A #parentingfail – Part 4

This is the last in a series of 4 posts where I explore one of my parenting fails – my inability to control my temper when my kids push my buttons.  If you’re just joining us, please go back and read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The following list is a continuation of the tips I shared in Part 3 – helpful parenting tips I’ve learned so far.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • Have structure – So much research supports the fact that children need structure (and even want it) by way of boundaries, rules, routines, and schedules.  You don’t have to be rigid, but it is good to set rules and expect that children behave accordingly.
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Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • Delegate/Accept Help – Children love to help, especially when they are little.  They may make more of a mess than you’d like or not do something exactly the way you want, but bite your tongue, be patient, and accept the assistance when they want to give it.  Also, accept help from others – your mother-in-law, best friend, neighbor, husband – especially when you have tiny babies. Give others the blessing of being able to assist you.
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Emery helping me wash the dishes – she was about 3. 

  • Plan Ahead – Things go so much better when I have done as much as I can to prep ahead of time.  Have the kids make school lunches and pack book bags the night before. Lay out clothes the night before.  Plan an entire week of dinners the weekend before. Many of the screaming fits I have thrown have been in the morning before school when someone couldn’t find his homework or her shoes because those things weren’t put where they should have been ahead of time.
  • Respect Your Children’s Father – I realize this is controversial, but it simply has to do with how God wired us as male and female.  Our children need to see that their mom respects their dad. I imagine this can be difficult if there is a separation or divorce.  However, some of the most amicable separations/divorces I have seen have been between people who are still nice and respectful toward each other.
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  • If It Isn’t Working, Change It – Some of this advice may not apply or may not work based on your family culture.  These aren’t written in blood. The best you can do is try them and then tweak them to fit best with the dynamics of your family.
  • Get to Know Your Kids – (a little long.  Bear with me…I promise I will make a relevant point).  In Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God study, the author says, “In every situation God demands that you depend on Him rather than a method. The key is not a method but a relationship with God.“ He goes on to say, “ A formula is not the way to recognize God‘s voice either… If there was a formula… You would not have to seek God with all your heart. You could mindlessly use the formula and neglect your relationship with God.“ I think this applies to our children, (or anyone else in our lives for that matter). If there was a formula for interacting well with our kids, we would not have to seek genuine relationships with them; we wouldn’t have to spend time getting to know them. We could just rely on the formula – those five tips from that parenting article or that list of advice from that veteran mom. This isn’t to say that these things aren’t valuable or some methods aren’t worth your time; however, we shouldn’t completely rely on them. Get to know who your children are by spending time with them. For example, I learned early on that Ethan was an outdoor kid. He likes watching TV, but he LOVES being outside – digging in the dirt and rocks, exploring the woods, hunting for lizards and frogs, running in the yard having a Nerf gun war… That led me to notice that he and I also interact better when we are outside. Coop us up in the house all day, and tempers are likely to flare. Put us in the backyard, and we can jump on the trampoline, pull weeds and smell gardenia blossoms all day! I know this because I have spent time with him – watching him, talking to him, noticing what he likes to do, and so on. Now if we could just spend all our time outside, we’d be best buds!  But, this is honestly one of the hardest things for me. It takes energy that I would rather not expend. It takes listening to and talking about and doing some things that don’t interest me (hello, Nerf gun wars?!). It takes time away from the things I want to do. It takes creativity and imagination. But I have to do it, and you have to do it, as often as we possibly can. This is building the relationship, and this is what our children need most (and it will do us a world of good as well).
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Photo Credit: Pinterest

My son isn’t a bad kid.  More than likely, neither is your kid.  Our kids are just being kids at their stage of development doing what kids do at that stage.  As parents, we have to learn how to work through that as best we can and get out on the other side with our sanity and our relationships with our children in tact.

Above all else, we have to fight every day to choose joy in parenthood, or Satan will steal it.  He’ll lull us into a cycle where we focus on all the things our children are doing wrong and miss all the wonderful things about them.  That’s how he steals the joy in families, especially from mothers.

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Oh man!  That opens up so much more to talk about when it comes to our children, and more I should tell you about my struggle with my mommy-temper, but I should probably move on for now.  I imagine there’ll be more opportunity for me to revisit this subject soon enough.

What situations are most difficult for you when it comes to your children’s behavior?  What makes you “lose it”? What tips and advice have you found to work when you’re in tough interactions with your children?

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Next week is a first on the Servant Girl Stories blog – we’ll have a guest post!  You’ll meet Leigh Anderson, founder of Be Still Mama, a women’s ministry at First Baptist Church of Indian Trail.  Join me next week for her post about what happens when we have a critical spirit.

