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 2

I could have sworn this post published last week…I even checked?!  I must be crazy.  Anyway, if this is a repeat, I apologize.

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 write 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, so you can see God in my stories and in the stories that He’s given you.  Last week, in A #parentingfail – Part 1, I had to disclose what I see as one of my biggest failings as a mother. This week, I reveal the answer I got from God after years of pleading to Him to make me a better mom.

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After I scream at one of my kids or slam the door in frustration over something they’ve done, I feel the most horrid feeling.  It’s like my heart and soul are fighting to stay alive. I feel tight and hot and putrid in the center of my chest. Satan tells me I am not fit to be a mom.  He whispers that, if I continue yelling at my children, my son in particular, they will hate me when they grow up and will have nothing to do with me. Then, the tears come, hot down my cheeks, and I just want to curl into a dark corner and stay there.  It’s a disturbing feeling – the notion that your children might walk away from you one day and never look back.

I don’t want that.

Early on, I read all the articles I could find and talked to as many people as I dared to admit to that I frequently lost my temper with my children.

And, I cried.  Storehouses of tears.

And, I prayed.  Mountains of prayers.  For God to take away my temper and make me stop yelling at my children.  For them to still love me even after all my temper tantrums.

But then, I’d be right back in that place, that hot, angry place where I’d end up screaming again.  And, I’d think, “why aren’t my prayers working?! Why am I still yelling so much?”

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Truthfully, the years have worn off the sharpest edges.  I’ve learned better ways to interact or deal with disagreements or how to walk away.  So, there has been some improvement, but it has been minuscule compared to what I wanted – a total transformation, a 180 degree turn…June Cleaver, maybe?  😉

I didn’t think God was answering my prayers if He didn’t make me stop yelling altogether…after all, that was what I asked for, cried for, in my prayers.

Then, a few years ago, I was in a Be Still Mama Bible study, and we read Stuck by Jennie Allen.  In the study, Allen discusses 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 where Paul discloses the thorn in his flesh and how he has pleaded with God to take it away from him.

So, to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ ESV

In essence, God told Paul no.  God would not take away the thing that was tormenting Paul.

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Why not?  Why would God say no to a fervent prayer from one of His children?  Why wouldn’t He give relief when it was requested?

The answer was the same for Paul then as it is for me now: Without the thorn, Paul wouldn’t look to God as he should.  Without my thorn, I wouldn’t lean on God as I should.

Our weaknesses, just like our strengths, are God-given – and they are both ultimately for God’s glory.  We use our strengths to glorify Him, and we bring Him glory in our weaknesses as well.

How is that?  That doesn’t make sense!

When we are weak – when we lose our tempers and yell at our children, for example – we must acknowledge our need for God.

When we read every possible child psychology and parenting article, scouring for something that will work, and we still yell, we come face-to-face with our need for God.

And we throw ourselves down at His feet.  We beg forgiveness. We confess that we can’t do it alone.  We ask Him to help us.

In our weakness, He is strong.

I remember the moment I came to that conclusion after completing the section in the Stuck study where Allen talked about Paul.

I KNEW in that moment that God said no to me, that the temper and outbursts were a thorn in my flesh that wasn’t going anywhere.

And, you know what?  I was immediately at peace with it.  Immediately!  That was my confirmation that God was indeed saying no but that everything would be alright.  God always gives peace.

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Now, this isn’t to say that God will always say no to our requests. Surely He’s said yes to some of yours as He has said yes to some of mine.

And, it isn’t to say that He’ll say no to you specifically about your temper and your interactions with your children.  You may get a different answer.

What’s more, it isn’t to say that God won’t give me relief in some ways.  He has. He has let me see better ways of interacting with my children that don’t always lead to meltdowns.  There will probably be other breakthroughs and lessons to learn in the future as well.  We are called to pray no matter what.

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What I am saying is, It’s ok to ask.  It’s ok to plead and cry. However, if you pray and the answer is no, do not be discouraged.  Accept God’s peace when He says no. Find solace in the fact that He is leaving the weakness so that you’ll lean into Him and grow closer to Him.  He will get glory in some way, and that is in fact our ultimate purpose, to glorify God with our lives, even through parts we don’t like.

When has God told you no?  What were you asking for? How did it feel when you realized that the answer to your prayer was no?  I realize that these may be painful situations, but, if you are willing, please share as your stories can help others in similar situations.

*I’ll conclude A #parentingfail next week with Part 3.

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Afterword

I wanted to share some of the notes I took in the Stuck study after I realized God was telling me that He wasn’t going to take the thorn in my flesh.  It was a kind of prayer that I journaled. Maybe it will help you, too. 

It was written in response to the following instructions: Read about the apostle Paul’s stuck places.  As you read, think about these two questions – “Who are you, Lord?” and “What do you want from me?” and journal your thoughts…

My response – Who are you, Lord?  – a God full of grace – a God with enough grace for me and all the horrible things I have said, done, and thought.  A God whose power is most evident when I am weak. When I know and accept that I am weak, I cannot brag and take credit for the blessings and good things in my life.  I have to accept that these things have come from God.

What do you want from me?  God wants me to allow myself to be weak.  God wants me to lay the weaknesses on Him.  God wants me to give Him the glory when He sustains me despite my weaknesses.  The weaknesses allow me to see that I do need God. The weaknesses take the pressure off me – I don’t have to be perfect, strong…I can’t be those things.  The weaknesses allow me to make room for God – to let Him take over.

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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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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?!