I’ve spent a good part of the past year trying to “perfect” my parenting skills. We are in the THICK of the toddler years and there have been countless times where I’ve questioned God, “Why me? Why did you answer my prayers to be a Mother, because I’m not sure I have what it takes.”
One morning after my own epic meltdown and a panic attack – I thought to myself. “This is no way to live, no way to parent, no way to get through to my son.”
However, the past couple of months I’ve reminded myself of this truth –
If God gave it to me, that means He trusted me and knew I could handle it.
I apply that truth to everything lately, especially to Motherhood and Parenting. If God gave me our children, then it means He trusts that I can do well by Him and take care of them.
I Have to Fix My Son!?
There are Experts who say if you do this or that wrong you will eternally screw up your children. And you have to get them “fixed” by a certain age. For toddlers that age is apparently three… I’ve only got three months left.
I have chosen to ignore that theory because focusing on my fears of what he would grow up to be is me focusing on the wrong thing. And more importantly, it’s put an incredible strain on my approach to parenting, my relationship with him as a mother and on myself.
The past few weeks I’ve been seeking and God has really been opening my eyes to what it means and looks like to be a parent to our son.
Here are 4 Lessons I’ve recently learned that have transformed my view of parenting and is helping me to parent more stress-free and effective.
1. I’m Raising a Child, Not an Adult
I fell in love with the idea years ago that “I’m not raising a child, I’m raising a future adult.” However, solely focusing on the complexities of raising a future adult causes me to miss out on enjoying him at each new stage of his life. This includes all the quirks, fun discoveries and growing pains that come with his development. I’m missing out on the “normal” part of him being a kid! He’ll never return to these stages again, and that’s bittersweet!
I cannot expect an adult level of behavior, self-control, and decision making when he is literally still a child. As a matter of fact, the human brain goes through 5 stages of development. The Prefrontal Cortex is one of the last parts of your brain to fully develop, and that doesn’t happen until your early to mid-20s!
GoodTherapy.org explains that the Prefrontal Cortex controls things like complex behaviors, impulse control, emotional reactions, decision making, and focused attention just to name a few. Example, think of the decisions you made when you were a teen or in your early 20s. Think about how many times you look back and think “that didn’t make any sense, what was I thinking!?” Don’t worry, it’s not your fault – you can blame it on your brain development.
Just because a child’s brain is still in development does not mean I ignore my responsibility to still discipline, teach and model what is right or positive. Development means the brain is still growing and accepting information. He’s still learning, and he’ll eventually master these skills. I’m seeing it every day. As he grows through different stages, my level and type of influence will change as well. So embrace each stage.
What’s important is to remember the core values that we want to be instilled in our children and work around that. All the other “fine” details will fall into place. Pick your battles wisely.
2. We’re Not in Competition for Control
Like I said earlier I had a bad panic attack episode and when I took the time to dissect the root of it, I realized it was due to my lack of control. Not having control of his behavior and reactions, spending more time than I wanted to carry out his consequences, and it felt like nothing I did “fixed” him. It felt like that morning every scenario he was winning while I was failing. And I did not have control.
Lots of people say you have to have control over your kids, show them who’s the boss! However, in reality, I believe it’s not about who’s winning at the control game. He has the right to feel what he feels, and he has the right to express it. My goal is not to punish him for having these feelings and expressing them. I don’t want him to ignore these feelings or bottle them up (like I would). I don’t want him to become callous, numb or insensitive.
My goal is to help him learn how to manage his reactions and effectively communicate instead of having a tantrum or lashing out. Of course at the toddler stage communication is very basic.
So as much as it’s important for him to learn how to communicate, it’s even more important for me to learn how to effectively communicate to him on his level. How can he learn if he can’t understand me?
3. I Don’t Have to Parent My Children Like My Family, Friends… or the Experts
Everyone will have their opinion of what’s best for your child. And for the most part, they mean well. I have solicited advice and tips, and I’ve also received unsolicited advice and tips. The one thing in common with all this feedback? They’re all different! And in the end, I’m not sure that anyone knows exactly what to do, and gets it “right” every single time. Because of this, I have to let go of the fear of being judged, feeling shame and or guilt that I couldn’t get this discipline thing right.
What I know is that children are human and every human is different. We may have similarities, but at the core we are individuals. What parenting style works for one household may not work for ours; because of how I’m wired, and capable to carry out the style.
Children are wired differently too, so what worked for one of your children, may not even work for the other children. Just take a look at the different learning styles teachers have to implement in their classroom settings!
This is even true for co-parenting. I’ve tried saying and doing the things my husband says and does in the “exact” way he does it, and while it works for him… chile please that does not work for me. Then again his advantage could be his deep voice and height… oh well!
What I’ve learned is to pick and choose what I feel that I’m capable to be consistent with, communicate with my husband, and put it into action. I also need to give it some time and get the support to carry it out. If it works, awesome! If not, I’ll tweak it. And as the kids grow up and change, I’ll just grow and change with them.
4. I Don’t Have to Do this Alone, God Can Help Me
All this time I pressured myself to get parenting just right. My son didn’t come with a manual of what to do and what not to do. And we are learning about him just as much as he is learning about us. However, there is someone who knows the exact “formula”. And I believe that someone is God.
So what is the practical way I lean on to God for direction? I pray, often. Here’s an example: “God please show me what my son needs and how he needs it. Show me how to talk to him. Help him to hear and understand me. God, help me to hear and understand him.”
If I’m getting frustrated or he’s in a meltdown, I’ll take a quick pause, deep breath and simply say, “God help me!” I’ll also pray for God to help him calm down and to give him peace.
I have to let go of the belief that I could single handily destroy and wreck my son’s entire life and ruin him as an adult. I don’t have that kind of power. And even if anything I do could have a long-lasting negative effect on our son, I pray, “Lord, save him from me and anything wrong I could do to him”. I put him back in God’s hands. Simple as that, and I let it go.
When I remember that I’m not in this alone and that our son’s whole future is not left up to us, it really helps to reduce the pressure and the number of expectations I place on myself.
Bonus Parenting Tips
Be consistent with whatever you choose to do.
Learn the difference between parenting, discipline, punishment, and consequence.
YOU GOT THIS!!
I hope all of this brings you one step closer to a stress-free parenting relationship with your children! Anything is possible!
To learn more about the stages of brain development check out this easy to understand the article, 5 Stages of Human Brain Development by Nancy Guberti.
For more information about the prefrontal cortex check out the Prefrontal Cortex article on GoodTherapy.org
Visit Grace to Parent on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Periscope for practical parenting nuggets throughout the week and live videos every Tuesday at Noon with Remi Makanjuola, Positive Parenting Influencer. Everything she shares on her sites is golden!
And whether or not you’re into podcasts, this was a great interview that confirmed a lot of my “aha!” moments that I don’t have to parent alone. Gospel Parenting: Paul David Tripp, Episode 176 of the God Centered Mom Podcast. There’s also a lot of great topics on this podcast in general. It’s worth a listen!