A #parentingfail – Part 3

Ethan was sitting in the backseat of the car listing his favorite songs that play on K-Love, the Christian radio station we play.  Then, Hillsong United’s “So Will I” came on, and he quickly added, “ Oh, I like this one, too.” Bill and I looked at each other and grinned, thankful that he is listening to, learning to sing, and appreciating music that glorifies God.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

It reminded me that he’s a good kid – he’s not perfect, no one is – but he’s got a good heart (and he loves the Lord, thank goodness).

Why is it so difficult, then, to be his mommy?  Why do I lose my temper with him so often?

In “A #parentingfail – Part 1”, I explained how I struggle with my temper when dealing with difficult situations with my children.  Then, in “A #parentingfail – Part 2”, I shared how God revealed that He wasn’t going to take away my temper problem.

Today, I want to explore what I have learned so far on my 9-year parenthood journey.  The lessons have come from trial-and-error, tears, arguments, seeking advice from other moms, reading parenting articles, and just good ol’ experience.

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Ethan, Emery, and I pose together on our vacation last summer (2017).

I’m not professing to be an expert…the last few posts have shown quite the contrary.  Despite this fact, I know I have learned some valuable lessons along the way, and I want to pass along some of these tidbits.

Granted, it is still difficult to act on what I know when I’m in the throws of dealing with disobedience or tantrums.  That being said, here’s what parenthood has taught me so far:

  • Stay Calm – I know, I know…start off with a difficult one, but if you can stay calm, you could keep the situation from escalating.
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    Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • Walk Away – It’s ok to admit you need a minute when you feel yourself losing it.
  • Get on Their Level – Rather than towering over them and literally talking down to them, sit or kneel so you can look them in the eye.
  • Give Choices – When possible, allow them to choose or at least couch their responsibilities as a choice.  Ask, “Do you want to brush your teeth or make your bed first?” Sometimes I ask this during the “Get Ready for School” routine in the morning.  Ultimately, they’ll have to do both but making it seem like they have choices sometimes helps things go more smoothly.
  • Don’t Hover – My kids do better, whether on their own or playing with others, when I am not standing over them waiting to correct every mistake they make.
  • Relax Your Need for Control – Looking back, I can see that many of the blowups I’ve had with my kids were because I insisted on having something done the way I wanted it, when I wanted it. Now, I try to ask myself if I must have it done my way or if I can give them the chance to do it their way.
  • Shut-up – I’m pretty sure that God has said this to me a few times – almost audibly. I don’t have to have the last word. I may not even have to have a word at all. Sometimes I should just shut up.
  • Be specific, simple & direct with instructions – This is especially helpful when the kids are younger. Don’t give a long list of complicated steps and details. Give one step at a time, wait for that to be done, and then give the next step.
  • Be positive – Look for the things they are doing well, and give compliments.  Also, try to have a more positive mindset about your children overall.  Once you view them negatively (because of their behavior, for example) it is difficult to redirect yourself to have a positive outlook.  If you find yourself thinking more negative then positive thoughts, think of 3 good things about your child. Write them down if you want.  List more than 3 – as many as you can, in fact. This simple exercise will help refocus your mind on the wonderful things about your children. (And keeps Satan from stealing your joy…I’ll talk about that next week).
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Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • Be present/Put down your phone – You could also say turn off the television, get away from the computer, or put down the tablet. We need to look at our children, talk to them, listen to them, play what they want to play, allow them to help when they want, and focus on them when they need our attention.
  • Be consistent – (Insert eye roll here, especially if you read Part 1 and feel my pain).  You may have to keep it up for five years before you see the fruits of your labor, but it is important to stick to your guns.  Ethan is 9, and over the past 4 years or so, we have started to notice him doing things, unprompted, that we had been trying to teach him for years!  HALLELUJAH!

For the sake of keeping my posts as brief as possible, I’ll stop there and finish sharing the list next week.  I’ve saved the most important one for last, so you’ll have to come back 😉 Also, I’m going to reveal my first guest blogger who’ll write for you the last week in April.  You don’t want to miss the announcement!!!

P.S. Here’s “So Will I” – one of Ethan’s favorite songs 🙂

 

A #parentingfail – Part 1

Author’s Note: Sharing things that I’ve failed at doesn’t exactly bring me joy.  However, when I began to realize that I was going to have to be obedient to God’s conviction and start a blog, God showed me that I would have to be honest…real…vulnerable. That I would have to be truthful and tell you things about being a wife, a mom, a believer, a woman that maybe weren’t so glamorous or flattering or honorable or joyful.  This was one reason I held off for so long. There are a lot of things I don’t want to tell you about myself. But, in the end, I realized that I am just God’s servant girl, and right now, He wants me to tell you some of the stories He’s given me so you can connect, so you can relate, and so you can see God in my stories and in the stories that He’s given you.  

