Parenting is, more than any other single thing, what gets me on my knees morning and night seeking guidance from the Lord. It’s what I pray about the most. It’s what I think about the most. I regularly feel so inadequate and at a loss for what to do to teach my kids. They all have very different personalities and I have to parent them differently. They each have strengths and weakness, just as I do. Some of my kids are more calm, easy going, and easy to please. The others are strong-willed, focused, and have a level of determination that I had never seen before. Both personalities have their strengths and weaknesses. I guess I worry about all of my kids, probably because I’m just a mom. I think worrying might just be part of motherhood.
My Easy Going Kids
I’m concerned about my kids that are more easy going. They are more timid and I hope they find confidence and assert themselves more with others. I often see them hold back with others and I regularly encourage them to try new things, to be more outgoing. Too often I see them giving in to my more stubborn kids. I want them to find their voices.I also find that they are easier for me to parent. My oldest, Ashley, and my middle daughter, Kylee, have this kind of personality. They are quieter, calm, and usually obedient. When I correct them, they quickly change and want to please. I see they also have a strong will to do what is right and they usually don’t budge on that.
My Strong-willed KidsI’m concerned about my kids that are strong willed. I want them to use their strong will to stay on the strait and narrow. I want them to be more selfless and better listeners. I want them to argue less, obey my voice more, and be more teachable. My oldest son, Tyson, and my 4th child, Liberty, are my strong-willed children. They both want to be so good but they also want things their way. These are my kids with great determination and focus. Tyson, for example, has already written up his business plans, drawn a logo, and worked on a website for his entrepreneurial adventures. He is so driven and can focus on something for hours until he gets it right. The strong-willed kids have great imaginations and are a ton of fun to play with.
The strong-willed kids’ drive and strength are the things I LOVE the most about them, but it can also make things very stressful when they don’t want to do what I ask. They want it their way and they can throw some great fits. I remember having a conversation with Tyson a couple years ago and I reminded him that he was arguing with me. He said, “I’m not arguing, Mom”. I said, “Tyson, you are arguing.” Tyson said, “No I’m not.” I replied, “Tyson, now you are arguing about arguing”. Inside I was frustrated but also laughing at the fact that he was now arguing about arguing.
A Change of HeartThese struggles are what stretch me the most as a mom; they push me to find ways to improve. When Tyson was younger, around two or three, I tried lots of different parenting strategies. I saw that Love and Logic worked great for others, so I tried it. It was perfect for Ashley, but not for him. Maybe I didn’t apply it right with him. I’m not sure, but I felt exhausted and didn’t enjoy parenting him. It broke my heart. This sweet little guy was so full of life. He needed a Mom that loved being a mom and I just was struggling with loving it. I think I just wanted it to be easy. Like when I ask them to do something, they just do it. You know, no arguing, no tantrums, etc. I guess I always knew it would be hard, but I guess I didn’t know exactly how hard it would be.
Then I had a moment. I was on my knees, crying my heart out to the Lord for help. I needed to find more joy in this journey as a mom. I had wanted to be a mom my whole life and now I was there and it was harder than I could have ever imagined. I felt like every day was a struggle with Tyson and I was just so tired. I felt so inadequate. I was trying everything I could think of. Then, right there on my knees, I felt so much love from the Lord.
I was reminded that our struggles are what draw us closer to the Lord, and being close to Christ is what I really want in life. As I thought of this desire, and my desire to receive Christ’s image in my countenance, it occurred to me that this happens, in part, by doing hard things! Hard times keep us humble and teachable. They mold us and strengthen our character. I remembered all of the hard thing I had done throughout my life and this was no different. I knew I could do this.
I’ve certainly grown the most in parenting Tyson. I have been on my knees the most asking for guidance with him. All of the struggles didn’t go away right then on my knees. It has been hours of hard work, love and long-suffering. It has made me know I can’t depend on my own knowledge—I need the Lord’s help. He knows my children and He knows what they need. He can give me thoughts and guidance to help them, and that guidance always comes when I ask for it.
God has taught me to be more positive in my parenting. I need to be firm, consistent, and also focus on the positive. I need to teach to the heart of my children and help them feel the Spirit. I do this by being calm and making sure that most of my interactions with my children are positive. They need continual positive reinforcement for all the good that they are doing. Children naturally want attention and if I give more attention to the positive things they do, more positive will come.
I learned that time is what our children need from us. All they really want is US. Tyson, for one, craves time with mom and dad and that time is what will guide the heart.
The Lord also taught me to look for the good in my strong-willed children. So, I thought of how much I love Tyson’s passion. I love his heart. I love his excitement for so many things: Legos, animals, sea life, K’nex, Nerf gun wars, cars, nature, scouts, and being with family. I love his entrepreneurial drive. I love his creativity. I love his imagination. I love his energy. I love his passion for learning and reading. I love his cuddles and his dedication to striving to do what is right. I love his drive to be the best in all he does.
Over the years, I have looked back at Tyson’s pictures from those hard days. He was so little and just needed my time and love. At that time, I was so worried and just wanted to parent him the “right” way. I wish I would have had more patience with Tyson and myself. As I now reflect on those pictures, they help guide me to parent with more love and focus on teaching his heart.
So what has my strong-willed child taught me?
LOVE. Be firm but lead with love. Love them for everything that they are. Love them for their strong will because that is what makes them leaders and drives them in life to accomplish great things. It makes them hard workers and firm on the Lord’s path. Love their passions. Love their dreams. And, spend time with them because time equals love. During those quiet one-on-one moments with them, tell them all that they are, all that they can become. Tell them how much I love them and believe in them. Tell them that the Lord loves them and is pleased with all the good they do. Tell them I love how strong and determined they are.
Love and gratitude:
GRATITUDE. Have gratitude for the lessons learned in the hard moments of parenting, gratitude that the Lord is molding me into what I cannot become on my own