Thursday, September 16, 2010

Perilous Parenting

I hate to admit, but lately, I am pretty sure my parenting skills are NOT something the Lord would be proud of. I mean, I do a good job of putting on a great show, I like to "look like" super mom, but if you were inside my home, you might think differently. When no one is watching, I have gotten lazy, I have put housework above heartwork, and allowed the excuse of "I'm a type A kind of gal" to rule the roost.

It had gotten to the point that all the children did was fight and bicker and then I would just holler over them begging them to quit. I was so consumed with trying to get my house in order and do all of the "homemaker" type things that I let parenting fall to the way side.

I tell you all of this because I feel like the Lord wanted me to. I feel like as moms we all tend to want to look like we have it all together, we get pretty high and mighty at the grocery store when we see another mom struggling with the tantruming child while ours sit quietly in the cart. When the truth is, that as moms we should be a little, okay, a lot more compassionate. It happens to ALL of us. We are parenting in the trenches and instead of delighting in another mom's moment of battle, maybe we should react a little differently.

A few weeks ago our kids begged for mohawks, we were not crazy about the idea, but decided that it was just hair and that we wanted our kids to know that God doesn't care at all what we look like, he loves us the same. Let me tell you though, if you EVER want criticism in the Christian community, give your kid a mohawk. I was ASTOUNDED. Suddenly, my cute kids who typically are very well behaved and mild mannered, got stares, looks, and snarky remarks made even by family members who love them. They were the SAME kids, just looked different and suddenly they must be heathens. Literally...they were called heathens because of their hair.

Luke got a pretty hurtful comment from a family member and came home broken-hearted and wanting to cut his hair. I asked why he wanted to cut it. His response, broke my heart. He said he loved his haircut, but he didn't like that other people didn't like it and thought he was a bad kid because of it. Seriously.

We were suddenly on the other side of the judging table and I didn't like it one bit. I hate to admit but I have had more prideful moments than I can count out in public as I watch another mom struggle with her kids misbehavior. "MY kids would never act like that".

Then all of the sudden Ben grew an attitude. He began to get mouthy and hateful and the fighting in our home was unbearable. I spent weeks, beside myself, not knowing what to do next. You know those moments where you are quite sure you are ruining your kids for life, and that you have missed the opportunity to save them from a life sentence in federal prison. Yeah...that is where I resided. He was hitting, kicking, spitting, yelling...the WHOLE deal. Like...was not even the kid I knew.

In a moment where I felt like I had nothing left to give, that I was surely the biggest parenting failure in the history of the universe, I cried out to God. (Why is it that we often ONLY resort to taking it to Him once we have reached the end of ourselves?) In that moment, I felt a peace come over me and I just started praying for that boy's heart.

I had had a conversation with another mom a week earlier and was talking about how I didn't know how to reach his heart...that I knew something was up, but that I wasn't sure what to do. I told her that I didn't want him to quit hitting, kicking, yelling etc, just out of fear of punishment, I wanted to see a change in his heart. Her response was "Oh, so you want him to be a twenty one year old in a four year old body". No...that wasn't it. I went to college to be a teacher, I get child development. I know that all kids his age are impulsive and act out. I know that. I also know that sin is sin, and my boy had sin in his heart and was struggling. I wanted to guide him in examining his heart and dealing with the sin. Yet in talking with most of my parent friends, I could not find someone who understood my plight.

After a quick Internet exchange with a friend half way across the country, she got it. She recommended "Wise Words For Moms" and "Don't Make Me Count to Three" by Ginger Plowman. I hopped on Amazon, redeemed my Swagbucks, and wondered what I would do without these resources for the next week or so until they arrived.

