The Burden of Bad Habits

I don’t know what it was about yesterday; maybe the fact that I had to drag everyone out to the dentist and music lesson. Maybe it was all the snow and mud Fulton’s wheelchair kept bringing into the house. Maybe it was just lack of sleep or hunger.

But whatever the reason, as we drove home from music lessons and I listened to the voices of my kids, some happy, some discontent, from around the van I saw so very clearly how my bad habits and attitudes were affecting my children’s behavior. Certainly, everyone knows the adage “When Mama’s not happy, no one’s happy.” but as my daughter sulked beside me because we’d argued, or I listened to Byron try to reason with Edie over her bad attitude towards her music teacher, I could see not only these unique, God-given individuals, but how my words and actions had impressed upon their natural dispositions habits I was now desperate to break.

It has always been in my nature as a parent to look first to myself when the flow of our everyday is disrupted for too long. Have I been overly critical? Inconsistent? Short tempered? Yes, sometimes my kids are just going through phases, but more often than not, there is enough blame to go around. The fact is, my children spend the bulk of their time with me, which normally, is a wonderful thing that I don’t want to change. Unfortunately, I hear my sarcastic mouth when Addie gives me back talk, I recognize my short temper, when Byron says things only to please me rather than what he truly wants, and I see my all-consuming busyness in Edie’s increasing demands for one on one time.

What all this means is no matter what incentives, punishments or systems I institute with my kids, I still have bad habits that need to change if I want to see better behavior in them; bad habits that have been with me longer than my children and so deeply ingrained I fear I can never root them out. How can I ever hope to raise saintly children, when I fall so short, so many times myself? Sometimes I look to my husband and we joke that we still feel like a couple of 17-year-old kids who can’t believe God has given us so much responsibility.

Now, before anyone jumps into the comboxes to assure me I’m not a horrible mother, believe me I know. I still hope that the good habits I model throughout the day will leave as lasting an impression as the bad. Am I, and my children, better companions than a room full of peers at school? I still believe so. But in these cold, wet days when we’re stuck inside together I must confront these battles with greater regularity and it wears on me.

I am tired,  and what greater motivator to fall into bad habits is there? I’m sure there is a non-sleep deprived Kelly in me some where that is just dying to get out and restore order, but I have been unable to rouse her with all the coffee in Columbia.

In the mean time, I’ve been saying sorry, a lot. I’m not making empty promises about how I’ll never yell, or get angry again, but I’m trying to admit when I’m wrong. I’m trying to think about what qualities I want to see in my children, virtues to counteract the vices, and how I can increase those virtues in my own daily living. I also need to focus on the wonderful traits my children do have, and try to draw them out more. So often, I focus on the negative and rooting it out, that I can squash the positive in the process. In order to have fewer battles, I need to make sure I’m not creating more by micromanaging my children’s every activity or decision, or jumping into a quarrel they could just as easily solve themselves.

I suppose Advent is as good a time as any to work on improving myself, it would just be nice to know that eventually I could stop. That some day, I will have eliminated my faults and be the mom my kids deserve. To think about years of self-improvement and character training for myself and my children is overwhelming. I’d like it to be like fifth grade math; yes, teaching it was hard, everyone cried a little but then we learned it all and moved on as better people.

If my children succeed in life, it will be in spite of my parenting I’m sure. Conversely, if they struggle I’ll accept the blame. I don’t know if there is a way to remove this feeling, which is ultimately rooted in unconditional love, from the shoulders of any mother. God give me the strength to take it all in stride, day by day. Blessed Mother, remain always at the fore front of my mind, to guide me in your loving example.


  1. I totally hear you. There is nothing worse than hearings sharp words and an impatient hurried tone coming out of my children’s voice and realizing “hey, they sound just like me”. It’s so hard to have to keep working at patience and gentleness and love…but that is what I’m called to do, so I try to just keep slogging away.

  2. I wrestle with this every day, and it’s hard to correct when coffee isn’t enough anymore. I don’t have an answer. I’m thankful for opportunities to do better and apologize. And, I’m thankful for bedtime – mine and theirs. I love your blog!

  3. I just keep going back to grace…there has to be enough of it to cover the places we fall short. All of us do fall short, But if this is our vocation (and I know it is yours!), God will give us what we need to make it work out. It isn’t a guarantee they will turn out perfectly, of course…but prayer, humility and a sense of humor go a long way. And you are rich in all three of those! Blessings- you are so not alone in this.

  4. You just laid your finger on something with which all of us mommies struggle. I’d thought I’d get a reprieve from this angst when I stopped homeschooling, but that weight of responsibility in the character formation of our young does not go away. Everything we do relies on God’s grace and He can even infuse our screw-up moments with His purpose as long as we hand it all over to Him. I try to remember that there is no parenting around the Fall, embrace the angst as part of my suffering for this side of eternity and then offer it up to Him… And come to think of it, I’d better get my butt in the confessional, because…well… yeah.

  5. I identify with this so stinking much! It’s enough to make me want to escape to my room with chocolate most days. Me, the undisciplined, selfish, foolish, hot tempered mom, in charge of raising model citizens? It’d be laughable if it weren’t so horrifying. But…maybe it is this very weakness that should encourage me to rely on the Lord all the more. Love your blog.

  6. I’m totally with you here – I have realized that not only the exact words which I saw are repeated but more often the not the emotions and character I put behind my words also comes right out of my kiddOs’ mouths. It’s humbling to say the least. What a great reminder during this season of Advent that our attitudes need to be melded more into Christ’s and the Blessed Mother’s if not only for our sake, for our children’s too.

    Thanks for a lovely reminder. =)

  7. This happens to me so often-the realization that everything bad they do mostly comes from me. The sarcasm, the impatience, the yelling, the freaking out over small stuff, the unkind words. It feels pretty awful knowing you’ve given those bad habits. I just pray that somehow I’ll grow in holiness to make these bad habits a little less a part of their lives…somehow! And I agree with the saying sorry bit, that helps I think, if I can remember to do it as often as I should. Plus, starting fresh tomorrow-Hope!

  8. Oh do I ever get this post and this sentiment! Whenever we are on a good long stretch of bad habits and poor behavior I know I have to look right at ME, and I hate the truth of it. You worded this so well, they deserve our tweaking our own bad habits if we ever hope to help them over come theirs and hopefully not even start some of them. Great, great post!

  9. Oh my. Do you live in my house? Dealing with my kids’ bad behaviors is like a loooong look in a funhouse mirror. Today I have no voice, so I’m whispering. Guess what? My kids hardly yelled at all today. A little part of me wants God to take my voice permanently. Hugs and sympathy.

  10. Oh does this strike a chord with me. I am that tired mom too. I don’t know how to break the cycle. I am ashamed at how much tv my kids have been watching lately. I can find a million reasons to turn it on alllll dayyyyy longgggg. Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

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