19/09/2012

Strength Behind Raising Children

Posted in Encouragement, Family, General tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 6:28 am by The Water Bearer

Daughter 8yrs – “Mum, can I have a chocolate milk?”

Me – “Nope”

Silent pause…

Daughter – “Mum can I please have a chocolate milk, please?”

Me- “Well that was a much better way to ask for something, but I’m sticking to my first answer.”

Daughter – “I’m sorry I didn’t use my manners the first time Mummy, but could I please have a chocolate milk because I didn’t get one at Nana’s this morning, she was out of Milo”

Me – “That’s a shame, but the answer is still no. Enough now!”

Daughter – “I promise I will eat all my dinner.”

Me – “Yes you will eat all your dinner because you won’t be filling up on chocolate milk half an hour before I start cooking it. Have a drink of water if your thirsty, and stop expecting me to give you my reason, I have said no, and no means no!”  …. (Oh Lord, I’m throwing in overused cliche’s again)

Daughter – “Oh but that’s ages away”

Me – “There are children who have to wait for days to have a good meal, you will be fine. Enough now, I am loosing my patience with you!”

Daughter – “Sorry Mum, what’s for dinner?”

Me – “Food, aren’t you lucky?”

Daughter – “But what food?!”

Me – “Why?”

Daughter – “Because, I just want to know. ”

Me – “Well I am still deciding”

Silent pause….

Daughter – “I could have a chocolate milk and that would give you more time to decide.”

Ah, kids are so persistent!

One thing I realised early on about being a Mum, was that if I wanted my children to know who is in control between them and me, it all boiled down to tenacity. Who could hold their ground the longest and not cave in to the other. Many oarents understand that a few swift acts of discipline early on is vital, yet there is some treacherous ground to cross between the initial decision, and the success of it being the final outcome. Will we loose control? Will we get angry? Even yell? Will we reach the point of no return, hollering negative diatribes as we drag them off to bed slamming the door in defeat, accepting that the fight was too hard? Convincing ourselves that our excuses are valid?

Early on in my stint of motherhood I wilted in strength more than I succeeded, I regularly battled against a willful child who dragged out eating dinner every night. There were countless harrowing occasions when she would fiddle in her chair as one pea at a time made the slow journey on her fork to her mouth. Often I resorted to pining her on my knee and shoveling the food down in record time so I could put her to bed at a reasonable hour, or attempting the common negotiations of “Just two more mouthfuls”. Then there were the times when I caved in, got angry and sent her to bed, realising I had not won that round.

The hardest days were when minutes felt like eons, traffic chaos causes involuntary bouts of turrets, the work day spent feeling as useless as high heels on running shoes. On days like this, I had little ability to navigate the kitchen, using vacant focus to try and recall how you turn the green stuff in the bottom of the fridge into something edible. Lets just say I was rarely likely to prepare a masterpiece for dinner. I often felt extreme guilt for giving my child less than my best, forcing her to swallow something less than I expected to be able to give. I let that guilt undermine me, feeling like a better mother for avoiding her tears on top of everything else.

I feel it is safe to say that, even if we understand what the job requires, without God’s strength to perform it, it is simply impossible.

Most of us have a fair idea of right and wrong, and we recognise that it is our role to lovingly help our children understand this. Yet we can become our own worst enemy when we use our weakness as reasons to let them move our boundary lines. Of course we all have our toughest days, when life hits hard with genuine trauma, and those are the times when, if we have faith, we lean on God to help us merely get through the day. However the day-to-day struggles are where our children gain their understanding of who is in charge. If we give in and allow them to have their way, we are not being the nice, considerate parents we think we are, we are relying on our own strength to stand our ground, and end up falling in a heap under the pressure. We are showing our children that the line to break us exists if they push hard and long enough.

Challenging behaviour is common on any given day, children have a built in instinct for testing the strength of the boundaries we have set. Of course children always have much more energy than us, they haven’t wasted it on late nights and unavoidable errands. The responsibilities of daily life and tripping over red tape hasn’t worn them as thin as spilled milk. Their supply of patience hasn’t been given away like pamphlets at an election booth.

Instead they are inspired by tales of fighting against resistance, maneuvering through meteors and the onslaught of intergalactic enemy ships. Soaking up heroes emerging from kindergarten to stand up to the school bully, and the beautiful maiden who was brave enough to take on the evil oppressive guardian figure. Often the parents in these stories are portrayed as ill-informed about the crucial nature of the heroes quest, they aren’t portrayed as allies but rather another obstacle to be dodged and overcome.

The battle ground is set, the will of inner angels and enemies are empowered and ready to go head to head each time a testing situation arises. Who will come out on top? Will you? Will I?

I find it unacceptable to allow our children to become confused about who is in authority, I am accountable to God and they are accountable to me. Yet I can not simply rely on my own strength and tenacity to stand against defiant behaviour, or I simply fail too many times. Many of us seem to block out the ‘condemning’ voice of reason and lean heavily on excuses, because the right way is usually the hardest way. I give all credit to God for the times I have kept to my word and prevented my children overturning my decisions.

