pondering how the quiet choice to obey God is so huge in motherhood. Yes, I absolutely want to obey God in the small things, but I'm realizing motherhood is a call to obey in the smallest of small things that can be considered \”justfiable\”. I immediately thought of how my body language and facial expressions were perceived by my kids as I had a phone conversation with an insurance agent this week. Because, ya'll know if there is ever a time the kids are watching, it's when you're on the phone! That was such an opportunity. And that happens a million times a day, these opportunities to obey in the smallest details of life! Thanks, Dana, for your words that push us to grow in this season when it can feel like we are just kinda stuck not growing.


  4. Katie,I love that you are \”pondering\” the \”quiet choice to obey God.\” That summarizes so much for all of us as moms across the seasons of our lives. And, I love that you \”absolutely want to obey God in the smallest of small things!\” May we all heed your wise words as we walk with Him!Thanks for sharing, Dana


  5. I love you how you made a big line in the sand (no yelling at your kids in anger) that eliminated al the little ones. That is wise! And very helpful when I am in this season of littles (without accountability as you say!)


  6. just recently entered mommyhood but I feel so understood when I read your post! so relate to the sentence, \”One of the biggest surprises when you become a parent is that you no longer are able to do things when, where, or how you want. For example, all of my life I had been a “wake up and get immediately in the shower” kind of person. After I had Tom, I realized that foundational part of my routine was no longer a given. Quite a shock.\”And I think I'll start praying for self-control! 🙂


  7. \”God has used the constant pressures of parenting to cultivate self-control in my life…\” Amen. I love how you look at it that way! It's hard in the day in and day out, but is really amazing to look back on the years and see what The Lord has been cultivating!


  8. The time that I was most aware of the lack of accountability in motherhood was when I actually had it the most: at an STP! We lived in an apartment with students directly above and below us, and they heard the good, the bad, and the ugly that summer! I was frustrated by this \”fishbowl\” parenting at first, but I later realized the gift that it was for me to prayerfully evaluate my words and actions towards my children. I recently heard the quote, \”be the mom you want your kids to remember\”, and among other things, I want them to remember a self-controlled mom. I have plenty of room for improvement. Thanks for the encouragment!


  9. Kelley! I don't even know you but we have walked in the same shoes. I love your term \”fishbowl\”, this past summer was my first experience in the fishbowl- only our entire building was Nav staff ��. I rememeber texting my friend upstairs while cringing, \”Hey, did you just hear that temper tantrum, sorry!\” Anyway, just wanted to say \”Hey\” and \”Yep, totally, been there done that\” and that I totally agree it cultivated some self-control in me!


  10. Katie – it makes me so happy that you commented on Kelley's comment. I really want staff moms to be able connect, share ideas and encourage one another here. Thanks! And after parenting through more STPs than I can even remember (and somehow bringing home new kids in the oven from most of them) – I can totally relate to the \”fishbowl\” statement! I think it is really good for other staff and students to see we aren't perfect and neither are our kids. This is real, normal life – parenting doesn't get easier just because we are Christians or on staff. And modeling a healthy family is soooo important!!! But you know that! 🙂


  11. From Katie Hubbard -Great comments all! I always find it intimidating to leave comments, so thank you for doing that. I love the quote about being the mom you want your kids to remember. As I was reading your comments, I remembered that I was always amazed at how cranky my kids were when they were overtired; then I realized I was the exact same way! After that, I viewed getting adequate rest as a significant investment in my parenting. Of course it is terribly difficult to get adequate rest as a mom, but I certainly tried. I usually napped when the kids did, even though that often felt \”wimpy\”, or meant the living room didn't get cleaned. It made a huge difference in my parenting. Blessings to you all as you parent!


  12. I love this blog! I had high hopes of commenting a lot and being in discussions but alas, I am a bit busy or exhausted with 2.5 children (pregnant with my 3rd!) haha I read all the posts though, and these are wonderful things to think about. Thank you to all the contributors for your challenging words, your vulnerability, and your encouragement!!!


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