I have found that this series has been difficult for me to write. You see, we are still in the trenches. Often times when I write, I feel like I’m a few steps ahead of the struggle I’m sharing about. Not this one. I share ideas and suggestions and in the same breath seek to implement them. In fact, I’ve started to write this post several times today while continually being interrupted by my intense child.
In my last post, I shared about the importance of grieving the expectations about who you thought your child would be and what your relationship would look like. To be a healthy parent, we need to parent from a healthy place. We need to be able to parent from a place of acceptance and unconditional love, not disappointment and frustration.
I get really frustrated because I really want Piper to learn to manage her emotions, recognize how blessed she is and be filled with grace and self control. I pray for this daily. I speak truth over her and we try to provide consequences that match her behavior. I desire to have relationships with our children. That style of parenting worked on me.
That’s never been enough for Piper. She is smart, she is intuitive. I often say that parenting her is a full contact sport. She demands that my words and actions match up. Without knowing it, she calls out the depths of my authenticity. She looks me square in the eye and says “No.” What she says “no” to varies by the day, but the look and determination does not waver.
Behind the words she speaks, there is so much more. It’s as if she is saying “Are you fully in mom? How deep is your love for me? Do you have what it takes today? Are you going to extend the truth and love to me that you claim to bestow on others? Do you have the energy you will need to teach me today or did you give it all away?”
For so long, if I was honest, the answer was No. I hadn’t wanted kids in the first place, I didn’t sign up for parenthood to be so hard. I didn’t have the energy it took and and even if I did, I didn’t want to spend it on her. I didn’t know where to start, I felt defeated before the fight even began. I was parenting out of unmet expectations. I was exhausted, disappointed and I just wanted her to change.
But slowly I began to realize, it wasn’t her that needed to change, I did.
The change needed to start with me.
I had already let myself grieve. I had come to a place of acceptance, but that wasn’t enough. I needed to seek the answers to the questions that her intensity was demanding.
I had to ask myself: “Am I as ‘all in’ as a parent as I am in all other areas of my life? Do I have what it takes? Do I even want to have what it takes? Am I extending the grace and truth to Piper that I do to everyone else around me? Am I saving and giving her the energy she deserves?’
No. I wasn’t giving the attention to parenting as I was the other areas of my life.
If you know me, you know I’m the “all in” type. You want me on your team. But I wasn’t giving the fullness of who I am and what I have to offer to parenting my children. I wasn’t extending grace and truth to Piper in ways that matched my other relationships. I wasn’t giving her the energy she deserved.
I needed to change.
Before I move on, I want to make sure to clarify something. Piper is responsible for her reactions and behaviors. It is our job to provide consequences and guidance towards the right behavior. But, as parents we are equally responsible & accountable to the condition of our heart. Because whether we like it or not, the condition of your heart is reflected in your words and actions, especially to the ones we are closest to.
I had focused so much of my energy on trying to change her that I hadn’t even considered my role in our relationship.
I had to ask myself some tough questions.
Why am I not giving my all to parenting, when I give my all to everything else?
Why am I not seeking answers and resources for parenting like I would in other area where I feel stumped?
Why was I speaking truth and grace to everyone besides my own daughter?
Why did I give my energy so freely to everyone else, to only come home depleted?
I needed to make some adjustments.
Those questions led me to another set of questions.
What needed to change so that I had the physical & emotional capacity to meet her level of intensity?
Where was I giving my energy away that my kids deserved?
What would it take for me to me to be as passionate about parenting that I am about fitness, people or ministry?
- I don’t know about you, but my when I am tired and emotionally depleted, I assume the worst of my kids and I respond in kind. I need to make sure to get enough sleep.
- I need to save my emotional energy for the people that matter the most. I know there are some people that you cannot avoid. But in tough seasons of parenting it’s okay to be selfish with your outside relationships. Be selective about where you give your time and emotions; trust me you will need all you can spare. I know I am lucky to have a flexible schedule, but we all waste emotional energy. Little changes go a long way. Take Social media off your phone. That alone could change your relational capacity and therefore your relationship with your intense child.
- I am a problem solver. I tell my kids over and over throughout the day, don’t be part of the problem-be part of the solution. When I am feeling lost and over my head as a parent, I need to seek out solutions like I would any other problem. I need to keep digging until I find something that works.
- Usually every season I set new goals for myself. I haven’t been consistent about setting goals for parenting. Most of the time my goal is to survive. If I do set goals, they are often lofty and probably unrealistic. I need to set a new realistic parenting goal for myself each season. For example this summer my goal is to actually follow through with a chore chart. We have tried so many in the past and I never followed through like I intended. I so often feel like a failure as a parent. The more wins I have, the more encouraged and motivated I feel.
I needed to be all in. Because they know. When they dig in their heels, look you in the eye and say “no” – they will know if you are in. They know if you have enough spare resources to enter into their struggle, love them enough to walk through it and come out stronger together in the end.
And when we do, we all win.