Few things are as burdensome to a parent than a pattern of a small child’s growing reluctance to cooperate with you. Such ache can reflect loving concern for the child. My heart goes out to you in this difficulty.
I’ve heard parents say things like, “I feel like I’ve exhausted all my options. No approach seems to work. I’ve tried praying with him. I’ve tried appealing to his conscience. I’ve tried time-outs, and various consequences. . . and it just seems like things don’t get better, but worse. I’m very weary and discouraged. And weary. Did I mention weary?”
Consider these six things:
First, God himself faces strong-willed children all the time in his own family. All we, like strong-willed sheep, have gone astray.
Let us be careful about singling out the strong-willed child as though his will is more corrupt than ours. The will is strong in everyone, not only in “strong-willed” youngsters. We all want our way. Our children are cut from the same fabric as we. We are all born sinners, including your young child.
And let us be careful to discern. On one hand, dogged determination can be good and very useful in overcoming obstacles later in life. Strong-willed children may have leadership potential. On the other hand, stubborn defiance is bad. Distinguish! There is a difference between precocious and obnoxious. Is the child amazingly focused, or is he overbearing, defiant, rude, pushy, and belligerently demanding?
I tried to slip out the door, but Mom intercepted my exit. “Sweetheart, what are you wearing?”
“Just black pants,” I said.
“Did you paint those on?” She called for backup. “George!”
Dad appeared. “What are those?” His face scrunched up, as if looking at something extraterrestrial.
My confidence fled. “Black pants?”
With Dad as wingman, Mom began her “No daughter of mine . . .” speech.
Great. The “no daughter of mine” rant, I thought.
But she’d made her point. As I stomped off to my room to change, I muttered, “Mom, you are so mean.”
Where are the mean moms?
Call me crazy, but moms today are just too nice. They need a bit more meanness. No, I don’t mean “mean” in the technical definition of being unkind or malicious.
I don’t think moms should be overly strict and hurtful, discouraging their children’s hearts, stifling their creativity and controlling their God-given gifts. (A friend of mine had a mom like that, and it affects her parenting every day. “It’s the reason I’m such a pushover with my girls,” she told me. “I don’t want my kids to hate me like I hated my mom.”)
The “meanness” I’m talking about is found in those situations where we take the tough, loving road, not the comfortable one where life proceeds without confrontation. Mean is what your children may feel about you when you make them write a thank-you card, enforce daily chores or thwart their Friday night plans. Mean is when you push to know their friends and the parents of those friends, when you instill dinnertimes, bedtimes and curfews.
Mean moms make no excuses if discomfort is caused by loving boundaries. Children often can’t understand boundaries as being good for them. A mean mom sees the big picture. She sees the person her child can be and inspires the child until he or she catches the vision. Her slogan is: I’m not raising a child. I’m raising an adult.
Do you need a bit more meanness? Here are four ways to start:
My wife, Esther, and I live in a small parsonage next to our church. So does Isaiah. So does Naomi.
With biblical names like these, you’d think Isaiah and Naomi would be the ideal roommates. But we’ve noticed that Isaiah (who just turned 3) can be pretty moody, and Naomi (who just turned 1) has a powerful set of vocal chords.
I love being a parent, and we have awesome kids. They give me so much joy. But it’s not always easy. Having kids permanently changes marriage. You try to have a conversation, and you’re constantly interrupted; you plan time to connect and you’re completely exhausted; you try to plan a date night and then realize how expensive a babysitter is. You get the idea.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about something my mom once said: being a parent, for all the strains it can put on your marriage, also allows your marriage to grow deeper and richer. It’s like going into battle with someone, coming home, and then realizing what good friends you’ve become because you were in the trenches together. So I’m learning to see this challenging season as an opportunity for our marriage, not merely a phase to endure.
Ten Strategies for Growth
1. Kiss/hug/flatter your spouse intentionally throughout the day.
Let this be the first thing you do when you get home each day. I get mobbed by my kids at the front door, who want to wrestle. I want to give them attention, but I also want them to see that Esther is a priority that nothing can displace. Little daily installments of touch, affirmation, and attention go a long way.
2. Shell out the money for babysitters and vacation, as much as you can.
It’s expensive, but it’s a worthy investment. When planning a date night, I often think, Can we afford this? But when we do it, I always think, I’m glad we did this—we needed it. It’s so important to have times of laughter, recreation, and play with your spouse. The old saying is corny but true: “Families that play together stay together.”
3. Go on walks.
This has been a game-changer for us because our kids are actually quiet in the stroller. We get exercise and sustained conversation, both of which can easily get crowded out when life is busy. If walking doesn’t work, perhaps you can pursue another hobby together. For example, if your gym offers childcare and you feel comfortable with it, drop the kids off and work out together.
4. Have creative date nights.
We’ve developed our own weekly “date night” at home that typically involves putting the kids to bed early, reading a chapter of my grandmother’s book on marriage, talking about life, and playing a board game. Having a “date night in” saves money and reduces the tyranny of constant TV in the evening.
5. Text throughout the day.
I don’t like the way technology is always distracting me from the present, but if there’s one person with whom I want to be in a continuous text dialogue, it’s my wife. It’s a little thing that helps further our friendship, jokes, and fun. It shows I’m thinking about her. It’s a way to communicate that cannot be interrupted by a crying baby.
