So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

“I hope when the kids are grown, the mom they remember is the one who took them to the zoo and played board games and baked cookies with them, not the one who completely lost her cool over the dumbest things,” I laughed to my husband. But the joking tone couldn’t completely mask the truth at the heart of my words.

For years, I was plagued with regret over my mistakes as a mom. Although I have long been a believer in being intentional with our words to our children, I have also said many things I wish I could take back. I have carefully crafted my “mom-isms” to be reflective of our family values and the things I want my children to take with them into adulthood, and I have carelessly uttered words I hope they will quickly forget.

This, my friends, is called being human.

Peggy O’Mara reminds us, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” This is actually what prompted me to wonder to my husband what our kids would remember of me when they’re grown. The good or the bad? The fun mom or the frustrated one? And as I have spent time with my teens and listened to some of their struggles, I’ve found that both versions of me are in there.

They carry the good and the bad. And I can’t go back and change it.

Just typing that sentence makes me a little sick to my stomach to be honest. I want so much to go back and fix my mistakes. But that is not reality. We can’t go back. But that doesn’t mean we’re powerless, either. We can do good, important work to help heal the hurts our words have caused.

This is what the counseling world calls “rupture and repair,” and believe it or not, it’s an important part of development. In fact, it is more important for our children that we model rupture and repair than that we just do everything right all of the time. Because the truth is, they won’t be able to do everything flawlessly (and of course, neither will we), so they need to see that it is OK to mess up—and how to handle it when they do.

So when we mess up and say something hurtful, either in our words or by our tone, we come back to them and repair. Yes, we go and apologize to our children. Even if they’re toddlers. Even if they’re teenagers.

Yes, it is humbling and hard. But it is critical, my friends. Our children need us to model humility far more than perfection.

But what if the ‘rupture’ wasn’t recent? What if it happened years ago? What if I have messed up over and over?

I will say again: we can’t go back. We can only start from where we are. Apologize anyway. Sit your child(ren) down, acknowledge that you can’t change the past and you can’t fix everything with one little “I’m sorry,” but show them your remorse and give them hope for the future. And tell them you love them. Always.

And then—and this is key—repent. That means that we don’t just apologize and then keep going in the same direction. Repent means that we make a change so we don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again. It doesn’t mean we’ll never mess up again, but it does require us to put in the effort and make a plan.

So how do we do better as we move forward?

First and foremost, as with any internal change, it starts with the power of the Holy Spirit, not ourselves. We must be abiding in Christ and growing in our relationship with Him if we want to make true, lasting change. Spend time in God’s Word, humble yourself in prayer, and actively seek his guidance as you parent.

But as we grow in Him, we can also take practical steps to help us speak words of life to our children.

Here are a few things to help you get started:

1. Make a plan.

As we know, our children will mess up, both accidentally and intentionally. But rather than waiting until the heat of the moment when emotions are high to figure out how to handle it, we can craft key words and phrases ahead of time. Often our frustration is compounded by our uncertainty to know how to handle the situation. By knowing in advance what we will say and do, we can keep our emotions in check.

2. Focus on growth.

Remember our goal as parents is to help our children grow into caring, responsible, resilient adults. In order to accomplish that, we need to help them learn and grow from their mistakes, not just mete out punishment for a wrong. Even when we are correcting our kids, we want them to see it comes from a place of love and concern, not anger or frustration. If you’re not in a place to do that, you might need to temporarily remove yourself from the situation, which brings us to our next point.

3. Take your time.

Yes, deal with any immediate danger that might need to be handled but don’t feel like you need to dole out consequences or a lecture right there in the moment. If you need a few seconds, take a deep breath and count to 10. If you need a little more time, explain this to your child. Something like, “I love you so much, and I want to be sure we figure out the best way to handle it. Let me think about it for a little bit and we will talk about it ___________.” Give them a time and stick to it.

4. Sandwich correction between words of love.

In order for our children to really hear us, they have to feel seen and loved by us. Start and end with words of love and encouragement, and give them just one bit of correction in the middle. For example, “I love seeing you grow in your independence! But that doesn’t mean you can use the stove without asking. If I hadn’t been close enough to help when the pot overflowed, you could have gotten hurt! I do love seeing your excitement to try new things and enjoy helping you learn. Let’s cook something together next time, OK?” One disclaimer: if your opening words of encouragement are “I love you,” do not immediately follow them with the word “but.” “I love you, but . . .” does not set the stage for a positive experience for anyone!

5. Give yourself grace.

When we heap guilt and anger on ourselves, it will keep seeping out toward those around us. I’ll say it again: we will mess up. But that is our opportunity to show our children how to display humility and love by apologizing and repenting. That is a valuable skill we all need.

Katy Epling

Katy Epling is a writer and speaker in northeast Ohio. The author of Finding Jesus: A Christmas Devotional, Katy loves to encourage women to root their identity in Christ. Since the day she found herself crying over a onesie, Katy has made it her mission to live on purpose, for a purpose—and to help everyone she encounters to do the same. Her writing has been featured on sites such as The Huffington Post, Today Parents, The Mighty, and Relevant Magazine. Katy and her husband Jon have three beautiful children who provide her with never-ending material, both dramatic and comedic. When she isn't writing or speaking, she can be found packing lunches, folding laundry, and making dinner. (And on rare occasions, sipping a chai latte with a friend.) You can find her online at, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

I’m Giving My Kids the Summer Fun I Never Had

In: Kids, Motherhood
Two boys playing in the waves on the beach, color photo

I love that my kids hate school. Stay with me here . . . Yes, I absolutely love that year after year, my boys cannot wait to ditch school for summer break, that they endlessly bemoan the academic year and cannot wait for June.  I love it because it is normal. I love it because it means they enjoy being at home and implies that I make summers fun for them, or, rather, allow summers to be fun for them. I love it because I always dreaded summers when I was growing up. Dreaded them with knots in my stomach...

