6 Tips to Raising Difficult Children
By Jennifer Maggio, Crosswalk.com
Okay, full disclosure here. I struggled with the title of this article. Our children, young or older, are gifts from God. They are precious and called with a purpose. God has a plan for them, filled with purpose and hope. And we love them with every fiber of our being, so let’s just get all that out of the way first.
Admitting that our children can be difficult does not mean they aren’t gifted by God or that we don’t love them immensely, it simply means that parenting them is, well, difficult! That said, I wanted struggling mommas to be able to find the words on this page, as they sojourn through what may be some of the hardest days of their lives. I wanted them to know they came to the right place – that this sisterhood of mothers is locking arms with them in spirit and that we are all in this thing together. The parenting journey isn’t for the faint of heart, so let’s dive in, shall we?
I think some famous author has called parenting difficult children “raising strong-willed children.” Perhaps that is a better term, but today, we are going to call them difficult. Let’s face it. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals. Yes, we have the Word of God (and boy, has it been a lifesaver in my life as I’ve parented). Yes, we can read parenting books and thank God for the wisdom offered by those who have gone before us. Yes, we can watch YouTube videos and download podcasts. But our children – the very ones that God gifted us with – don’t have an instruction manual of do’s and don’ts that are specific to them, and some of us have had quite a time of it, haven’t we?!
Two of my three children are now grown and have left the nest some years ago with the third not far behind. There have been easy seasons of my parenting years, when things seemed to come together and fall in place seamlessly, and then… there have been the hard seasons, when nothing seemed to come together and I felt like I was running on quicksand, barely able to come up for air. Here is what I learned along the journey:
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1. Lose the Guilt
Just because your children have missed the mark, it doesn’t mean you are a terrible parent. For so long, I carried this immense guilt if my children failed a test or cheated or used profanity or stayed out too late or in some way broken the rules laid out before them. I somehow internalized that every behavior was a reflection of my parenting. It immobilized my children. It alienated them. It made me an angry parent.
Our Heavenly Father is perfect and yet we, his children, make mistakes. It doesn’t mean he is any less of a father. It means we have a sin nature that we grapple with. Lose the guilt and offer the kiddos some grace. Nothing effective is accomplished through guilty parenting.
2. Laugh Again
When is the last time you had fun with your children? Do you know what I have sadly found to be true? We get involved in tasks and duties and checklists and rules. We are so inundated with the demands of laundry and homework and carpool and soccer practice that we forget to have fun. We spend most of our time putting out the fires of those screaming the loudest, reprimanding and punishing and correcting and disciplining. We don’t take the time to dance in the rain, karaoke in the living room, and play board games. We have stopped laughing with our children. We become the big, bad, angry monster always looking to correct them with furrowed brows. Learn to enjoy your children again.
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Parenting in this day and age is not for the faint at heart. Mama Take Heart host Robrenna Redl is here to help equip and empower you with resources and practical takeaways, whether you’re looking for ways to intentionally connect or to have hard conversations. So don’t fret. Instead, take heart! Listen to an episode here, and then head over to LifeAudio.com for all of our episodes:
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3. Don’t Overindulge
Moms are tired. We balance a dozen balls in the air at any given time. Sometimes, due to guilt, exhaustion, lack of understanding, or any number of reasons, we enable and indulge. We get tired of the whining, the temper tantrums, the busted hole in the wall, or the defiance, and we simply give in. We become weak on the parenting journey and we relinquish boundaries that we should have held their foot to the fire on. Do not overindulge! It will reap dividends later. Ask God for the strength necessary to hold strong boundaries. Don’t buy the shoes if you can’t afford them. Don’t buy the toy. Don’t bend the rule that you deemed important in your home. If you have a gut check about that party, don’t let them go. Don’t allow the guilt of long hours at work or a past mistake or an ugly divorce or even your own insecurities cause you to overindulge your children. It only cripples them.
4. Set the Thermostat
Lose the emotion. Don’t be quick to anger. Don’t scream. I was recently holding a conversation with my adult son and he said, “Mom, you always set a great temperature in the room.” He began to explain how I laughed and brought joy (at least sometimes, I do!) As the parent, we get to set the thermostat of our homes. Do we read the Word together? Do we pray? Do we have family meetings about hard things, not just surface-level conversation?
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5. Stay the Course
Moms, I know it is hard. I know the days are long and sometimes thanks are few. I know that there seems to be little rest for weary souls, but don’t stop praying. Don’t stop believing. Don’t stop implanting wisdom and truth and wise counsel. The Lord will mount you on wings like eagles. He will restore, in due time, so stay the course. When they are adults, they will – I repeat, will – stand and called you blessed. Don’t give up, even when you can’t see the fruit of your labor in this season. You are planting seeds.
6. Lean in to the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit sets captives free. He guides us. He leads and comforts. He is the X-Factor that changes everything. My kids used to “hate” my relationship with the Holy Spirit. He would reveal things to me through the power of discernment that would catch them every time. I would have a dream that I could not shake. I would have a “gut feeling” and just knew that something was up. I would drive over to a home where my children were staying the night to get them, when I couldn’t explain why. Learn more about the Holy Spirit and the gifts he offers. It can be a life-changer in parenting and every other facet of life.
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