guest post: Katie Howard
There are days as moms when we are flying high. Everyone is clean, dressed, and presentable in the early hours of the day. We prance off to some wonderfully creative event that is the perfect backdrop for an Instagram collage. All the children are smiling happily as we enter said location and you’re walking the walk as mom of the year. But, if you’ve been a mom for any collection of minutes over 5, you know that these moments do not last forever. Tantrums are coming. Yelling is on its way. Whining is already creeping into each child’s tone of voice. No matter how much I get sucked into those moments of euphoria, I end up crashing out with impatience, frustration, and disappointment.
I guess we can call it a “fool me once, fool me twice” situation. I know it’s coming, but I just can’t stop that train of hope that all will go smoothly. Just this once. Maybe. Hopefully. But probably not.
Perhaps its because I know the potential of my kids. I know that deep down they are good. They want to be obedient. They want to act according to that parenting book I read during those late night nursing sessions. They have a desire to do exactly as I say.
No. That’s not it at all. As much as I want to believe my children are capable of being good all on their own, it’s just not the truth. And I’m as guilty as they are. Why do I want them to be “well-behaved” (because we have a concrete definition of that…)? Why do I want to walk calmly into a grocery store with 2 boys, hands folded, saying “Yes, mother. I’d love to have those organic brussel sprouts and squash as a side to my grass-fed steak for dinner tonight”? Why do I feel so defeated when NONE of these things happen and I end up refereeing and bribing with goldfish opened mid-shopping trip just to grab enough food to make it through another day of meals?
Honestly? The only true reason I can think of is that I want to, just this one time, be glorified for my successes as a mom. I’ve worked hard for that. I read all the books. I followed the methods of discipline and created the perfect combination of all I’ve learned that will work for my family. And because of all this work and effort, I deserve some hard-earned respect and good behavior from those little humans that call me “Mama.”
Wrong again. At this point, do you feel like I’ll never encourage you once? Every time we seem to be getting somewhere, I call you back to the starting line. And that’s because I am daily calling myself back to that same point. I’ve realized that if I don’t set a firm foundation at the beginning of each day, at the base of my parenting structure, at the core of my life and who I am as a Mama, I’ll never survive a day with a single ounce of joy.
So. What’s the secret? Are you ready for the big reveal? I promise. It is simple, yet so complicated. It is fruitful, yet easily brushed aside. And it all stems from what you truly believe about the power of one.single.thing. That thing is the word of God. The Bible. The God-breathed scriptures. The thoughts, stories, experiences, history, of our Creator. If He made it all, then he should be the one we turn to in order to make it work.
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
But how easily we forget! At least how easily I forget. If we truly believe in the supernatural ability of the word of God to change the life of someone who is 53, why shouldn’t we believe in its power to change the life of someone who is 3?
When we say that out loud, doesn’t its simplicity almost smack us around a little? How could I be so caught up in trying to do things “the right way” that I overlook the Perfect One and His perfect way?
At this point, you can see that my mommying is still a work in progress. And what I’ve realized is that it always will be. Til I die. Right now, I’m battling tantrums and whining. Later, I’ll be counseling through girls (the horror) and hormones (the even bigger horror). Eventually, I’ll be navigating the waters of mother-in-law-dom. Motherhood doesn’t end when our babies turn 18, or leave home, or even get married. It’s a fluid responsibility. It molds and changes to the current position of our children. But the one thing that binds it all together is the wisdom, hope, and truth found in the words of our Father.
He will take hold of those tiny hearts just as we take hold of those tiny hands. He will shape their worldviews and their understanding. He will lead them toward righteousness and lift them up from despair. He will carry them when they cannot walk, just as our hips and arms were there to hold them before their legs could stand alone.
Do not despair, sweet mama.
There is hope for even the most hopeless of situations. When you are at the end of your rope. When sitting in the back of your closet getting cozy with a chocolate bar seems like the best and only option by lunchtime. When you wish your families lived closer so you could feel less guilty about dropping your kids off for a few hours alone with your husband. When your special needs child who you love so fiercely has just brought you to your knees in heartache. When everything that crosses his lips is the enemy for your food allergy child with multiple offending food groups.
The circumstances of your daily life may look incredibly different from mine. But the Savior remains constant. He is in control of those euphoric moments of seemingly perfect parenting and He is in control of those back closet, chocolate-bingeing moments.
In light of that, we must fill our kids with His words. Every day. As much as possible.
If we truly believe He has the power to change a heart and make it new, we should shower our littles with the truth of His goodness, His love, His mercy.
Only then can we ride the high of a child that behaves. Not because we have successfully achieved behavior modification, but because we know that the change in behavior and attitude stems from a heart that has been changed. A heart that has been impressed with the truth of the mercy of the Gospel. A heart that doesn’t seek to be praised because Mama is happy with a good choice, but a heart that seeks to praise the Father for his mercy in making a good choice possible.