Keep Reading

Mothering One Day at a Time

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding daughter in matching shirts, color photo

As I sat with my growing belly, full of anticipation for the arrival of my firstborn, the possibilities were endless for this little girl. Maybe she would lean toward the arts and be a dancer, writer, or musician. Or maybe she would take after her great-granddad and become a scientist. And maybe one day she would be a mother too. Dreaming about the future was fun and exciting. But then she surprised us with an at-birth Down syndrome diagnosis. Special needs were never included in my dreaming sessions.    All of the sudden, my hopes and dreams for this new...

Keep Reading

Fall into the Arms of Jesus, Little One

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Child walking

I have three younger brothers, so I know how crazy and wild boys can be. Lots of falls, cuts, scrapes, bruises, broken bones, and even a couple of head stitches. My husband has two younger brothers. He’d always tell how they used to jump from the banister down two floors onto the glass coffee table. Why anyone would do that, I have no idea. Pure madness and chaos.  Right now, I have a little baby boy who’s only seven months, but I know he will probably be just as wild as his uncles and dad. But that doesn’t mean I’m...

Keep Reading

I Know It’s Just Summer Camp but I Miss You Already

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Kids by campfire

You would’ve thought I was sending you off to college. The way I triple-checked to make sure you had everything you needed and reminded you about the little things like brushing your teeth and drinking plenty of water about a thousand times. You would’ve thought I was sending you to live on your own. The way I hugged you tight and had to fight back some tears. The way you paused before leaving just to smile at me. The way I kept thinking about that boyish grin all the way home. The way I kept thinking about how you’re looking...

Keep Reading

I Want My Boys To Become Men of Character

In: Kids, Motherhood
Young boys with arms around each other by water

I’m a single mama of two young boys. As a woman raising young boys, I’ve thought a lot about how I want them to act—as kids and adults. We joke around that I’m not raising farm animals, and we don’t live in a frat house. I’m trying to plant seeds now so they grow into men with positive character traits. They burp, fart, spray toothpaste on the sink and somehow miss the toilet often, but I’m trying to teach them life lessons about what it means to be great men and gentlemen.  Interactions with other men provide opportunities for us...

Keep Reading

Until There Was a Boy

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother looking at son and smiling, color photo

I never believed in love at first sight . . . until there was a boy.  A boy who made my heart whole the first time he looked at me.  A boy who held my hand and touched my soul at the same time.  A boy who challenged me and helped me grow. A boy who showed me that, even on the worst days, the world is still a beautiful place.  RELATED: I Met a Boy and He Changed Everything A boy who reminded me how to laugh until tears ran down my cheeks. A boy who tested my patience...

Keep Reading

A Mother’s Heart Remembers These Sweet Moments Forever

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and baby laughing

Motherhood gives you all the feelings. It’s hard not to be utterly thankful for and grieve the little things of your last baby, trying to take in all of the firsts and lasts. Every bin of clothes and baby gear packed up produces a tiny crack in a mother’s heart, breaking just a little bit more each time she says goodbye. It’s not that she needs those baby clothes, but it’s the memories each outfit held that are difficult for her to let go of. She does not want to forget those beautiful moments. When she looks at that bin...

Keep Reading

I Want You To Miss Your Childhood One Day Too

In: Kids, Living
Kids jumping off dock into lake

What I miss the most about childhood is owning my whole heart. Before I gave pieces of it away to others who weren’t always careful with it. And some, who never gave the pieces back. I miss my knowing. My absolute faith that my mother’s arms could fix just about everything and what her arms couldn’t, her cookies could. When my biggest grievance was not getting my way. I miss feeling whole, unblemished. Before words cut me. Before people had taken up space in my mind, created permanent movies that were ugly and still play on repeat at times. Before...

Keep Reading

No One Told Me It Was the Last Time You’d Be This Little

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and young son playing in ocean

No one told me it would be the last time I rocked you to sleep. A cry in the night, the haze of a dimly lit room, our rocking chair worn brown. We were the only ones in a little world. No one told me it would be the last time I carried you on my hip. The way my body shifted—you changed my center of gravity. Your little arm hooked in mine, a gentle sway I never noticed I was doing. No one told me it would be the last time I pushed you on the bucket swing. Your...

Keep Reading

The Only Way to Freeze Time Is to Take the Picture—So I’ll Take as Many as I Can

In: Kids, Motherhood
Two kids sitting in wagon, color photo

Life ebbs and flows. Seasons come and go. One of the reasons I take so many photos is because they are the only way to make time stand still. They provide a nostalgia that can’t compete with anything else. They help us remember the exact moment captured and show us how fast time is fleeting. It doesn’t matter if their texture is glossy or matte. It doesn’t matter if they are in a frame or on a screen. It doesn’t matter if they are professional or if someone’s thumbprint is in the upper corner. All that matters is the moment...

Keep Reading

5 Secrets to the

BEST Summer Ever!


Creating simple summer memories

with your kids that will  last a lifetime