I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
The question was posed to us this week in our online Bible Study of Stressed-Less Living by Tracie Miles, to think of a time when you thought you could do it all by yourself. What happened to make you change your mind? This was actually a rather easy question for me to answer, because my “failures” are rather obvious in this area. Before I had children, I thought I was prepared for childhood. My husband and I had made all the important decisions, and while we understood having children was difficult, we also knew we were smart people who had thought through the decision to have children and had considered many of the “issues” that caused other parents problems. If you have children of your own, you are probably already laughing at me. I could not have been more wrong, or more prideful to be honest. Raising children has been a humbling, exhausting, rewarding, learning experience. It is the hardest job I have ever loved.
Those of you that do not have children, you may be saying, yeah, yeah, it is hard, but we have hard things too. You are absolutely right! This just happens to be the hurdle I am trying to cross at this point in my life and it has helped me to realize how much I have to learn and how much I actually need God in my life. The things I talk about in this blog are applicable to many areas of life, so stick with me.
I don’t know that I ever though that there was necessarily a right way or wrong way to raise children. There are obviously thing parents should never do, but there is more than one way to be a good parent. I had grand plans as to how great a parent I would be before my oldest was born. While I was pregnant with him, I read many books and listened to advice from even more people. I was only going to let my child eat appropriate foods, do appropriate activities, breastfeed until at least a year, and the list went on. Then my son came into our lives. Reality set in. Life got a bit more difficult and I realized that God did not create my son according to my expectations, but according to His plan.
I will not go into details as to the things I “failed” at and the things that seemed to work, because honestly, it isn’t the important part of this story. So, if you are in the midst of struggles with raising children, I want you to find encouragement, not specific instructions. Each human being is a unique and loved creation of our powerful creator. He gave your child the parent he needs, but also you the child He intended you to have. So, if you child is having an incredibly irrational meltdown for approximately thirty minutes each night, do not immediately assume you did something wrong (not that I know from experience or anything). It may mean you need to tweak some things in how you deal with your child and the boundaries you set up for him. It should not send you into the pit of despair over your ineptitude as a parent.
Here are a few things I have learned in my short time as a parent. Please feel free to share anything you have learned that might encourage others in the comment section.
First, make your plans when you are calm. Trying to figure out how to deal with an all out tantrum or screaming fit while it is occurring is generally unfruitful, and both you and the child end up being frustrated at the end. I am not claiming to be calm in the midst of all difficult situations. I am saying I have found better success when I have a general plan beforehand.
Second, involve your husband or wife whenever possible. My husband is my greatest resource, because he knows and loves our children. When we work together, talk about the situation and AGREE on a plan, we end up working together and helping each other when the other seems defeated and frustrated.
Third, remember your child is still learning, as are you. Children, especially young ones, do not fully know how to control their feelings or how to handle situations outside of their expectations. You must set up clear expectations as often as is prudent and give them grace as often as possible. Consequences are necessary in some situations, but the specifics of what they are will vary from child to child.
Finally, but certainly not the last piece of advice, consult God frequently. God should be in everything you do, so consulting Him often and studying His Word is an essential part of “successful” parenting. When you come to those times when you feel overwhelmed and do not know what to do next, remember the words of encouragement given to us in Ephesians 4:32, I can do everything through him who gives me strength. When we consult God, He will show us the way and remind us that our plan or expectations may not be His. This is an important realization for all of us. Our expectations and plans often get in the way of our peace and happiness through Christ.
I pray for each of you that feel overwhelmed by your current situation. Remember that God is there. We are told in Matthew 6:33, which falls in a section telling us not to worry, that God will provide all that we need. It says, but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. I do not know how, but I trust He will provide. I will leave you with the song this verse brings to mind, Seek Ye First.