I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten so down because of my kids’ behavior. Despite my best efforts, I look at my kids and they don’t look anything like the kids that I’d imagined I’d have.
They’re bickering and fussing.
They’re rude. They call each other hateful, ugly names.
Even though I’ve nagged and griped, their socks are still in the floor, they burp at the table, and they hate to share their stuff.
I think, “What kind of a mom am I? Why can’t I do something about these kids?”
After all, I’ve been in this job for years. And even though I’ve been consistent, bordering on rigid in trying to instill basic decency in my kids, sometimes, I look at them in exasperation.
My exasperation turns inward, and I wonder how badly I am ruining my kids.
This is pretty common. It’s too easy to believe the lie that good kids are made by good parents. You see polite well-mannered kids in public and think that the other moms know something that you don’t. Their kids don’t whine and cry. Their kids don’t call each other names like “booger lips” and “poop face.”
Let me tell you a secret.
Even the very best families have their moments. The moments when their kids are mean, hateful, unkind, selfish, and rude.
Some kids take correction better than others. Others can be a bit defensive and argue with you about everything.
Some kids are naturally more compliant than others. Other kids have more defiant natures.
Some kids are more empathetic and others are more naturally self-centered.
Some kids are better at picking up social cues and others have to be explicitly told things like “For the fifth time today, will you PLEASE get your hand out of your pants!”
Just like some kids are neater and others are sloppy, personalities are a huge part of how your kids behave and how they treat one another. None of them are born automatically knowing how to resolve conflict, treat one another fairly, and be polite.
It’s all too easy to look to the future and imagine your son calling his children hateful names and your daughter screaming and slamming doors when angry. And then you jump to, “It’s all my fault!”
Take heart, dear mama. Your kids don’t misbehave because of you. They don’t say horrible things, shove their siblings, tease, pass gas at the table, mess up the house, and argue because you can’t get through to them.
They do these things because they are kids. And this is how most kids act from time to time. Had Jesus himself raised children, he would have dealt with many of these same behaviors.
I have a few pieces of advice for you if you’re feeling like an utter failure in training your children.
First, don’t take it personally. They aren’t out to get you and their behavior is most likely not a reflection of your parenting skills. It’s just kid stuff. And so often the bad behavior is just a reflection of their sin nature combined with immaturity.
Second, do your best. I’m not telling you to quit trying or to ignore bad behavior. Just hang in there, be consistent, firm and kind, and keep going.
Third, don’t draw conclusions about the future based upon today’s misbehavior. This will suck you into a weird place that you don’t want to be. You will panic, thinking that everything has to be fixed right NOW!
Fourth, read a few parenting books if there are particular behaviors that are troubling. But don’t get all caught up into one parenting philosophy that says “You have to parent this way.” or “Your children will only serve the Lord if you parent like this.” Remember that there are no guarantees in parenting. Better yet, talk to parents who have well behaved children, especially if they are older than yours. Ask them what they did about fighting, drama, undone chores, or tantrums. Always be flexible and go into these conversations looking for ideas rather than a magic bullet to “fix” your children.
Sometimes parenting is discouraging. But stay the course and remember that you can do this!