“Get rid of the attitude” is a phrase that I find myself saying too often to correct my little girl. Lately, I’ve been trying to refrain from saying this because it is unclear and misses an opportunity to show her what attitude I do desire her to have. A child’s natural attitude is one of self-centeredness – withhold what they want and see what happens! Left unchecked this attitude will develop and form their personality. Let’s be honest though, children are also extremely aware of the integrity (or lack thereof) of the adults in their life and are observant of how we choose to react to bad news. My daughter’s attitude and my own are made evident by the words we speak, the expectations we hold, and the way we treat others.
So then what do I tell myself or my daughter when our attitudes are subpar? Write down in a thankfulness journal, breathe deeply, or unwind? Harkening back to Family Matters, Carl Winslow practiced this mantra: “3-2-1, 1-2-3, what the heck is bothering me?” Comical and maybe somewhat useful when in the moment of a bad attitude, these methods fail to address the heart problem: the human race is born with a sin problem which reveals itself in selfishness, ungratefulness, and anger; in sum: we’re born with a bad attitude! No amount of trying to pick ourselves up by the proverbial bootstraps is going to change that. Our minds require transformation which can only happen through the power of the Holy Spirit and His working of the Word into our lives.
Instead of telling our children to simply get rid of their bad attitude, our children (and we as well) should instead put on the attitude of Christ. His attitude was this: “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:6).” Jesus also says of Himself that He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).” A bad attitude can only be rectified by fully understanding Christ’s sacrifice for us.
The Golden Rule is to love our neighbor as ourselves and I can’t help but imagine Jesus saying this with an air of satire – “Hey, if you could love others as much as you love yourself – you know, which is a whole lot – then you’ll be getting close to fulfilling the greatest commandment.” We love ourselves so much that we clothe, feed, house, and pamper ourselves with the best. Yet when we give, we give to a lesser degree and expect the recipient to be bubbling over with gratitude. While we may pride ourselves on just giving anything at all, our standard isn’t someone else, it is Christ. When Christ gave, He gave it all because He is not a stingy giver (2 Corinthians 8:9). Having an attitude like Christ’s is synonymous with having an attitude of service.
As a parent, I am tempted to be satisfied with behavioral modification, when that is not at all what God is satisfied with. Yes, He desires obedience from His children yet Colossians 3:10 says, “Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.” What God requires obedience to will only be possible in a broken and contrite heart. His plan for us is more than to grin and bear it but rather let go of the control we believe we have, the unrealistic expectations, and let Him work already. Bad attitudes in the home are inevitable, but my hope is that we would grow in our ability to, “keep fervent in [our] love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).”