We have to remember to depend on His strength behind us, to pray for His wisdom when making decisions, when deciding appropriate consequences for unacceptable behaviour, and ask for His love to shine through us and out onto our children.

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15 Comments »

  1. Ahhh…you brought back many memories to me as I read this beautiful post. Time passes by so quickly and our children are grown adults, as mine are, and I wish just for a moment that I could have them ask for chocolate milk before dinner 🙂

    Now I only wish this for a moment….. Life is good!

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    • Isn’t that the truth, We spend so much of the time when they are little teaching them about the rights and wrongs of life, about consequences, about faith, homework routines and hygiene. About healthy eating habits, exercise and the value of good manners, and then in a blink it is gone. 😦 And then they get to make all these decisions themselves. Thank you for the wonderful reminder of how precious these moments are even if we are pulling out our hair at the time. Lol 🙂 My favourite thing to do which grounds me and helps me treasure their childhood is when I hold their hand, I pay special attention to how small it is in comparison to mine, I run my finger tips over their knuckles and nails and appreciate just how little they are. Aww, Blessings to you!

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  2. This is awesome and exactly what I needed to hear right now! My almost-4-year-old is testing the boundaries in a big way lately. Your post reinforces what I’m doing.

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    • I’m so glad Karen, that is the reason I write. Hopefully someone can get something from it. Thank you so much for the encouraging comment. God Bless you and your family.

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  3. graciehill48 said,

    Good, isightful post. Aren’t you glad you have the Lord to draw strength and wisdom from?

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    • Oh Gracie yes!! More than anything in the whole world!! 🙂 Thankful glad grateful… These words don’t scrape the surface of how much appreciation I feel for All He is! Thanks for your kind words…

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  4. I was a school teacher for many years and I learned a lot about the importance of disciplining children. I was a teen mom before that and I did not do to well with “sticking to my guns” so to speak. i yelled a lot and then gave in because you are right it is easiest. However I could not take this technique into the classroom. I had to learned that if I didn’t have classroom control then I had no control and that wasn’t good for either the children or me. I learned to stick with the discipline even when I wanted to give in(I’m by nature a “go with the flow” kind of girl) I was able to stick to the discipline because I came to realize that if they didn’t respect my authority than how could they respect God’s authority in their lives. My third child, born in my 20’s, got the benefit of this:) He wasn’t too appreciative at the time but he turned out well in spite of my “discipline.”

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing that, you make a great point when you say “if they didn’t respect my authority then how could they respect God’s authority in their lives.” It is one thing I have always felt myself. Also that I must show willing obedience to God if I am to expect them to be obedient to me. Great comment thanks for dropping by. 🙂

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  6. GodGirl said,

    Wow, I really needed to read this. I have two very strong-willed boys (6 and 3) and it feels like I’m often relying on every last ounce of my strength to deal with their reasoning and pushing. What a refreshing reminder to seek God’s unlimited strength as we stay strong and in authority, while loving them unconditionally as He loves us. Such a balancing act at times.

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    • Hi GodGirl, Yes you are so right, it is such a balancing act. We are so lucky that God is the ultimate role model for us as parents. Thanks so much for your comment. Good luck with your boys and God bless.

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  7. Boundaries…when my kids would try something like this, they would end up getting sent to the time out chair at the second asking. I was taught that the second (and third and beyond,) same question was a form of talking back. And in our family (one kid had Oppositional Defiant Disorder, as well as several other physical disabilities,) that was something serious, for if we let it go just a few times, all safe boundaries and order was completely out the door. So, I ended up not having to raise my voice too often. (If I did, that meant I had to go into time out and pray!)

    Sometimes dinner wouldn’t happen on time, or it would get cold, because I had to restrain the O.D.D. child in the time out chair. (Sometimes he did not go willingly.) But it was something that happened less and less, as time went on. (If I only knew about casting out demons back then! Oi!) Now that they are older, (and the O.D.D. child is now a believer in Jesus,) I find that I can sit back and watch them make their own decisions. Yes, they can make something different for dinner, but they have to be considerate of others, meaning they have to ask if anyone else wanted some with them, put the items they used to make their meal back on the grocery list, and clean up after themselves. They also can’t be cooking in the kitchen when the main meal is being made. It has gotten to the point, that I now have less days where I have to cook, for my kids often decide, (with my blessing – they ask me first-,) to make their meal of choice for everyone.

    So yes, eating the fruit of this labor is definitely sweet in the end!

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    • Praise God for family peace and blessings in the home. 🙂 You had a hard task there dear Sister, I don’t envy you , but you have done well from the sound of it, and Praise be to God for your tenacity,. Blessings to you!

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  8. godsfingers said,

    Ah, but grand-parenting is when I get to apply what I learned in my failures earlier. As a single parent I learned and endured some even more obtuse comments like, “well, you’re not mom”.

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    • Ouch! That would have hurt I think. I am looking forward to being a Grand-parent….One Day! I’m in no hurry Lol. Thanks for dropping by and for commenting. Blessings to you!

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