We’ve all felt it before. That gut-wrenching, soul-killing sick thought that our parenting has screwed up our kids. For some reason, there is less laughter, more stress and more bad behaviour. You’re tired, the kids are tired of YOU (they yell as they run to their rooms), and it’s starting to cause tension in your marriage.
“Maybe we should have one more to see if we can get it right on the fourth time around.”
The problem is that is you know in your heart that the problem isn’t them, it’s you. They are children, you are the adult.
Going back and starting all over again, isn’t going to do a speck of good unless you address your strategies as the parent. Let’s get the obvious out of the way, you probably are the reason that your kids are struggling. And now, let’s get a few other thoughts into our sad, tired hearts. First, you are not alone. We recently did a survey among parents to find out what they struggle with and right up there with potty-training and media usage, was the question “Am I doing a good enough job?” Second, parenting is hard. Third, we can change our tactics and hit reset on our parenting strategies!
Sometimes, just a weekend away to relax and connect with your spouse is what is needed. A break! And sometimes we need to jolt ourselves out of the patterns of parenting we seem to be stuck in. But where to start. I have three suggestions.
One. Pick up a best-selling children’s book
I think we sometimes get so intent on reading parenting books, that we forget what it is like to be a child. Last year, I did a little research project and looked up 100 of the most popular children’s books of all time and then I bought about 12 of them. Some of them are picture books, some of them are chapter books. Some are books for the littles, and some are closer to teens fiction, but all of them helped me jump into the imagination of a child again.
For years, before I allowed a new teacher to take the stage in our middle school ministry, I would require them to read Louis Sachar’s book, Holes. It is, quite simply, the best book written for a middle school audience! It is not only a very clever story, but the way it is written is telling as well. The first chapter has to be 250 words or less. The second chapter is only marginally longer. When I first picked it up I found it very odd, even jarring somewhat. But then I realized the brilliance of it. As someone who loves books, I know the wonderful feeling of finishing a chapter! In fact, finishing a chapter is often what keeps me reading in a book. Louis Sachar capitalized on that feeling for the child and keeps them motivated to read on!
What’s the lesson? Kids can’t handle long chapters. They need short, memorable lessons, not long lectures. They need jobs that they can accomplish so that they feel that awesome feeling of finishing something.
So read a kids book. See what you can learn. Write them a Seussian “I-love-you” note and stick it in their lunchbox. Do bed-time prayers as in a Robert Munsch voice! Tap into that deep, precious imagination of your child.
Two. Get a NEW take on parenting
I’m going to say something that could be taken as a bit controversial here, pick up a secular book on parenting.
Look, I know there are a ton of great faith-based parenting books out there, but if that is all you read, you need to expand your library. I would suggest you go to the bookstore, head to the parenting section and find a book that looks interesting and read it! Read it to see the differences between that and what you have previously read. Don’t read it to apply everything it suggests, but just read it to reset your thinking a little bit.
One of the best authors I have found writing parenting books in the secular world is Daniel Siegel (www.drdansiegel.com). He has two books that will bring a different level of understanding to the development of a child; The Whole-Brained Child and No-Drama Discipline. Remember, he isn’t a believer and so at some point what he writes could conflict with some of your Christian values, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton of information you could apply.
This Thursday, January 18th, I’m going to be starting an intensive 7-week parenting course and we are going to take a new look at parenting. We will address discipline and those critical topics you may have read up on before, but we will also look at how brain development, trauma, and attachment affects our parenting strategies. And, honestly, I’m looking forward to hitting the reset button my parenting strategies as well! I find that whenever I teach a course like this, I am motivated to stick to what I know is better parenting than the ruts I get stuck in! (You can sign up for the course here.)
Regardless, you know what they say about doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results…
Three. Take your parenting to Jesus
The way you parent is a reflection of many complex factors in your life. If you were raised in an authoritarian home, you may either find that you are now becoming your authoritarian mother to your own children, OR you may be doing your best to be anything OTHER than your father. Both are understandable. Neither are necessarily good! We need to be authoritative as parents, but not authoritarian. We need boundaries for our children that are fair, but that also keep them safe.
Your marriage and marital status also impact your parenting style. As does your job, your relatives and your church attendance. The trauma and healing you’ve received impacts how you parent. Your emotional health. Everything is a factor!
In the end, we need Jesus to help us sort it all out. I’m not being trite here. We need to continually go to God and allow Him to speak into both our tired and energetic hearts to make sure we are walking as closely with Him as possible. He is the best Father and the one who knows and loves your children more than you do. He can give you the next step without overwhelming you with a book-full (or course-full) of new information.
If you haven’t already, I suggest that in your prayer journal you put a page or two for each of your children where you listen to His instruction for each of their unique lives. Let Him give you ideas as you meditate on Scripture and reflect on your own relationship with Him.
You can do this! One step at a time, you can hit little “reset” buttons in your parenting strategies and make this next year a better year for your family than the last!
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