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When Your Kids Cry: Practical Discipleship In Disappointment

I couldn’t really make out the conversation, but I could tell that something was going on, something…unpleasant.  Soon I heard sniffles and sobs, next stomping feet and then a door slamming.  I gave myself a quick “mom” pep talk (you know, the one that goes – You’re the big person, you’re the mom, you gotta handle this one...) and shot a quick prayer to heaven (you know, the one that goes – Please…help?) and headed in the direction of the tears.

As it turns out the offender in this case was my computer.  Not so much my computer as the spelling program running on it that she had to complete for school.  Not so much the spelling program as the voice inside her head telling her she was stupid because she couldn’t spell a particular word right.  And not so much the voice as the fact that she believed it.

Isn’t that the worst feeling, parents?

Hearing your child, who you love and you think is pretty great, believing that they are less than who you know they are? They didn’t make the team or their friends left them out or they didn’t pass the test and they start hearing that voice and believing it. And knowing that even if you speak truth in that moment, they will brush it off saying, “You have to say that; you’re my mom.”

Ugh.  I hate it.

I hate that the same internal voice I struggle with and the same lies I hear (and you hear), that voice that preys on my inadequacies and exploits my weaknesses and accentuates my flaws, is now talking to my beautiful, frustrated daughter.  It makes me angry and sad and feeling helpless all at once.

So what are we to do?

And how in these very difficult moments can we disciple our kids in truth?

Here’s some advice I’ve been given from those who have come before me; simple ways to invite Jesus into the moments where hurt is raw and real and anxious thoughts threaten to overwhelm their tiny hearts.

Love them

mom-comforting-childJust love them.  Don’t try to fix it. Don’t try to argue with it.  Just pick them up and love them. Be Jesus to them – the Jesus who says, “Come to me and I will give you rest.”

One thing that has really helped me with this is understanding my children’s love languages. For this one, touch is her love language.  As big as she is, nothing makes life better than to curl up on Mommy’s lap, lay her head on my chest and I stroke her hair and just snuggle.  It’s not as cute and comfortable as it was years ago, but that moment of touch is more healing and more soothing to her soul than all the words in the world.

For more information on discovering your child’s love language, check out Love Language profiles from Gary Chapman here

Speak truth

Speak truth and life to them throughout their days so that when you speak into the moment, it carries more weight. The best way to combat a lie is with the truth, but often when we are feeling overwhelmed and anxious, the truth seems more mocking than comforting.  But if throughout the day we are consistently affirming and calling out our kids’ giftings and uniqueness, they will have more tools in their arsenal to defend themselves against the lies.

This idea of speaking life into your child and helping them see their identity in Christ isn’t a once-and-done deal.  This article from Focus on the Family gives great practical activities for each age level to help you talk to your child about how God made them unique and special, and open the door for deeper conversations as they grow.

Watch yourself

What words are coming out of your mouth about…yourself?  Do you talk down about yourself in front of your kids?  Is negative self-talk a regular occurrence in your own life?

Look, I’m going to be totally transparent here and say, yes, this is a struggle for me.  And my sensitive child hears it even when I don’t.  She points it out and tells me not to say that because it hurts her.  Why then am I surprised when she reacts in the same way when she is struggling?  Discipleship happens, all the time, even when we are not being intentional about it… so, watch yourself, and don’t allow those lies to define you either. Speak the truth in love, even to yourself.

I read this blog post once about a typo, and it really spoke to me personally about negative self-talk and personal condemnation. It’s fun, like the author, but it drives home a good point if this is something you struggle with. 

Tonight, as I snuggled with my daughter, I could feel her relax against me. She was content to just be; safe in her mom’s arms and at peace.  I told her how Paul in the Bible said that when we were anxious, we should talk to God about it, with thankfulness for the good things we have and with honesty in asking for his help.  So we did, together.  She was thankful for friends. She asked for help with spelling. I was thankful grace and asked for help with parenting.  We invited Jesus into our moment and He came with his peace.

Discipleship at home doesn’t always look like dinner conversations and intentional talks and God-moments captured.

Sometimes it looks like snuggle time on the couch after tears have worn us out and hearts have been a little broken.  

But those times are just as formational in teaching our children about who this God is that loves us unconditionally, creates us with purpose, and calls us His own.

Invite Him into every space and welcome Him into your everyday.

Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at and is a contributing blogger at, Seedbed, and D6 Family.

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