How to choose the right words when parenting is hard

When my children were young and came to me fussing, I often used the simple script, “I’m sorry Honey, I don’t understand you when you use that voice. Try again with a big kid voice.” Over the years, as they grew bigger, the script got shorter. We cut it down to the simple phrase, “Try again.”

When I ask them to take out the trash and they start whining about how they did it last time too, “Try again.”

“Even the teen with rolling eyes and exasperated sighs, having been forced to stay home and hang out with the family on a Saturday afternoon, knows what it means when her dad lovingly reminds her to… “Try again.”

Sometimes in the middle of the afternoon, when my children are ornery, and I’m melting at the sink with a pile of dishes and a migraine too, we all need to start over and “Try again.”

I remember the first time I discovered a refreshing variation of our familiar script. I turned from the dishes and asked my oldest to finish them while I took a cold shower and got some fresh clothes on.

“But you already took a shower today,” he said.

“Yes, but I need a do-over.”

“A what?”

“A do-over.” I said. “I’m spent and tired and want to put your brothers to bed and call it a night, but it’s only 1:17 in the afternoon, so I’m going to freshen up and try again.

Since then I’ve called a “do-over” for my children too. They know what it means when it’s mid-morning and they’re already having trouble on a gorgeous summer day.

“Alright everyone,” I’ve been known to say, “I want everyone to go brush their teeth and splash some water on their face before coming out again. I’m giving you a “do-over,” let’s see if we can press the restart button on our day and make it better.”

At first they thought I was joking, but on homeschooling days especially, I sometimes take my middle boy by the hand and walked him to his sink. Do-overs are now a real and appreciated thing around our home.

When they’re all jostling for the best seat on the couch, dangerously close to turning our family movie night into a family fight, I call out, ‘do-over!’” They get up and go back to their rooms, then try coming out again.

And isn’t that grace? Aren’t those words exactly what the Lord’s new mercies look like in our own lives? Try again. Do over. Not because you’ve been washed by a cold shower, but because you’ve been washed by the blood of the lamb. That’s the ultimate do over, and the reason we can respond gracefully to our children when they’ve done wrong, whether we’re ready with a pre-planned script (like “try again”) or not. Because we’ve known grace, we can give it. Because the Lord allows his children to “try again,” with the help of His Holy Spirit, I can allow my kids to “try again” with my help.

Here at the end of Parenting Scripts we want to invite you to try again… and again and again and again, if need be. But you need more than just grace… you need God’s Word to shape your words. You need the holy scriptures to influence your scripts. As you take hold of each new mercy, every new morning, don’t forget to take hold of the Word of God. Each time you need to press the restart button, start there. The Bible is God’s Word, and it is living and active and able to separate right from wrong — right responses from wrong reactions. As you intentionally choose your words… be intentional to get into The Word.


The power to change ultimately isn’t going to be found in this book, but in the good book. R.C. Sproul said it this way:

“I think the greatest weakness in the church today is that almost no one believes that God invests His power in the Bible. Everyone is looking for power in a program, in a methodology, in a technique, in anything and everything but that in which God has placed it—His Word. He alone has the power to change lives for eternity, and that power is focused on the Scriptures.” (R.C. Sproul, The Prayer of the Lord)


A double minded man cannot wield a double-edged sword. But a single-minded mom can. Therefore, be fully devoted to the renewing of your mind in God’s transforming Word. If you want to respond to sin in your home, like God in his gentleness responds to you, spend time with Him in His Word. If you want to bear the fruit of His Spirit in your home, abide with Him in His Word.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2, NIV)

Do you struggle to say the right thing when your kids do the wrong thing? Let the scriptures help to guide you as you rescript some of the old, tired, ineffective things you’ve been saying as you nag your kids. Turn to His Word and let it shape your words. Invite God to teach you to parent with the same long-suffering, gentle love that He continues to train you with.

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Need help pin-pointing some of your Triggers (those things your children do that undo you) so that you can rescript how you respond to them with grace and gentle correction? Grab a copy of Triggers and Parenting Scripts today.