7 Ways to Love Your Family When You're Feeling Cranky
The symptoms are obvious: outbursts of agitation, heavy sighs of irritation, and several attempts to throw in the towel. Before you know it, that grouchy attitude starts to determine our actions, making it challenging to be a loving spouse and parent. Here are 7 ways to love your family when you're feeling cranky:
Buying groceries, driving carpools, caring for our families and our home--getting it all done can be overwhelming and frustrating and often makes us downright cranky. The symptoms are obvious: outbursts of agitation, heavy sighs of irritation, and several attempts to throw in the towel. Before you know it, that grouchy attitude starts to determine our actions, making it challenging to be a loving spouse and parent.
Some say that emotions—our crankiness for instance—are gauges or indicators, and should not be guides or dictators. In other words, our mood should not determine how we act. Relying on emotions as motivators can cause problems and hurt feelings in our family. Instead, let love guide our actions and our emotions will soon follow.
Corinthians 13:4-6 tells us that,“love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” This means we are to love our spouses and children in spite of our crankiness.
Here are 7 ways to love your family when you're feeling cranky:
1. Give a hug, get a hug.
We are created to be with others, but a grumpy mood can sometimes send us into hiding. We want to get away from people and pressures. But in spite of what we are feeling, leaning in—instead of hiding—helps our spouses and children feel loved and goes a long way to change our cranky moods.
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Scientific studies show that giving and receiving a hug has emotional benefits as well. Hugs reduce stress and create a better mood for both the giver and the receiver. When you give your spouse and children a firm, loving embrace, the contact releases the "bonding hormone" oxytocin, which then reduces our blood pressure and improves our mood.
A hug helps us put off irritability and put on love and creates harmony. “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:13).
2. Spark conversation, then listen.
Everyone wants to be seen and heard, but if we are cranky and irritable, our first reaction may be to ignore our spouses and children and speak angry words. We may all be familiar with the James 1:19 passage that says, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” This mandate from God sounds simple, but is hard to live out. Our best example of a good listener is Jesus.
Even though he was tired and hungry, He sat quietly and listened to the Samaritan woman at the well as she spoke. He interrupted only to ask questions that pointed to her real need: salvation (John 4). When we are tired and cranky, one way to love our family is to put aside ourselves and focus on them. Start a conversation with your children or spouse, then sit quietly and listen.
Listening shows we love our family and mirrors the heart of Jesus. It puts others' needs above our own and demonstrates how they are more important than our momentary moodiness.“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
3. Speak words of affirmation.
Listening and speaking go together. But, as I previously wrote, being slow to speak and quick to listen is made more difficult when our irritability is on overload. Our impulse is to do the opposite—speak first, mostly using angry words, and then listen, usually hearing the similar angry and hurting words back. The words we speak to others are most often the words repeated to us.
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But if we slow down and take our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and speak words of affirmation instead of unkind outbursts, our spouses and children hear sounds of love and hopefully repeat those loving words to us. By speaking lovingly, their hearts are uplifted, and our thoughts turn toward kindness and gentleness. Our mood and our family benefit from kind words.
Speaking words of love includes encouraging our children, affirming our spouse, and saying, "I appreciate you." Declaring kind words turns our cranky spirits to loving hearts. “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
4. Bring back family game night.
Bringing back game night or starting a family board game tradition can lovingly bonds us together with our spouses and children. When families play games together—the sillier, the better—it is always a time of outrageous laughter, and laughter is sometimes the best medicine for an irritable mood. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
Like most other family activities, playing games, especially when it causes uncontrollable laughing, reduces stress, promotes relaxation, and gives our family and ourselves a happy heart.
5. Sit down for a meal together.
In Scripture, we often find Jesus enjoying a meal with the disciples, His closest companions, and His followers. On His last night with the disciples, He shared the Passover meal. When He visits Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, food is being prepared for a meal, and Jesus sits down with thousands to a miracle meal made with five loaves of bread and a few fish. “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over” (Matthew 14:20). Sharing a meal with your family is an act of love and a blessing from God.
Sitting down with your family and sharing a meal not only mirrors how Jesus loved His disciples and companions, but it also reduces stress. Studies show that women especially benefit from reducing stress levels, and children learn to eat healthier meals and are less likely to participate in rebellious behavior.
6. Take a walk with your family and enjoy the outdoors.
When we are in a bad mood, our thoughts are on a negative loop, but a 20-minute walk could cure the crankiness and benefit our health. Studies show that getting outside for a walk reduces stress and changes our thoughts. The sounds of nature or the silence of the outdoors can lower blood pressure and stress and calms the body.
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Get outside with your family; take a walk around the neighborhood. Just changing the scenery goes a long way to improving moods, but enjoying God's creation is also inspiring. While you walk, talk with your family about the beauty in God's creation. Discuss the beauty of the trees, the incomparable blue of the sky, the melodious sounds of birds chirping and crickets singing. In His love, God created all of these amazing things just for us. A walk with your family among God's perfect creation is an excellent remedy for the worst of moods.
7. Be prepared.
Another way to love your family is to guard against a cranky mood. There's an adage that goes something like, "Failing to plan is planning to fail." If you know that you are susceptible to a cranky mood, make a plan to de-stress and decompress before you interact with your family. That plan may include taking five minutes to pray. Or, take a few minutes of alone time to breathe deeply and relax. You can read Scripture, then close your eyes and meditate on a particular passage. Whatever your battle plan, be prepared to guide your emotions and not let them guide you.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
With so much to do on our "to do" list, coupled with a world of constant noise and unending demands, it's difficult to avoid an irritable, cranky, grumpy mood, and it may feel like loving on your family is the last thing you want to do. The key to combating that emotion is remembering that when you are cranky, it's like a warning light blinking on the dashboard of your car. It's a problem that needs attention but does not necessarily keep the vehicle from moving. In spite of your crankiness, you can love your family.
Tamela Turbeville has a desire for every woman with a difficult past to know God loves them. She is wife to Richard, and mother to three grown sons and two beautiful daughter-in-law. When doing what she loves most-- studying God’s Word, reading and writing--she is surrounded by her six rescue dogs in her small office in south Arkansas. She began Living One Word to write and share how God redeems the unlovable and you can read more about Tamela, her journey, and her family at www.livingoneword.com, on Facebook, and Instagram.
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