One of the best things I learned years ago when I began working with children was: “The important thing is what you do after what you’ve done.” Face it; there is no such thing as a perfect parent. We can try as hard as we like, but eventually we will say or do something that puts us way below our imaginary pedestal. We think we’ve got it down pat, but eventually our kids wear us down and we blow up. The hardest time in my life was parenting my kids in their early years. They had the energy of a litter of 6-month-old puppies; they talked non-stop, had a million questions, and seemed to always be either hungry or bored. And I wanted to be the best mom on the planet. But I have to admit; there were days that I just wanted to stay in bed and sleep. Here are some helpful things I learned along the way.
- Pray for help! When my daughter had left her lunch in the carpooler’s car one morning in kindergarten (after many reminders by me to not forget it), she called to let me know. I was so frustrated by this that I told her she would have to go without her lunch that day. Then (of course), I felt horrible after I hung up. I cried out to God in prayer, “Lord, help me, because I don’t think I can raise this child!” Then, in a very small, quiet voice, I heard, “You’re right. You can’t, but I can.” That was the beginning of my resolve to pray every morning for me to be a better parent to both my kids. (And the Mom driving the carpool got home, saw her lunch in the backseat, and brought it up to the school for her.)
- Get help! I’ve heard it said and come to believe, that the child who is the most like you is the one you have the most difficulty with. This was true about my daughter. We could be clones because we both wanted the last word and could talk anyone’s ear off. So when we had a disagreement, she knew how to punch my buttons like no other. Sometimes I would lose my cool, but I always knew to ask my husband (Mr. Level-headed) if he would go talk to her and comfort her until I calmed down. This was what helped to bond them to each other. Then, after I was calm, I would usually apologize and we would talk things out. The advice above was always implemented here – I always apologized for whatever I had done to upset her and I always let her know how much I loved her. No matter what your children do to upset you, never leave them alone or send them to bed to wonder if they are loved or not. Always end up showing love to them.
- Come up with a plan! I have taught parents for years to have a plan of action when it comes to kids and discipline. If you just shoot from the hip, you won’t have the consistency needed to teach them life lessons. Kids have to be taught to share toys, to save their money, to wait for things they want, to behave in public, etc. I give behavior charts to parents and many times I’ve heard, “We’ve tried that. It doesn’t work.” This is where I show them how to use it in a way that works. It teaches children to work on problems in their behavior, to learn how to do chores, to feel proud when they see what their work has earned them, and to save up their money to spend on things they want. It was such help for our children. They both learned the value of money and of saving and tithing. And it made them both more conscientious when it came to helping to keep the house clean by picking up their toys.