I had one of those days that makes me feel like a failure as a parent. It was a Saturday so it should have been relaxed and fun and happy and sunshiny.  But I yelled and fussed and argued and complained and knit-picked.  And then I furrowed my brow and pinched my lips together and clenched my teeth so hard that I got a headache, and it was difficult to relax my face.

Why? I kept asking myself.  Why do I keep doing this?

Why can’t I get along with my son?  Why am I aggravated by everything he does?

This is one of the biggest sources of anxiety and frustration and shame in my life right now and has been for some time – my relationship with Ethan – and I don’t have anyone to blame but myself.

I just can’t figure out how to get better at being Ethan’s mom.

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Ethan and me in 2015 on a chairlift at Tweetsie Railroad.  Bless his heart – he looks just like me when he smiles!

I have cried about it.  I have prayed about it. I have journaled about it.  I have asked other people about it…but I haven’t figured it out yet.

Honestly, this is probably one of the things that pushed me closer to God.  Before Ethan was born, Bill and I were already in church together and I was feeling wooed by God, but it wasn’t until after Ethan was born that I started desperately seeking Him.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

I felt like a terrible mother, and I was begging Him to make me better.

The first 3 or 4 months after Ethan was born were challenging and stressful to say the least, but I was a first-time mom, so that was to be expected.  After about 6 months, things seemed to even out, and it became more enjoyable. Ethan was a smiley, happy, bouncy baby for the most part, and Bill and I kind of settled into the parenting thing.

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Ethan in 2010 – around 15 months old.

Then, God convicted me to leave my full time job and stay home with Ethan – another fairly smooth transition.  We had our routine. We ate. We read books or built with blocks.  We played outside. We strolled around the neighborhood. He napped.  Things were doable. I found joy.  The parenting thing wasn’t too bad after all.

He was easy to get along with, easy to redirect, easy to pacify.  He liked to be read to and to play with his toys and to be outside in the sun.

When he turned 2, I didn’t see any of the Terrible-Twos stuff many people bemoan, so I naively thought we’d missed that somehow.  Maybe Ethan wasn’t going to do that stuff?!

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Ethan and Bill in 2011 at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC.  Ethan would have been about 2 1/2 here.

Then, along came about 3 or so, and all of a sudden, my pleasant, smiling, easy-to-get-along with little fella started saying no to everything I asked him to do, refusing to nap, being difficult to redirect from one activity to another, and complaining about the food I got for him (which was exactly what he’s just requested not 2 minutes before).

Where the heck was my precious angel-baby?

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Posing for family pictures on the beach in 2012 – he was 3 1/2.  (He still looks like an angel-baby with those big, clear, blue eyes, doesn’t he?!)

I had no idea what to do!  I’d always heard that children would test you…”just be consistent” was the advice I replayed from my pre-child days.

So, I was consistent…I thought.  But a day turned to a week which turned to two months which turned to a year, and he was still disagreeable and stubborn and wouldn’t nap and complained about his food and didn’t like to stroll around the neighborhood anymore.

And I still didn’t know what to do.  “Be consistent” didn’t seem to be working.  So, instead, I decided I could be more stubborn than he could.  I was the parent, and he would do what I said.  (I know. I know.  I’m supposed to be the adult here.  I didn’t say this was the right decision or the most mature parenting move I could have made).

At some point, I don’t exactly know when, I started screaming and yelling and slamming whatever was in arm’s reach onto the table or the floor and making him sit in the corner and spanking probably more than I should and making the “mad face” as he called it.

I NEVER knew I had a bad temper until I had children 😦

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All this led to a TON of guilt.  I cried – correction, I blubbered.  By myself and to Bill mostly. But, I cried a lot.  I also started praying about my temper.  I know parents have to be in charge and to  discipline their children, but I knew I was taking it too far when I lost my temper the way I did.

I honestly believe this was what drew me so close to God during this season of my life.  I had to learn to lean on Him because nothing I could do was working.

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Summer 2017

Next week, in A #parentingfail – Part 2, I’ll share some things I have learned along the way about children and tempers and consistency.  I’ll also share some specific words from God that I’ve gotten in response to my petitions for Him to take away my temper so I wouldn’t scream at my kids anymore.  I think you’ll be surprised at some of the answers I’ve gotten.  I know I was.

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How about you?  What have you learned from going through the Terrible-Twos or Terrible-Threes or Terrible-Tweens or whatever difficult stages you’ve walked through as a parent?  Where did you go for help? What did you find that didn’t work? What did work? Where are you now in your parenting journey? Any advice from those with older children to those with younger ones?  Can we survive this thing called Parenthood?!