Parenting 101: The Test

Parenting feels like a multiple choice test. 

Not like a scantron where there’s actually a right answer. No. It’s the type where all the answers could be right and you have to select the best one. 

You ask yourself (as time is ticking), “what is the BEST for THIS situation!” 

You choose.

Sometimes you’re right. Sometimes you’re wrong. Sometimes no matter what you choose… you’re wrong because there actually is not a correct answer. 

Sometimes you try “all of the above” and you’re still wrong. 

Because, my friends, in parenting, your strong-willed kid is that professor that gets to choose (not morally, ethically, or actually) what he thinks is right and wrong depending on his mood.  

No matter how much reading, studying, discussing, and reasoning you have done to come up with the best answer, if the professor has a different opinion, there is no changing his mind.


Example
: Your kid throws sand in another kid’s face. What is the appropriate response?

Answer

  • A. Walk over calmly take the shovel, explain (for the 100th time in his life) that it’s mean/not nice/disrespectful/not ok to throw sand. Tell him to make sure the other kid is ok. Tell your kid to apologize. 
  • B. Remove kid from situation. Give him a time out for making a bad choice. When time out is over, have him apologize.
  • C. Take shovel. Spank kid’s bottom for being mean. Tell him it’s unacceptable behavior and to make it right.
  • D. Leave the park. Your kid knows it’s not ok to act that way. Tell your kid if he wants to be at the park, he needs to earn the privilege of being at a park back by being respectful at home. 
  • E. Ignore it. They’re kids. They need to be able to work out conflict on their own and establish relationship rolls.

I’ve read about and come up with all sorts of great solutions. The reality is though, the ideas that “you’re the parent, and the kid will behave perfectly if you’ve done your part to establish authority” or ” your kid just wants to feel safe, if they feel loved and secure their behavior will follow suit” aren’t always true. 

So many people I know, including myself, who battle either depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, addictive behavior, and many other debilitating conditions were not allowed to take ownership of their choices and emotions as a child, and were often even criticized for them. 

Anyone else familiar with, “children are to be seen and not heard”, “children are to only speak when spoken to”, “she’s a child, she doesn’t understand”, “he’s a kid, he doesn’t know what he wants”?

When you witness scenarios like the example above, you might ask. “How old is the kid?” “Does he know better?” Was this the first time?” “Why is he throwing sand. That’s mean! Why is he so mean?” Do you compare him to all the other kids you “know”?

These are all great questions and concerns. They’ve gone through my head too. Both as a observer/bystander and about my own kids. 

Sometimes we don’t see the invisible ink:

  • F. There is no correct response.

Come on Moms, if we’re honest with ourselves and each other, we know that “breast is best” doesn’t work for a baby who’s Mommy can’t produce milk. Sleep training does not work for every kid. Some kids refuse a pacifier and will only suck their thumb. Potty training boot camp works wonders for some families, and for others it produces bathroom anxiety and long term digestive issues.

I have a secret… It’s all ok. 

Moms, it’s ok. 

Dads, it’s ok. 

This is not a test.

Do you need to do something? Absolutely, you are a parent; however, this is NOT a test.

Now, to the really nosey people who think that your “expert opinion” matters, it ok. It’s really ok that “those parents” aren’t doing it “your” way! 

It is NOT ok, however, for you to make them feel less-than. It’s NOT ok for you to give your opinion if it’s not asked for. Your unsolicited advice is hurtful and unnecessary. If you’ve had kids, you had your chance to raise THEM. 

If you want to mentor younger parents, then love on them, spend time to know them AND their kids, and if they ask a question, you then have permission to answer. You have been invited. Trust me, we need more of you who truly care!! We need more safe people. Otherwise, you are an intruder and are trespassing. Zip it please!! 

We forget sometimes that kids are people. They have brains. Emotions. Sometimes BIG emotions. Thoughts. Opinions. Good days. Bad days. Tired days. Tantrum days.

Oh ya, can we talk about this for a second?

Any one of those answers to the above situation, by the way, could result in a tantrum.  Some, for a child, are totally controllable and are out of complete defiance. Others, however, I believe happen when a child’s amazing developing brain is unable to process and respond to both the facts and emotions at the same time.  All the circumstances are so overwhelming that his or her mind and body explodes like ticking time-bomb.

I absolutely believe it is my responsibility to teach my children respect and kindness and integrity and love and patience and self-control.  

I am also learning that all I can do is teach it and model it. And most importantly pray about it. I cannot demand it. The more I push and strive and strain to control my children, the more out of control I become.

So, I pray for my own self-control. 

My kid is going to do what he wants to do because he is a person. He is not a programmable machine. He is not a dog that I can give a treat for good behavior and expect that he will eventually behave a certain way and make all the right choices.

Does positive reinforcement work? Absolutely! It encourages. It shows that there are good consequences and rewards for good behavior. But it does not change a heart.  

