When I only had one kid I was a mother of endless patience and fun (at least most of the time). Even when Jane wouldn't nap as a baby, even when she was clingy or disobedient, even when she was screaming and I was tired-- I never, ever yelled at her. Then I had a second kid.
When Steven was born, I turned into someone I didn't even recognize and definitely didn't like. A crying baby and a crying toddler were more than I could handle and I yelled more times than I can count, "Stop yelling!" and then I usually started crying because I didn't want to be yelling at my kids, but I couldn't stop.
For the past two and half years I have read several books and tried different reminders and practices to re-learn patience. And I'm making progress anyway. The transition to three kids was a million times smoother because I'm at least a mostly nice mom again.
One of the most important lessons I'm learning comes from Proverbs 15:1: "A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger."
I used to read this scripture thinking it was akin to Dale Carnegie's advice of how to influence (or manipulate) other people. I thought it meant that if someone was angry with me and I could respond kindly, it would kill their anger and they'd smile and hug me instead. Sometimes this is true, but unfortunately angry people are often just angry no matter what we do.
But fortunately, we are only responsible for our own choices. As I often tell my kids, "You just worry about you." It turns out, this scripture has the same aim. It's not meant as a weapon to disarm my enemy, it's meant as strategy to disarm myself. A soft answer turns away MY wrath.
When my kids glue art projects to their walls, sneak nutella into bed but forget to put the lid back on, dump an entire dresser of clothes to build a fort, or clog the bathtub with bread (all of which happened yesterday), I just need to worry about me first. If I can muster a soft response before my anger explodes out my mouth, it will be turned away. But if I let the harsh words come out, my anger will be stirred up.
My kids don't do these things because they hate me, they do these things because they are kids-- Heavenly Father's kids who He is sharing with me for a while. A soft answer helps me remember that.