The best piece of advice I’ve received about parenting is ‘never judge a parent who has older children than yours’. It has stuck with me over the near decade of parenting and has provided me with more grace than I ever had before I had kids.
Flashback. Before kids: I remember looking at a friend who had a 2 year old… The scene:
2 year old engaging in a tantrum with a 2 year old ego-centric mindset and 2 year old verbal rant directed aggressively and disrespectfully toward the parent
I thought “I will never allow my child to behave that way. Period.” HAHAHAHA and just for effect- HAHAHA. Then I had a child. And she grew to be 2 years old. Pay backs.
After having 4 kids:
I look at a parent who has a child older than mine (so 10 + years) and I sit in silence should I observe anything that might be unfavorable and pray that I’d be able to ask this parent for advice should I ever need to address “that” particular behavior.
But—it’s still kind of interesting because, though I don’t find myself judging parents with older children than mine, I find that if I take a peek into my heart, I’m judging parents who have children my kids’ ages (or younger). Like I’m some amazing expert on all behaviors 9 years old and under. I’ve got a boy and girls so I can speak on boy behaviors and girl behaviors. There- I’m an expert. bahaha
My sister in law told me once that she sent her kids to bed with their sippy cups. I can’t remember the specifics of the conversation, why we had it, if there was a particular problem she had related to the cups, etc. but I remember thinking “Take the cups away. You’re the mom. Take them away. They will adjust and all will be well.” And then my little man was born and proved to be a big sippy cup boy. And I eat my words. At the time I had children the same age as she did and I refused them a cup at bed. My girls didn’t care. But my boy did. It was like his blankey. He still just likes to hold a cup at bed, like a bear or something. Kinda wacky but I am still eating my words. And it proves I still judge.
My Mold Breaker
My Little Prince. He broke the mold. I thought it was because he was a boy and we’d been joyfully raising 2 girls for 6 years before he came along. But it was as if, when he turned 18 months and I was due to have our 4th baby bundle any day, that my sweet and laid back little man became an out of the box, screaming, tantrum throwing, language frustrated, no longer the baby of the family, hating-to-share-the-attention, biting, hitting little boy that made me want to stay home and lock us all in so no one would know that I couldn’t handle him.
All my tricks on training the girls were useless with my Little Prince. I learned that my formulas didn’t work. And I love that Sarah Mae (co-author of Desperate, Hope for A Mom Who Needs to Breathe) addresses this. Some of her honesty about this can be found on page 28:
“Caroline was not going to fit in any box. There would be no pat answer for how to raise and discipline her.”
“…feelings of inadequacy and guilt: I must not be doing it enough. I must not be doing it right. What am I doing wrong?” (referring to implementing a ‘formula’ to parent her out of the box, strong willed daughter)
“If she wasn’t obeying, it was my fault; I was doing it wrong. Of course I felt like a terrible mother.”
“…she (referring to her daughter) laughed in the face of my formula-wielding ways.”
After the formula didn’t work, the guilt set in for Sarah Mae. Does this happen to you to? I am not sure I felt guilty but I know I felt helpless and desperate to survive each day. I know that I utilized my friends, who never judged me, as they supported me and let their kids interact with my child who may or may not want to bite them during a play date. And they encouraged me that ‘this too shall pass’. Yes it’s a cliché but it was true. He’s 3 now and still behaving like a 3 year old does, with tantrums and demands but he’s uniquely and wonderfully made. And he talks. It’s much better.
I think what made the difference for us what that I realized that I couldn’t use my ‘formula for perfect obedience’ on him. I loved him through the tantrums, stayed consistent, and prayed hard that the next day would be better. I prayed that I’d hear his heart (because his words were slow in coming) and we’d have that as our language to communicate- love.
“Each child responds differently to methods of discipline, and it’s important that you study your child and figure out what works with him or her.” Pg 30
Love this quote. I could write a whole post on this- how each child is different; how our oldest loved time outs just so she could get a one on one discussion about the ‘bad behavior choice’ and consequently she behaved badly more and more until I studied her and discovered that a time out was a reward and not a negative for her; how our second child went through a lying phase because she was so fearful of disappointing us that she thought dishonestly would be better than admitting her behavior until we realized that we weren’t showing her how Grace works in real life and she needed to see that no one is perfect and we all (mostly mom and dad) make mistakes that we need to own up too… so I had to own up to her. She felt freed.
Oh, I could go on and on. Instead, I’d like to encourage you to study your children. Have you looked at your 10 year old lately to see what makes them tick? Maybe it’s your teenage daughter who is starting to notice boys? Or perhaps you’re embarking on the first year old parenting and starting to see the personality bloom. Each moment with your children is a treasure, even when it’s hard, because they teach you so much about what it means to love and be loved.
Next up: ch. 4 of Desperate. Read with me.
Still learning to be a parent,