Do consequences work? Absolutely! They establish boundaries. Kids need to know what is ok and what is not ok. They need to know there are rules in life even as adults, and there are consequences for making bad choices. But it does not change a heart.

My kids also need Jesus, just like I need Jesus every day. When I come to Him, Jesus shows me my heart. He shows me when I totally mess up and yell or when I ignore because I don’t want to deal with it, when I make choices out of control or selfishness, and He forgives me and helps me start over or “push the restart button” like we say in our house. The reality is I make my own choices too, and I fail daily. 

I pray I bear the Spirit’s fruit of self-control because I am not strong enough to will it upon myself.

If you’re that frustrated Mom out there, like I am today, and you feel like you’ve tried everything and nothing is working. Please don’t feel defeated. I feel pretty defeated on a lot of days, and you know what, I’m worth more than that. You’re worth more than that.  Though we feel beat up all day long, we are not punching bags.

You have value. You have purpose. 

We are not taking a test, being graded by the successful responses or good choices of our children.  

Observers, please stop grading us.

We grade ourselves. We judge ourselves. God gave our kids to us and us to them for a reason. We will do many things to mess up along the way, but it’s in those moments, when we can’t do it on our own, that we hopefully realize God’s strength to guide us through.

Please don’t assume we are bad parents because of the choices our kids make. 

Please don’t assume we are good parents because of the choices our kids make.

Please don’t assume anything.

Coming from a very opinionated person on a tough journey learning the time and place to put voice to my thoughts. Coming from a person who cares so deeply for people, and truly wants to see people grow and learn and flourish into the person they are created to be for the life they live: 

Use your mouth to speak words of encouragement. If you start to judge, self-reflect. It’ll be better for everyone, including yourself! Maybe you’ll see the amazing qualities in which God has gifted you, to be life-giving to someone who feels hopeless and helpless.

Parents, we can be protected from our head to our toes with salvation, righteousness, faith, truth, the Spirit, and peace. 

If you’re down on the ground, rise up to your knees, say a prayer. He’ll heal those wounds and support you as you rise back to your feet.  

I love brainstorming with other moms. The learning does not stop with the many incredible tools from my Mommy friends, podcasts (shout out to the seriously life-changing God Centered Mom), and other bloggers who have great parenting insight. Here’s the reality: those tools are super helpful, and sometimes nothing works! 

It’s ok. 

Tonight, like every night, I will kiss my kids and tuck them into bed, and pray they don’t remember how I’ve failed them. I will lay in my bed, like every night, and think of how to be better, love better, be more present, be more prepared and ask myself, “how do I not fail tomorrow?”

The answer is the same. You are here. You are present. You love them. You are a good Mom. It’s not what you do. It’s not what you say. It’s that you love. And my daughter, you love deeply. And I love you.

Breathe. Smile. Rest. 

I used to say, “until my munchkin’s next nap,” but in this season, the reality is my writing will wait until the next time I have an opportunity. So in the meantime, surrender, smile, breathe, cry if you need to, kiss those you love, and find an opportunity to make someone’s day, not break it. 

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Strength for Today

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God, gives us strength, Even though we can’t see Him.(repeat)

He gives us joy. He makes lots of things. He made cats and pigs and dogs and all of the animals at the zoo. And He made all of the horses too. 

God, gives us strength, Even though we can’t see Him. (repeat)

LilyBelle was not having it. Minutes turned into hours which turned into all night of screaming. Absolutely inconsolable screaming!!

Finally after thrashing her body around in our bed most of the night, she passed out at 3:45am to then wake up again at 5:45am wide-eyed and ready to play.

I was not!

Not long after, were both kids awake and at full throttle and I just couldn’t get myself in gear.  My husband had full-leaded coffee ready for me before he left for his early morning, and I sat and prayed all breakfast for strength and energy and patience to make it even another 5 minutes without snapping. 

I excused myself from breakfast and let my kids entertain each other so I could try to #breathe.

My Munchckin comes running up to me,”Mommy! Mommy! I cleaned up my oatmeal. I did it all by myself! Look! I threw it in the garbage!”

 Oh no! Danielle, pull it together. There will probably be oatmeal all over the floor and trash can, but don’t crush his spirit. He’s THREE. And he’s trying. Get ready to be proud of him and teach him gently. God, give me patience, gentleness and self-control.

We held hands. I scanned the dining room and kitchen floor to ceiling searching for this slop of oatmeal that we needed to clean. Nothing. Spotless. He opens the trash and there it was, a small little pile of oatmeal he hadn’t finished, his spoon in the sink and his bowl set back on the table nicely so it wouldn’t break.

“Wow, Bud! Thank you for cleaning up!”

“Ya! I did it all by myself because ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength’ even when things are hard. Mommy, I want Jesus here. Can He come in our house?” #proudmommoment

“Jesus is here, Bud. He’s here because we’ve invited Him to be a part of our lives.”

“But I want to see Jesus.”