6. Plan times to be intimate together.
Sometimes parents of young kids have difficulty finding time for intimacy. Don’t be afraid to plan this into your weekly schedule. Planned sex is better than no sex, and it’s a way to show commitment to this area of your marriage during a busy season.
7. Carve out space to read the Bible and pray together.
Failing to do devotions together is such a missed opportunity. Your spouse probably knows you better than anyone else does, and thus is the best person to sharpen you spiritually.
8. Take interest in your spouse’s daily life.
It’s easier to drift apart when you’re disconnected from what’s occupying your spouse throughout the day. If they work, ask them lots of questions about what’s happening in the office, and be their biggest advocate and supporter. If they stay home, help them out with the chores so that you know and appreciate all they do around the house.
9. Cultivate compassion for your spouse’s greatest weakness.
Being a parent can bring to the surface your spouse’s deepest fears, sins, and failures. It’s easy to despise those things, particularly to the extent they’re different from your own struggles. Here are a few ways to fight that judgment:
Remember and grieve your own sin.
Ask the Lord for special tenderness and compassion.
Don’t needle your spouse with sarcasm.
Speak respectfully to your friends about your spouse, rather than complaining about them.
Exhibit tons of patience and gentleness when discussing their weaknesses (if you need to discuss them at all).
10. Pursue your spouse’s heart.
What are they interested in these days? What’s on their Facebook wall? What are their fears about the next 18 months? What songs do they currently like? Study them. Cultivate “inside jokes” together. Keep secrets with them, not from them (that builds intimacy over the years). Make it your lifelong goal to romance them as much as you did when you were dating, in each season of marriage.
Satan and our culture bombard us with the lie that affairs are more exciting than fidelity. One aspect of our gospel witness is to incarnate the real truth—that absolute, binding commitment is the pathway to real joy. Whatever is exciting in any romantic relationship, whatever intimacy your heart craves, whatever strength you have to offer another person—the goal of marriage is to pour all of that into one person for the rest of your life. This is God’s strategy, and it’s the most fulfilling way to live. May we cultivate marriages that point to the beauty and reality of Christ in our lives.
If you would like help in your desire to continue to grow your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.
Being a wife and a mom is one of life’s greatest joys. Partnering with your husband to raise a family is an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling role; however, it’s challenging all at the same time. The role of a wife and mom is not only a huge blessing, but a huge responsibility–and it can leave you completely WORN OUT.
The kids have fifteen different places they need to be and, on top of all that, they have a mile-long list of school supplies waiting to be purchased and thrown into their backpacks. Your husband’s working late, and needs you to set up and prepare for your small group to come over, and the babysitter just called and canceled for the second time this month.
So what do you do when it’s all just too much? What do you do when everyone needs something from you, and it feels like everyone forgot you’re only one person?
Here are few things to remember:
FOCUS ON GRATITUDE
There was a time in your life when you were longing for this. You anxiously awaited the moment you would walk down the aisle to say, “I do,” to your husband. Your heart leapt for joy when you found out you were pregnant, and for nine months you dreamed of holding that sweet baby. Take your mind back to those moments.
Remember, it’s all a gift. Sure, your child may be screaming in your face, but soon they’ll sleep, and you’ll catch yourself staring at their peaceful little faces and wonder where the time has gone. A mindset of gratitude and joy will not only give you a calm demeanor; it will overflow and impact your family as well.
BUILD IN TIME AND SPACE FOR YOURSELF
In all of your planning and coordinating, don’t forget to schedule some time for yourself. Maybe this season of life doesn’t allow much time for you to sneak away for an afternoon alone, but look for a window of time in your week where you can sit on your porch with a cup of coffee or spend a few minutes reading a book. The mental break will rejuvenate and refresh your spirit and offer you the chance to breathe for a minute.
ASK FOR HELP
No one’s asking you to be Superwoman.
There are a lot of requests coming your way and a lot of things on your plate. Don’t be scared to call in back-up. Maybe you need to ask a friend to watch your children one afternoon so you can get a few things done around the house. Maybe you need to call a family member and ask for some advice. Your closest friends and family have your best interests at heart, and they want what’s best for you.
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to things. Share responsibilities with your husband. We’ve all heard the common phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” That statement resonates with us because we know it’s true. You don’t have to do it all alone.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
There are a lot of rabbit trails of doubt, worry, and self-consciousness you can go down when you are overwhelmed and tired. One major thing that can fuel the fire of exhaustion and stress is the internet. While we have every resource, piece of advice, and article imaginable at our fingertips, we also are bombarded with pictures, posts, updates, and requests through social media. What can start as a quick “Facebook break” turns into an unexpected self-shaming campaign because you think another mom is doing everything so much better than you are, or another couple looks so much happier.
Give yourself a break. Remember that social media is a highlight reel for many people, and you’re only seeing one side of the story. Focus on your marriage, your children, and your family. Life does not have to look like every Pinterest meal you see, and your kids do not have to win every award the neighbor’s’ kid won. Love your family the way God calls you to love your family–not the way Instagram tells you to love your family.
No one is looking to you for perfection. Your husband loves you for who you are, not what you do. Your children need your love, affection, and guidance, and they’ll be okay if they don’t have a sandwich cut in the shape of a heart. You’re a good wife and a good mom. Just take a deep breath…and maybe grab a cup of coffee!
If you are struggling with some of the stresses of life and would like someone to talk with about life, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.