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COLUMN: Learning—and teaching—a lesson in patience

ONE DAY, my eldest daughter offered to make my youngest child a sandwich. The baby insisted that she wanted it on a hamburger roll. My firstborn tried to explain to her that mama was planning to use those for dinner and that she could have her sandwich on regular bread. In response, my little one ran across the room, threw herself on the floor and sobbed huge tears—over a roll.

Later that same day, she was playing with my middle daughter. Their game of make-believe involved chasing each other around the house. It was going well until my second-born did something that was against the rules, according to my youngest. All of a sudden, I heard loud thumping sounds and my middle daughter crying. When I turned the corner, I was horrified to see my baby on top of her sister, hitting her on the back.

Well, you can imagine my astonishment when I picked up my little one from her Awana class that night and she proudly showed me the award she had won: the “Self-Control Award.” Yep, my little tyrant—who had crumbled into tears because she didn’t get what she wanted and who had re-enacted a WWF scene in our living room—was honored for showing self-control in her actions and deeds.

Being a parent can be the most entertaining aspect of life. You just can’t make this stuff up!

The next day, I sat her down and explained to her that some of her behavior was unacceptable. I tried to give her ideas about how to handle her anger and frustration in a more positive manner.

I shared Galatians 5:22–23 with her, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

I explained to her that God had sent her a Helper, the Holy Spirit, and that all she had to do was to pray to Him when she started to feel angry or irritated.

Just when I thought we had our little problem under control, my eldest daughter had several episodes of screaming and yelling at her younger siblings. That was followed by my middle daughter running to her room and slamming the door when she got frustrated during a reading lesson. In an effort to reclaim the peace in my house, I shared with each one of them the importance of self-control.

When I left their rooms, I sent up a prayer of frustration, “God, what the heck is going on with my girls?” To which I heard Him whisper, “You gave great advice, maybe you should take it yourself.” Ouch. Now we are getting personal.

As I reflected on my own behavior, I realized that my children’s actions were a reflection of my own lack of self-control recently. Now, I have not wrestled any of my children to the ground, but I have definitely been quick to yell, quick to scold, quick to fly off the handle. It is tempting to blame my behavior on my pregnancy, but I know that it goes deeper than that.

As their mother, my actions and attitude set the tone in the house. If I am not exercising self-control, how can I expect my children to do so? After spending some time in prayer, I asked each of my daughters to forgive me, which they freely did. Not only are we relying on the Holy Spirit for self-control, but we also have each other to support us and pray for us.

Proverbs 16:32 says, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty.” I pray that through this experience we will be mighty indeed—as individuals and as a family.

Heather Ablondi is a women’s ministry speaker and author who resides in Fredericksburg. You can contact her through her website,