I gently picked him up and show him the leaves rustling on the trees. 

“Do you see the leaves moving?” (Ya.) “What causes the leaves to move?” (Wind.) “Can we see the wind?” (No, but we see the leaves move.) “Exactly! We can’t see Jesus’ face, but we know He’s here because we see what He is doing in our lives.” (Oh, like love and people.) “Yep! That’s right! He’s our love to people, our strength when things are hard, and peace when we’re scared.”

He picks up his guitar and starts singing at the top of his lungs. I quickly grabbed a pen and paper (and he did too, as you can see) and asked if I could write this beautiful song of his heart down so we could remember it and sing it together.   

I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

Through this exhaustion, battling the “I can’t do this” and the “I am alone” lies, I have realized I have strength because Christ is in me. But I must seek Him daily.

It doesn’t matter how many times I hear that I’m a good mom; I will always feel empty, weak, un-acknowledged, and worthless if my value does not come from God.

Operating with strength means operating in faith. 

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:2

My strength comes from God. If my faith is blocked, God’s strength in me is blocked. 

I found notes from a women’s bible study I attended a few years ago titled The Barriers to our Faith and began to take personal inventory. 

I want to share with you the following barriers to my faith and the questions that go with them.  If you can relate at all to what I’ve shared, I encourage you to look at the list and evaluate your own life. Doing this self-reflection made me realize I dwell on some of these questions daily. They are in the back of my mind steering the course of my day, my attitude, my reactions, and to be quite honest, it usually ends up ugly.

Worry: Am I making the healthiest choices for my kids and their future success?

Fear: Will people accept me for who I am? Will something terrible happen to my husband and kids? Will I be left all alone?

Doubt: Am I good enough? Do I have purpose?

My past: Are there people I have not forgiven? Am I one of them? 

Distance from God: (until recently) I was not spending time praying or reading the Bible very often at all.

Depression: Post-partum hormones and emotions associated.

Anxiety: Am I doing everything “right”? I’ve realized that for me anxiety and fear are very much correlated; one doesn’t exist without the other. 

She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong.

Proverbs 31:17

Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future.

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭31:25‬ ‭

  I love these verses (and all of proverbs 31, for that matter) because it reminds me that strength is woven into my DNA as God’s creation and as a woman living for the purpose He created me. I can’t be the mom, wife, daughter, sister or friend He created me to be if I don’t include Him in the process.

Being Mommy to these two precious kiddos is teaching me so much about me. 

Who am I? What do I value? Who do I value? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? Do I have influence? Am I using it? Am I living with integrity? When my kids look back, will they be able to look past my hang-ups (and how I’ve messed them up) and be proud to call me Mommy? 

Will they see God’s love and grace in me and through me?

Is there something or someone that has shaken your world so much, you constantly evaluate and reevaluate what life is really about? Do you know who you are? Do you know your purpose? Do you know you have a purpose

I now realize these self-shaming questions, “am I good enough?” or “am I doing enough?” Or the “I can’t do this,” and “I am alone,” are a reflection of God not being the center of my life.  They are I-centered not God-centered. 

It’s taken over a year of listening to the *God Centered Mom podcast for me to take full ownership that my life has not been, well, that: God-Centered. As Heather MacFadyen encourages listeners every episode, it’s time I start to “replace me with He.”

I may have been going through the motions of church, Bible study, talking about Him to people, teaching my kids, listening to podcasts… but God doesn’t ask for our motions or our actions, He asks for our heart. And gives us the choice to give it to Him. All of the above are not bad, but they should come from the overflow of His love in me, not out of mere duty or, frankly, habit. 
I stumbled on this verse, right now in fact, as I am writing out my thoughts.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

Proverbs 14:12

Relying on my own strength is what leads to exhaustion and negativity, and worry and fear and doubt and distance from God and depression and anxiety.  

   

 Just like each new day I encourage, teach and coach my kids to explore, take risks, and trust me to help them along the way, I need to remember God wants me to trust Him all the more. We will fall, we will fail, but He picks us back up, wraps His arms around us as if to say, “It’s ok. I’m here. I love you. Let’s try again.”

God used my three year old son to answer my desperate prayer for strength and remind me: 

“God, gives us strength, even though we can’t see Him.”

I’m so grateful God’s grace covers me and all of my imperfections. I am humbled that inspite of my inadequacies, God gives me strength for today. 

I’ll leave you with this thought that I tell my kids several times a day, and that I need to remind myself:

 “Let God pour so much of His love into your life that it can’t help but overflow and pour out into those around you.” 

It is in that love that you will find strength for today.


*note to parents: This podcast has been so encouraging to me. Every episode Heather MacFadyen interviews different Moms and Dads who have gone before us on this parenting journey. Whether it’s a Mom of one or ten, in her 20s or 80s, established a world-wide platform of millions or her platform is her home’s living room floor, there are gems to take away from every episode. I highly encourage you to check it out! Here’s the link again: God Centered Mom