During the very difficult years of early parenting, I would go through long times of despair, as well as periods of dislike for one or more of my children.
I felt horribly guilty as well as angry with my family and myself. I was frustrated because I couldn’t find methods and answers to fix my extremely lively, strong-willed, struggling kids.
I remember one of those dreadful nights: Jim was working. The youngest child was sick, and the other two were overwhelmed with homework. As they continued to ask for me all at the same time, I grew more and more frustrated, resentful, and harsh. Kids fought, whined, criticized dinner, and frequently disobeyed me. I felt like I was ready to pull my hair out — but I was too frazzled to figure out what was really happening.
The next morning, I dragged myself to God’s Word, as I often do when discouraged, and received the reorientation to the truth that helped me see more clearly. Looking back on the experience of the previous night, I prayed through the following helpful questions. Here’s what I realized:
What were my emotions and responses?
- I felt frustrated by the chaos.
- I was resentful of Jim’s absence and the kids’ simultaneous requests for help.
- I became increasingly impatient and harsh, and then felt guilty.
What underlying false beliefs produced those emotions/responses?
- Life should not be chaotic. Or, at least, I shouldn’t get stuck with the chaos by myself.
- My children shouldn’t be asking for more than I can give.
- It’s my job to keep my children happy, or at least stop them from whining and demanding.
What did I inadvertently communicate to my children by my response?
- Life is stressful and that’s bad.
- Your needs make me upset.
- Jesus doesn’t help me when I’m upset.
What is true?
- “Chaos happens.” I don’t have to make it stop or try to keep everyone happy.
- It’s OK, and even good sometimes, for children to wait for help.
- Jesus’ presence can bring peace in chaos and mercy when I struggle.
As I learned through this experience, chaos as a parent is virtually inevitable! But what’s not inevitable is how I respond. Do I blow up or melt down? Do I try to manage life so similar situations can’t occur? Do I revisit and pray about what happened? Do I seek Scripture and the wisdom and teaching of mentors? Do I talk with others and with God? Do I identify my false core beliefs and identify and repeat the true biblical beliefs that I’m seeking to embrace? Do I stumble? Do I start over again?
In the years since that chaotic night, I’ve realized that seeking God’s truth with these kinds of questions has been far more significant than any parenting methods I ever acquired.
Apply It Now:
- Think of a recent situation where things just seemed to get out of hand and you aren’t sure why.
- Take some time to prayerfully reflect and/or journal about the above questions in regards to the situation. What was really going on? What are some truths you could repeat to yourself next time?
- If you’re having trouble identifying your core beliefs or working through them, consider contacting us about parent coaching.
This post is an excerpt from our book, How to Grow a Connected Family.