Do you ever have one of those days? Those days where you don't recognize your own child? When you want to sink into the floor where you're standing or the chair where you're sitting? Where you're SURE everyone around is judging you for being a terrible parent because you belong to THAT child?
I had one of those weeks. Matthew has just been OFF and I've been struggling. Struggling with his attitude. Struggling with what other people must think of him and of me. Struggling that he's not learning as quickly as I'd like him to. Struggling when he displays his little sinful nature for all the world to see. Struggling with my own attitude when it happens.
A friend once told me that the half of any given age is harder than the whole. I agree. 2 was a piece of cake compared to 2 and a half.
Matthew has just been ornery. Just one example is that he landed in time out two or three separate times during one 30 minute swimming class because he just flat out decided not to obey his teacher and she had given him enough grace and was done. He fully deserved it and I was embarrassed. What parent doesn't like to see their child exceed and impress?
Couple that with the fact that he genuinely struggles with the course material, so we beat our heads in a brick wall and I just felt like a flop.
We've all had those moments, and we'll all have them again. It's life. So what can we do when we hit these moments? I have only been a parent for a few years so I can't say I have this all figured out. But this has been what has been helping me this week.
Pray for God to give you patience with your child and with yourself. Pray for God to open your eyes to new ways to instruct your child. Pray for grace for other parties involved who might be experiencing frustration with your child. Speak prayers of gratitude for them too. Pray for your child, that his heart would continue to be molded into one that wants the Lord, one that wants to obey God-given instruction in his life. Pray for creativity and discernment as you and your child tackle this journey together. Pray for strength and encouragement when you are weary. Speak prayers of gratitude and praise and wonderment to God for this little child who has been entrusted to you. Praying changes your focus, I promise.
Speak scripture to your child, and to yourself. Scripture is rich with wisdom. As my friend Diana points out, the Bible is the best parenting book you will ever read so glean from it and use it to teach your child. I find myself telling Matthew, "A cheerful heart is good medicine." And when I say it to him, it echoes in my own ears, too, and I check MY heart and its response to said exasperating situations. I'm reading through this book, and it's a wonderful resource.
Realize your child's limitations
Are there extenuating factors that are exacerbating your child's attitude? Is she overtired? Hungry? Overstimulated? Cold? Wet? Unable to communicate? While I believe an important lesson in childhood is to learn to function even under these circumstances, children ARE still learning this lesson. While it's appropriate to push them a little and help expand their capacities, we need to stop short of setting them up for failure and allow extra grace when there are circumstances beyond their control that are contributing to the problem. Matthew is going to swimming lessons 4 days a week. He's had a few late nights visiting with out of town family we only get to see once or twice a year. He's exhausted. We made the decision to prioritize that extra family time (or whatever) above getting to bed on time, but that means we have to be willing to accept the consequences, which include in our case, a crabby little dude, who generally requires a LOT of sleep. It's fine to break or bend the rules every now and then (for are we under the Law? No!), but make sure grace for your child accompanies that decision. It may also be true that your child has reached his maximum ability for a certain task or skill at the moment. Even if that is short of accurate execution, that's ok. Realize his limits.
Realize that you are not a bad parent
Do you love your child? Do you love the God who made him? Are his needs for food and shelter and clothing and medical care met as much as lies in your power? Is he safe in your home? If you're even evaluating your aptitude as a parent, then it's pretty safe to say you're not a bad parent. I think we're particularly bad at this as Americans, because we have the luxury to play these games with each other and with ourselves. A little perspective helps my attitude a lot. Stop with the mommy guilt and the mommy wars. Relax. We've all had bad days. All of our kids have had bad days. If anyone is judging you, then she is either not a parent, is a parent of a child too young to misbehave, or she is seriously delusional about how perfect her own child is. Most of us are so harried keeping our own kids in line while simultaneously maintaining our sanity, that we don't have time to think about judging you.
Realize it's ok for your child to fail
And along the same lines, it's ok for your child to not be the favorite, or the best at something, or the most likeable, or whatever other superlative you've conjured in your head as a worthwhile goal. This is hard to break free of especially if your child usually is that kid. There's nothing wrong with being that kid, if you keep it in perspective. But that pressure isn't fair to you, your child, the other children involved, or any other adults involved. Learning to struggle, learning to fail, learning to be humble, learning to resolve conflict, learning to deal with being unliked, learning your own limits and capacities for something, learning to lose graciously, learning to be disciplined and corrected are all as important or more important than whatever skill or situation your child is currently attempting. Don't rescue your child from the chance to learn these lessons. Remembering the bigger picture helps makes the momentary embarrassment or frustration a little easier to bear.
Realize that this will soon be a distant memory, and that persistence will pay off
It took 20 lessons, countless hours of practice outside of class, numerous timeouts, some creativity, some tears, some frustration, but our hard work paid off and Matthew graduated the first level of swimming class. I think this is true in life.
Scripture tells us, "...We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3-4) Take heart that God is shaping your heart, and your child's heart, through this time.