Never Judge a Parent Who Has Children Older Than Yours. disciplining and the outta the box kid

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,



8 thoughts on “Never Judge a Parent Who Has Children Older Than Yours. disciplining and the outta the box kid

  1. So true I did a post called “only people who never had children have the perfect child”
    it was so true for me before I had children. That has all changed now!

  2. I just started reading that book! Finished chapter one last weekend. It’s bringing me back to my early mommy days, but still ministering to me where I am now as a mommy, too. My favorite quote so far (as Sarah Mae describes her initial vision of what she would be like as a mom: “She was what God never asked to be apart from Him: Perfect.” Loved that!

  3. Remembering when you shared that “don’t judge” advice you had been told by another…seems like that was in another lifetime, but it has stuck with me in this past decade as well! And as another mom of an out-of-the-box boy (also the 3rd child…hmmm), I relate so much to the feelings of wanting to hide-out at home, if only so no one will see and judge me for the behavior of that same little boy! I always say, thank God my little prince is so loving and cute and sweet at times, because if he wasn’t, all that defiance, spitting, sneaking and obstinance would crush me! I have tried so hard to figure him out, even in part, to effect better behavior and obedience. I’ve cringed at the phrase, “Yeah, but he’ll grow to be a great leader someday.” I’ve had to bite my tongue from saying, “Sure, but for good or evil?!” Parenting is tough. I make more mistakes than I do things right, but I wouldn’t trade places with anyone. It’s good to have that remider, and the it’s good to remember that God doesn’t expect perfection from me, so why should I expect it from myself (OR from my precious little ones)? That was the hope I needed from chapter 3. 🙂

    • Totally amazing response here Shannon. I got the goose bumps when you said “for good or evil”. I think (the bumps) because I often think that I will channel “their powers for good some day.” It’s the hope I have. Because I have to have hope. But I feel the same as you do as well because I’m so wishing that their sin nature will lessen some how. As children- they show their true colors–always! 🙂 They have less inhibitions and therefore it’s easier to see. As adults, we hide our sins much better. We are are more capable to deceive and be deceived. I guess the blessing in it all is knowing where we need to focus when we are training our little outta the box babes. Thanks so much for commenting and joining in on a cyber book talk/study. ❤

      • Oh girls, you know I’m right there with you on all of this! We have some amazing little men! Amazingly naughty and amazingly precious!! Loved all you had to say!

  4. This has been my most favorite chapter thus far! I needed the whole section “for the mama with an “out of the box” child!

    I heard at an adoptive mom conference about how we should speak words of character over our children. I’ve chosen you are, strong, courageous, (he’s added brave) and a Man of God. He loves when I say these things over him. Hope he will always remember.

    • Jewel told me about how she did this with her children.(speaking words of character). It impacted them in big ways. I plan to discuss this very thing for the next post. Labeling vs installing words of character. You should be a contributor 😉


      Sent from my iPhone

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