This is the child I desire. This is the child I know I am capable of having. A perfectly imperfect sinner relying on the unfailing grace and mercy of a Savior who paved the path to a heart that is clean, obedient, and joy-filled.
Our obedience to Christ in our parenting is just as important as our child’s obedience to us in every day life. Because of that, what are some practical ways we can implement this Word-Driven Parenting?
Here are some of the ways my husband and I try to lead our children by the Word first.
Don’t freak out. Another thing on the schedule. Another time to gather everyone up when the dinner gathering is hard enough. I get it. Trust me. My kids are only 4 and 1. I have not yet entered the phase of extra-curricular activities. But, I do know one thing. I can’t expect my boys to have a love and desire for Jesus unless I show them how.
We are all well aware of the fact that children are little sponges. Everything they see and hear is reflected in their actions. So if we model busyness and a lack of intention for family time in the word, they will do the same. No sport, music lesson, dance class, college preparation, is more important than spending time in God’s word. No matter what the American dream tells us. No matter what our bank accounts tell us. It is our job as parents to stand in front of our kids, actively pursuing knowledge of our God and His character, just as Jesus stood in front of the Jew and Gentile and put on display the way they were to act, pray, go, and speak.
Just pick a time and start small. Once a week at dinner or in the morning during breakfast. Whenever your family is gathering now, take 10 of those minutes and pursue holiness together. It doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Once you start and begin to see heart change, you will continue to hunger for more of Jesus in your family life as well as your personal life.
Discipline the Heart
This is a hard one. It is hard because the parent has to overcome the desire to discipline for selfish reasons. When a child doesn’t listen, it is so easy to get angry and feel wronged and desire to show the child how they have wronged you. This approach does nothing but elicits behavior modification, which itself is not a bad thing. But the ultimate goal here for the child is not to only do as they’re told, but to desire obedience to the parents because it is obedience to God. I promise you, it doesn’t matter if your child is only 2 or 3. They are so, so smart! If you do this, they will learn.
When my oldest son has disobeyed, I send him to his room. After I’ve taken a moment and he has had a moment as well, I follow after him. We talk about what instructions were given and then the decision he made not to follow the rules. I have him explain to me what he has done wrong. Sometimes I discipline him there in the way I feel appropriate. But other times, I tell him I am going to allow a second chance. When I explain he is receiving a second chance, I do something like this:
“Do you know that you made a bad choice? Do you understand that you deserve to be punished for the bad choice you’ve made? Do you also know that Mama makes bad choices too and deserves to be punished for her bad choices just like you? Well, this time Mama is going to give you a second chance. Do you understand why? Because when Mama makes mistakes, she is given a second chance and Jesus is who gives me another chance. And because I want to live like Jesus, I want to give you a second chance as well. Mama loves you just like Jesus loves you. And now that you’re getting another opportunity to make the right choice, how about we pray and ask Jesus to help you do the right thing? You can ask for forgiveness for the mistake you made earlier and ask that Jesus will help change your heart to want to obey what Mama tells you to do.”
It usually goes something like that. Then I allow him to pray his own words and ask for help from Jesus. He really enjoys having that opportunity and I truly believe it makes him feel true forgiveness, not to mention grows confidence in his ability to pray independently.
Now. Let’s be honest. This approach is not always the one I use, nor is it always the best option. Some situations call for immediate discipline and it is the responsibility of the parent to make that choice. Just know, that in the small things, we have a chance to take the extra time to point our kids to Christ. To show them what forgiveness looks like. To show that grace and mercy and second chances exist. And that ultimately, the grace of Jesus on the cross should alter the course of our lives in this way.
Sometimes the harder choice and the more difficult methods of discipline are better. Search for the teachable moments where you can point your child to Christ. Because the mission of mommyhood is a battlefield. A battle on two fronts. One where we are responsible for the choices and direction of our children but also for the choices and direction of our own lives. But praise be to God who stands in front of us as we face the enemy. He has picked up His sword and will defeat that enemy. Though we may feel as if we’re losing the daily battle in our personal walk with the Lord and/or perhaps in our battle to parent in a Godly way, Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross. He has won the war. All we need to do is find our hope in Him and even more importantly, find our rest in Him. He will comfort us on the days we feel broken, discipline us on the days we fight back in anger and lift us up on the days we have followed Him more closely and directed our children to the foot of His cross.
It is not easy and some days it’s not even funny. But often times, the hardest choices and the biggest obstacles produce the best fruit. I am lifting you and your mommying journey to the Lord today. I pray for the generation we are raising. I pray for the strength that we moms need to just make it through the daily drudgery. It’s not always pretty work, but it is kingdom work. And may the moms of this global Church link arms to stand strong and fall to our knees to lift one another up.
Because with each other we are stronger and with Christ we are undefeatable.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
What are some ways you and your family implement Word-Driven Parenting?
Katie Howard is a Christian. Wife. Mommy. Writer. Musician. She is working on giving all of myself up to Jesus. I am not in control, even though I want to be.