I love to make lists and check things off. Anyone with me? I like to be efficient, make a plan and execute it. I want hard work to equal positive, immediate results. This doesn’t really translate well into the wonderful world of parenting though does it.
Let’s imagine for a second what that might look like if it did:
- You work really hard and sleep train your baby one night. He cries and cries and it takes hours to get him to sleep in his own crib. You persevere and he sleeps. The end. Now he sleeps perfectly in his bed all night. (I want to live in this world!)
- Your kid only wants to eat grilled cheese for supper even though you have slaved in the kitchen preparing a healthy meal all evening. You stand your ground, even though you are tired and don’t want to, and she eats her healthy supper. The end. Now she never complains about meals and eats whatever you make.
- Your toddler throws a tantrum in the store because she just HAS to have that toy. You stand your ground and dont give in. You have a talk with her about being thankful for what she has and not being greedy. She never whines for a toy ever again.
- Your son and daughter are fighting like cats and dogs. You have so much to do but you put it aside and take the time to help them sort out their feelings and properly work it out together. You talk to them about how important family is and how God wants us to treat each other. They apologize, hug, and are never unkind to each other again.
- You talk to your kid about the disrespectful way she is talking to you. It is a long conversation about her heart and the posture her heart is taking when she responds to you this way. It is an exhausting conversation but at the end she is remorseful and never is disrespectful to you again.
I could go on and on with examples like this but I am sure you catch my drift. I’m sure you could personalize this list with more than a few examples from your own parenting experience. But the point here is, that while those would be amazing, they just simply aren’t how things go. (in most situations anyways, maybe there are a few kids out there who learn these lessons first time)
Parenting isn’t a short game. For goodness sakes it took me a solid 2 years of not bending on naps and bedtime to develop a decent sleep routine! I dont know why I thought that matters of the heart and building character would be any different. For some reason while I had all the patience in the world for my toddlers needing time and constant reminders to learn things, I dont have this same patience for my school age kids as they work out their character.
I have recently started to change my mindset to remind myself that I am here for the long haul, the long game. My goal is to have a solid and open relationship with my girls when they reach their teen years and I know that starts now. I know I can’t speak into their lives and disciple them well if we do not have a relationship. So while dealing with all the little things that come up now, I try to keep that in the back of my mind; how can I address this in a way that strengthens our relationship.
In this mindset, I try not to expect her to stop things like rudeness, etc immediately. I am still working on some of these things myself so I remind myself it will take her time to learn. This doesn’t mean I let these behaviours go, just try to control my frustration when they occur and correct lovingly. (for instance, trying not to use phrases like “how many times do I have to tell you?!”)
One thing I have started doing with my oldest is a “secret” journal between her and I. There are lots out there that you can buy that have prompts in them to write back and forth but we just purchased a blank journal. I took her to the store and we picked out one together and I explained how we can write back and forth in it to each other. This sweet little journal has already helped us hash out some things while also giving me a forum to express my love for her and speak truth to her. I also love to write her little notes when I catch her doing something of good character. I have noticed she keeps these notes stuffed into her books.
I am also trying to remind myself not to take the easy out when they are arguing or reacting poorly and to take the time to sit down with them and teach them how to work out their issues in a Biblical manner. Not always how I want to spend my time but trusting that in the long run, it will be worth it and bear the fruit of children of good character.
I am also making a intentional effort to spend more time with her doing things she likes even when I am tired. We are reading through The Jungle Book just the two of us after Sophie is in bed and we are having more games nights as a family before bed. I am trying to put my phone away more as well. Got to keep my eyes on the long game; relationship with my girls down the road so I have the opportunity to disciple them and continue to help shape their character.
I would love to know what you are doing in the young years to keep your focus on the long game! Let me know in the comments.