I sat down and had a heart to heart with Howard about my struggles. I felt like my fuse was short with everyone, I had lost my joy and that I was just a constant referee. He agreed and apologized for lack of leadership. We sat and prayed together for our family and committed to making things different and following the Lord. We have spent lots of time since praying for our kids, for our family, for our parenting. I have spent time combing through the best parenting book ever...The Bible, yet felt kind of overwhelmed still. We were definitely seeing progress, but I felt like I still was not reaching the hearts of my kids.

I sat down and wrote out some verses that I wanted to use in my parenting on index cards and hung them where we would all see them.

Here are some of the verses I used:

"God gives joy to those who promote peace." Proverbs 12:20

"Whatever you do, work heartily as for the lord and not for men" Colossians 3:23

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

"Walk in humility, consider others better than yourself." Philippians 2:3

"Do everything without complaining and arguing" Philippians 2:14

I began praying like crazy for the hearts of my kids and for my own heart. I have often prayed for their hearts but mostly forgot to pray for my own and I was not in a place myself where I was being very effective.

Since this funk, the books have come from Amazon, and I will say they are more than worth their purchase. I was reading the Bible and finding verses, but these resources helped me to further unpack what the Bible says and the way we need to instruct our kids so that they can examine their hearts.

Our home still has squabbles and moments of selfishness for sure, but my kids are REALLY getting it. For example...whenever we go anywhere to eat, the boys always fight over who gets to sit next to mom. As we entered a restaurant over the is the scenario that played out.

Boys: I want to sit by mom, no I want to sit by mom, NO I WANT TO SIT BY MOM.

Luke: Ben, I want you to sit next to mom this time, because I love you and want you to be happy and I need to think of you before thinking of myself.

SERIOUSLY? SERIOUSLY! That is not to say that every incident plays out like is a small victory, and I will take is sinking in.

Just a month ago I was in such a yucky place, I felt like a huge failure and was so beaten down. Today I see progress...ONLY GOD...ONLY GOD. I am still the same hugely flawed person. God put me in my place and reminded me of my immense responsibility to train the hearts of these precious ones. I have recently really felt called to pray for parents everywhere. If you are in that place...that rut...that funk...and would like me to specifically pray for you, I would be happy to. Please just leave a comment or jot me an email to Keep on fighting the good fight...He has it all under control...follow Him and take Him at his word.


Danae Hudson said...

I've only read half your post so far, but I really wanted to comment. In high school, my mother dyed my hair blue. BRIGHT blue. Like, bleached my hair and then colored it blue. I got stares and looks and people said, 'Does your MOTHER like it?' And I would say, 'She helped me do it!'

A woman came up to my mother and said, 'I would NEVER let my daughter do THAT. I would kick her out of the house.' My mom's response was, 'She's not doing drugs. She's not out partying all night. If the only thing she wants to do is dye her hair, then so be it.' But the woman just went on and on and on about how terrible it was and my mother knew she wouldn't listen.

Crazy, isn't it?!

Danae Hudson said...

What a wonderful post! I just got a book called The World Needs Your Kid and it's not Biblically based and is about raising socially conscious children...but it takes the words of certain spiritual leaders like Desmond Tutu and translates common events and how to get your kids to relate to them too. I don't know if you'd be interested, but I thought I'd mentioned it.

Your verses were great and I hope that God continues on this path!

Joy said...

Thank you so much for post. I read your blog often, but I think this is the first time I have ever commented. I can truly relate to everything you said and feel like I am failing as a parent most days. Thank you for your inspiration and sharing so openly. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers and would be so appreciative of you to do the same for me. Moms really do need to stick together and support each other more. We are all in the same boat trying to raise the best kids that we can.
Joy in California

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for sharing!! I needed to hear that today. I have been struggling too. I believe I will go check out those books. I have been praying through The Power of a Praying Parent.

Carla said...

