Parenting 101: You Can’t Bad-Attitude Someone into a Good Attitude

The implications and influence of our attitudes towards others cannot be overstated. Our tone is usually louder than our message. And tone is more quickly interpreted than words. I’m finding out the hard way that this is the linchpin of parenting.

Having teenage sons in our home creates an interesting environment. Messes happen, chores are neglected, arguments develop, things are lost, procrastination reigns. No, it’s not all negative, but it can get frustrating. But my frustration is not so much that my boys will be boys, but with my response and shepherding of them. Here is the all too easy pattern into which I can fall.

Something happens with one (or more) of my sons that needs correction; they sin. This sin comes to my attention and I feel the reflex of anger in my heart. Then comes a list of questions racing each other in my mind towards my tongue. “What were you thinking?” “What do you think you’re doing?” “Are you kidding me?” “How dare you?” “You were only thinking about yourself, weren’t you?” The list could go on…

Yes, my sons need constant correction. But so does their Dad. But how should that correction be framed? How important is the attitude behind the correction?

If you are a parent who longs to see your children walk with God or a someone who wants to influence your friends and family, there is a helpful pattern for us to follow in Romans 2:4. Paul writes:

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

The second chapter of Romans begins with a confrontation regarding being more ready to judge others, including God, before oneself. In verse 4 Paul asks if judgmental spirit has cloaked our understanding of and experience with the gospel. God has demonstrated kindness, tolerance, and patience toward us. And here in the second part of the verse we meet a remarkable principle.

It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. Notice that it is God’s attitude, His disposition, which motivates us to change. God motivates us with kindness.

Think of the implications of imitating this attribute of God as we parent our children and try to influence others. Another way to say it is, “You can’t bad-attitude someone into a good attitude.”

When is that last time someone confronted you in anger and your immediate response was something like, “Oh thank you, I am so motivated now to do better and try harder.” Correction packaged in a bad attitude is not motivating, stimulating, or helpful.

If it’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance, we would do well to encourage repentance in others the same way. But that will only happen when our thinking is flooded with thoughts of God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience toward us in the gospel.

If you are looking for a verse to memorize that will have immediate application in your relationships, my suggestion is Romans 2:4. Once again…

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

26 Comments on “Parenting 101: You Can’t Bad-Attitude Someone into a Good Attitude

  1. Thank you, brother. This article was very timely for me personally. I have four boys myself, ages 12, 14, 16, 18. Given your opening description, I thought you had spy cams in my house!

  2. I cannot help but also remember James 1:19-25, which starts out commanding us to be quick to hear and slow to speak, knowing that the wrath of man does not product the righteousness of God. Great reminder Pastor Rick to slow down and think before you react!

  3. You are right. It is very easy to overreact and make situations even worse, and, certainly, we should not sin in our reaction to the sin of others.

    But, the biblical prophets (and even Jesus himself) issued quite a few strong condemnations. Surely Jesus, Moses, Samuel, Nathan, et al should not be lumped into the “bad attitude” category and dismissed. I think some qualification may be in order.

    Perhaps a good place to start is with the understanding of kindness. Could it be too narrow? Ps. 141:5 says “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head no refuse it.”

  4. Thank you for this as its something I need to remember in dealing with both of my boys. Having one with severe ADHD along with ODD and then a 3 yr old. It gets a little tense around here. This will be a good thing to keep hidden in my heart. So thanks again.


  5. Came for the Tebow article…and caught this as well 🙂

    Totally agree with you on this one. Very important to remember…and my kids are 4 and 6, so I have many more years to implement your admonition. I also look at how Christ responded so many times to his own disciples…in patience and kindness.

  6. As the Mother of a teenage daughter that seems to have waves of rebellion crashing over our home, this is helpful and timely. This makes me angry and frustrated and I know that is coming out in my attitude. Then I find myself being the problem instead of leading her to the Solution. I’d love to see/hear you flesh this out with some examples of how you implement discipline with kindness, tolerance and patience. How can we be kind to them in the face of thier flaming rage at the discipline associated with correction? How do we keep it from escalating?
    Sorry, I’m just in the middle of it right now and my heart is breaking.

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  10. May I reprint this for my local homeschooling newsletter (goes to about 125 families) one time on Feburary 1, 2012? Rebecca Thompson, Christian Home Schoolers of the Antelope Valley CHEAV

  11. Thank you, I also found your article very helpful. As a dad to three boys 12, 14 and 16 I know exactly what you’re talking about. I had such a situation today. It’s so easy to let one of the “idols of a parent’s heart” decide our responses for us. I need to remember that godly reactions teach godly actions. Thank you for the reminder.

    Andre (from Grace Fellowship, Pretoria)

  12. Thank you Pastor Rick. Extremely helpful. I’m just starting out at this whole dad thing (I’ve got two sons; 2 years & 1 month) but I desire so much to be like our heavenly Father in my earthly father role.

    This could be applied in so many ways. Thanks again.

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  14. Thanks Pastor Rick! This is a great encouragement to me! I’m not married and don’t have any kids, but definitely need to start actively practicing this in my own family. I love peace in the family and try all I can to get it, yet I have such a nasty little temper of my own. I’m memorizing this verse tonight and praying that God will give me this attitude.

  15. All parents in one way or the other experience this challenges. It’s only of God’s goodness and mercy to have good and obedient children. By constant prayer and patience are always the right way.

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  19. Rick, thank you…I needed this confrontation and reminder as I parent my little ones, especially the four year old :o) I was convicted, and am also thankful for a specific scripture verse to memorize and recall as I seek to be obedient.


  20. Reblogged this on Rough-Hewn Blog and commented:
    Hey Everyone,
    I found this over at my wife’s Facebook page and thought it was quite good! I really like the title and the way the author has put it all together. Hope you enjoy it also! 🙂

  21. Pingback: Parenting 101: You Can’t Bad-Attitude Someone into a Good Attitude « Approaching Damascus « Rough-Hewn Blog

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