I know, I know. You’re tired of being the judge. The gavel is heavy. You wish you could fling it far, far away. But it’s kind of like Thor’s hammer. It just boomerangs back into your hand.

There you are, in the middle of a peaceful moment, when suddenly the space around you shifts magically into a courtroom. The plaintiffs come barging in, followed by witnesses, defendants, and then defendants who suddenly switch to being plaintiffs…

There’s no order in your courtroom. There’s no telling the whole truth, either. There’s just a bunch of kids, all crowding in, saying, “But, Mom…!”

You never asked to be the ‘Honorable Judge Mama’. You just are.

Well, my dear, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that the One who appointed you ‘Judge Mama’ is God, so there’s no getting out of the job.

But the good news is that he also graciously provided you with all the wisdom you’ll need for every case on your docket–all day long, without exception!

Here are some guidelines from Proverbs 18, that every Judge Mama needs to keep in mind:

  • If one gives an answer before (s)he hears, it is (her) folly and shame. (Prov. 18:13)

Sure, I can put out the flames of an argument with a splash of random ‘rulings’. (Such as, “No more arguing about the purple Wii remote! Gunnar gets it!”) But it’s wise to listen to back stories and get the context. Time consuming, but wise. 

  • The ear of the wise seeks knowledge. (Prov. 18:15)

I should listen with ears that seek to know and understand my kids. What are they really wanting? Their words will betray their hearts, so I must listen well! The wisdom I glean will be just what I need to help them sort out their differences with others.   

  • The one who states his case first seems right, until another comes and examines him. (Prov. 18: 17)

I mustn’t assume that I know who’s right, based on previous patterns. The one who ‘states his case first’ is often the one who always states his case first. But I shouldn’t assume I’ve heard the whole story. There’s wisdom in bending down and examining things at ground level.

  • The lot puts an end to quarrels, and decides between powerful contenders. (Proverbs 18:18)

Sometimes a dispute is less about who took what off of whose plate, and more about who’s got more power. And when there’s one dispute after another between two ‘powerful contenders’, the Bible suggests I lead a game of rock-paper-scissors. This can help upset power plays, so that everyone can just get back to eating their lunch. 

  • A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle. (Proverbs 18:19)

When the time span between conflicts in my home is measured in seconds, not minutes, and I never seem to have time to pick up anything but my gavel… maybe it’s time to look beneath the surface. Are there long standing hurts and offenses between my kids? This can cause kids (siblings especially!) to be rigidly defensive and unyielding toward each other.

I might need to guide them through the process of confessing their sin to each other, offering apologies and forgiveness. Their hurts may not dissolve within moments, but there’s wisdom in sorting out the underlying conflict. 

  • Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

My kids already know the power their words can have over each other. But do I? As I respond to the various squabbles of the day, the words and tone that I choose have the power to bring life or death to my home!

Do I love and embrace the power of my words? They are like little seeds, being planted in the very souls of my children. One day, my words will produce the fruit that matches the seeds I planted. Will I enjoy the taste? Are my words sweet and life-giving, or dripping with poison?

Regardless of how many quibbles show up on my docket today, rather than easily dismissing things or making snap judgments, God calls me to be wise and just. When I lean down and search the face of a little one, who is pouring out his tale to me; or when I take the time to look up from my work and really invest myself in the concerns of my teens, I reflect the heart of justice–the heart of God.

To all the Judge Mamas out there: “All rise…” to the honorable task of parenting our precious kids well, through the fleeting days of summer. Yes, that gavel may be getting heavy about now. But no one can take your place on the bench.

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