Thanks for this post. I can totally relate. I think all honest moms can. We call it a "funk" in our house too...each of my kids go through one on occasion for whatever reason. They suddenly demand more time, more attention, more consequiences..
it can be exhausting. Makes us appreciate the smooth sailing times even more though.
I loved your story about the mowhawk! I've noticed the same attitudes in the Christian community. When my daughter was six she had a pink streak died into her hair by her auntie. It was an adorable hot pink accent on a cute little blonde head. Matched the tu-tus and princess dresses perfectly. That was all kinds of scandal I'm sure. I like making people like that squirm a little ;)

Have you read Dr. Tim Kimmels books? The most well known one is "grace based parenting" That and his other books about parenting are SO good. All about reaching the heart of the kid...building character and leading them to their savior(while overlooking things like hairstyles).

Barclay Kathryn said...

Oh I'm struggling right now so bad with all those same feelings. Thanks so much for sharing. : )

Laurie in Ca. said...

I lived through the same things you write here Kristy. Now that my kids have kids of their own, I see them going through the same process and I feel sorry for them:) It is not easy and the pressure seems to be worse for you new parents now. And you are so right, we lead them by our example. Love you and praying for you too.

Love and Hugs, Laurie

thetalbotts said...

Your words from the last few posts feel like I could have written them myself. I sure am not succeeding as a mom & wife lately. And it's all because I'm trying to be superwoman without letting the Lord be in control. Thanks so much for praying for us. It's so nice to know I'm not alone.

When I lost my baby girl, I've never been as close to the Lord as I was then. As we get further and further away from that time of having to cling to the Lord, I've slowly started trying to take over the reigns from Him. I wish I could just maintain my relationship with Him instead of gradually slipping away when things are going smoothly.

All that to say--thanks for sharing your heart. I appreciate your honesty and humility. The Lord is using your struggles to draw me back to Him.

Penny said...

I admire you for wanting to "train Ben's heart," and your other children's too, more than just stopping unwanted behavior. You are a great mom~ everyone gets overwhelmed sometimes. As for looks about the Mohawks, forget about them. As long as it's not following some awful trend that changes their heart, it's fine. (By awful, I mean the dark, Gothic style my teenager wore.) You've got such a heart for your children~ that is what makes a good mom~ not whether you ever holler at them. :)

Penny said...

Wow, I couldn't sleep and popped on the computer. My life right now is not heading in the right direction.. I am struggling to find joy. I feel anger and resentment towards the man I married 11 yrs ago and love like crazy. My life seems to be so crazy......... 5 kids, 3 at home, 2 in college, homeschool for 2 and potty training one. Farm chores and our charity work.... the days are full and many times long after my husband is sitting I am still working.......
It gives me no right to be hateful and angry..... I would be thrilled to pray for you if you would pray for me........


Rachel said...

Thanks for sharing your heart with us. I am currently struggling with my sweet, well behaved kind-hearted child not demonstrating any of those traits at the moment. She is almost 6 and just started kindergarten. Also my husband was in Africa for 16 days (just got home) and she was and still is being very disobedient and challenging. Not something we have ever had to deal with her. I don't know if it was missing her daddy or starting school (she is great at school and does not struggle academically, socially or with behavior at school, but is very tired when she comes home). Also 3 weeks ago we were in a minor car accident and rear ended and she did get some whiplash form that. So I am not sure if that is causing nerves or stress. Anyway I have been praying and trying to be consistent with her and yet to show her love. Last night I started reading Shepherding a Child's Heart. I have the other two resources you mentioned and don't think I have ever read "Don't make Me Count to Three". I will be pulling that out this week and hopefully hubby will read it with me too.
Thanks again for sharing your post has blessed and touched my heart this morning. You can pray for my sweet girl to get back to her regular self and for her heart to listen to God.
Hugs and Prayers
Rachel in TN

Inkling said...

I loved this post. Though reading about Luke's hurt over the comments pierced my heart and made me ache for him. I hope he's doing okay now.

