Have you ever found yourself completely frustrated at your children's behaviors?
Ever have one of those moments when the baby wakes early from her nap with a stinky diaper, your toddler refuses to take a nap, you catch your 2nd grader in a lie, your older children are bickering and tattling, and there's a knock at the door right as the phone rings? You close your eyes and take a deep breath because you feel like you could literally scream in frustration?
I have. :)
(and I bet you have, too.)
I used to give my poor husband an earful of gossip about our children when he got home after one of "those" days.
In truth, I wanted to enjoy my children all the time!
The Lord showed me a little lesson about my frustration that I'm going to share with you, my dear friends, today:
If I am frustrated at my children, my children are not the problem.
You weren't expecting that, were you?
Surely it's the child's fault.
After all, he's "strong-willed", "defiant", "mouthy", "disobedient", "stubborn", "difficult", "challenging", "harder to break", or "in the 'terrible-two's' (or threes or fives or whatever age fits the statement at the time)".
The Lord whispered to my heart years ago the answer to my Momma frustrations:
You see, it is my responsibility to raise children I enjoy being around.
Left to themselves, children will not choose godliness. They will not automatically choose good.
As a Christian, I'm not supposed to sit around defeated all the time in my parenting because I'm so frustrated with my children.
Yes, we all feel frustrated at our children's behavior at times.
But here are two options for the Frustrated Momma:
Teach, Train, and Disciple
This first option may seem kind of self-explanatory, but many Mommas would rather complain about or avoid their children rather than teaching the child better behaviors.
Sit down with a notebook and your spouse. Write down the things about your child that are causing you to not enjoy parenting them.
Pray, communicate, brainstorm, and make a plan with your spouse for how and what you're going to change in order to teach your child more efficiently.
Stop complaining. Stop dwelling on the negative aspects of your child's personality. (Would you like someone to list all the ways you disobey the Lord? Or all the annoying aspects of your personality? I know I wouldn't!)
And STOP walking around frustrated! :)
Instead, find a way to teach your children those Biblical characteristics that will help you both enjoy each other better.
Lower Your Expectations
The second option for the frustrated Momma is to lower your expectations.
Early on in my parenting journey, I refused to lower any of my expectations for my children.
This cause much frustration for both me and my sweet (and very young!) little ones.
I have since found it to be very helpful to lower my expectation at times. ;)
If you expect less in a given situation, you will NOT be frustrated when things don't go like you had hoped.
Your children do not have to live up to the Jones' family. They do not (and definitely WILL NOT!) be perfect. You will not, no matter how hard you try, find the one "Godly way" of raising all children that will then eliminate your frustrations forever. :)
And it is okay to lower your expectations, even for a short time, in order to relieve your frustrations and find joy in your journey, especially if you're dealing with more than one problem and more than one child.
You can always go back to step one later and work again on the desired character traits.
I promised you practical application in this series, so here is a "real life" situation for both options above. :)
1. We enjoy eating out occasionally as a family. Our family went from 4 to 7 children almost overnight and we were in survival mode for several months, so when we returned back to regular "life" and regular eating out (even if it IS just the dollar menu, lol), we quickly got frustrated. Trying to manage three 2 year olds, an older daughter with NO public social skills, and three other children, all while trying to order food and eat it in peace.....quickly became overwhelming. :) Chaos might be a better word. LOL
We kept trying. And we kept getting frustrated.
So we made a plan. I would work on the table skills at home: manners, sitting quietly at the table, politely asking to be excused, eating what they're given without complaining, etc. We communicated our expectations clearly over and over again. We set up "table buddies" so Brent and I could order food together. We choose the food ahead of time, before we got out of the car. We trained two of our children to get the drinks responsibly. I put bibs and baby wipes permanently in the car. And we practiced sitting very, very quietly until the food comes. We rewarded the children who behaved and gave consequences to those who did not.
We taught, trained, and disciplined and now we can ENJOY eating out as a family again. :)
2. A couple of months ago, we moved Ethan (now 3) into a "big boy" bed. At first, he did fine with staying in bed, but after a couple of months, he discovered how delightfully fun freedom at bedtime could be. Inevitably, we would get all of the children to bed and just sit down on the couch to enjoy the quiet when we'd hear the pitter-patter of little feet and a sweet, tiny blonde head would peek around the corner. Of course, the cuteness wore off pretty quickly :) and soon we were finding ourselves frustrated at his refusal to stay in bed. He would get up over and over again, crying for Mommy to snuggle him.
Once again, we made a plan. Initially, we tried the first option. We taught, we trained, we disciplined. He would STILL get out of bed! (Our other 6 do not.) We talked and decided on a different plan of action. We thought through our goals for bedtime: To have everyone feel loved and get good sleep in as calm a manner as possible. Perhaps Ethan was being willful, but perhaps he was feeling the affects of the major changes our family was going through and just needed some extra snuggles and time.
At any rate, we lowered our expectations. You see, if we no longer expected him to stay in bed the first time, we were no longer frustrated! :) Our practical solution was to take turns sitting in the boys' room at night while they get good and sleepy. It usually only take 5 minutes or so for Ethan to fall asleep with Daddy or Mommy close by.
He is getting good sleep and we are no longer frustrated.
Blessings to you, frustrated Momma, on the beautiful journey of Motherhood! Seek the Lord, make a plan, and CHANGE! :)