You are so right. We moms totally judge when we should be giving compassion. The other day, somebody honked at me in traffic because I wasn't turning right on red and they were behind me, and all I wanted to say to them was, "Do you see that I'm taking this red light opportunity on a rainy day with slick roads to comfort my cranky child in his carseat behind me? Will an extra 60 seconds really hurt you?" And then the next day, I found myself feeling like "honking" when I was out with some girlfriends and saw a toddler at a restaurant after 10 p.m. But then I stopped myself and reminded my own heart that I don't know that family's story and have no business making any assumptions.

We mamas sure need to give grace and the benefit of the doubt. It's hard to remember to do that though.

I liked what you said about the whole heart thing in Ben's life. I'm a first time mom, and my husband and I are trying to do that with our toddler, experimenting with different ways to try to teach him to make good choices. Half the time, we have NO idea what we are doing. We have a ton of books with lots of different ideas, so that's not the problem. And I was a teacher in Christian schools for years, so it's not like I'm a newbie at obedience. It's just the figuring out how to turn theory into workable practice that is hard. I feel like I live my life breathing prayers all day long for patience, wisdom, and self-control as I seek to love my child well.

I'm adopting your verse idea and will be using them in my kitchen and on our bathroom mirror. Those are great reminders for the goals we want to see in our kiddos' hearts, and they are literally food for our souls as well. Thank you for sharing that idea and the verses!

Naomi said...

Thank you so much for your post. I have a 2-1/2 year old son that I have been struggling with lately. It is so comforting to hear someone who is having the same struggles, and working towards the same goals that I am. I pray for your family regualarly. I learn from what you share. I am encouraged by your family more than you know. I pray that you have peace and comfort in a very real way today.

Also, can I ask you how you added your signature to the end of each post?

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post. I am constantly struggling in trying to be a good parent to my 3 girls. My oldest child has since around age 7 (she is currently 11) been my most challening. She seems to have a very grumpy nature, and now I am beginning to see my 2 younger respond in unkind ways toward her and each other and I feel it is because she is constantly this way with them. I love her very much and would like to know how to lead her toward a more caring attitude without being critical and her feeling like I am attacking her I will certainly be getting the books you were talking about and would very much appreciate your prayers.

The other Kristy

Devin said...

Wow, friend. What a post.

I love when you share your heart like this...I always feel like I am looking into a reflection of myself.

I struggle with all of these same things, which is part of the reason why I have struggled with writing you back (something I've been in the process of for like, a week and a half now--determined to finish it tonight!) to give 'advice' on the subject. I am writing more about this in my FB message to you, but I just wanted to say:

HOW I can relate on the mohawk thing. WHOA.

When we let our boys do that this summer--and yes, they've been begging me (I think I told you that) for a couple of summers now, you would have though by some others' reactions that I had let them get drunk or something. I actually had someone, a complete stranger in a store, ask me, "WHAT is wrong with their HAIR? You LET them do that?"

And, you know what I replied to him? "Yes, I sure did. As a matter of fact, I cut it MYSELF. They are good boys, and IT IS JUST A HAIRCUT." I'm normally not too outspoken with others like that, but it really ticked me off the reaction they got. My church is very laid back, so most people didn't say too much--but the looks said enough, you know?

I just wanted to scream, "Is this how others feel when they come here? Cause I am not seeing much of Jesus in you all right now...."

If I've ever gotten in real life confirmation of 'man looking on the outward appearance, but God looking on the heart', it sure was with those haircuts. *sigh*

I hurt with you over the comment to Luke. It's terrible.

We'll talk more in a I'm headed over to FB to finish up my thoughts to you. So glad Ginger Plowman's stuff is making a difference--Luke's reaction to Ben is amazing!

One step at a time...reaching hearts one little bit by one little bit!

Kelly @ Sufficient Grace Ministries said...

I've been so up and down with the rut/funk state a mama, as a so many ways. The Lord has gently and lovingly convicted me of the same lately. Praying for you...and would love your prayers for me, as well.

Love to you...