Before I had children, I asked about 8 people to pinky-promise me that if my child was ugly, they would be honest and tell me.
Either those 8 people are liars, or Eden hasn’t turned out so ugly after all. But do you know what I realized last week? When someone tells me that Eden is cute, they are just as much talking about her personality as they are her facial features. This compliment means even more to me than I ever thought it would. I mean, no one wants to have ugly kids, but it’s more important to me that my children have beautiful souls, not just a pretty face. We have enough of those.
But as Eden has gotten older, it’s getting old that people keep telling me how well- behaved my child is. That her personality is so docile and perfect and that she is so sweet- natured and kind-tempered. You know why? Because while it may be true in public, she saves her real face for me.
I’m especially sad for all the moms who are in the middle of disciplining a full-fledged toddler fit, and who look at me and say, “You probably don’t have this happen, do you?” So, I have threatened to record one of these tantrums if people keep telling me they don’t believe me.
So, it happened last week. I asked, as I always do, how Eden was at preschool. One lady started chuckling and said, “I’ll let Deneise tell you about that. Let’s just say, they saw a side of Eden today they never saw before.” Uh-oh. As soon as I appeared at the door, both teachers looked at me with awe in their eyes and both started talking to me at once. They explained the fit she threw, the kicking and screaming and all-out temper tantrum. I told them that I hoped they disciplined her. They replied that it was kind of cute. Kind of cute? I don’t remember ever thinking that when I saw a fit in the mall.
I had her give the teachers love on out way out and then talked sternly to her all the way to the car. As soon as I strapped her in, I got a dose of what they had been talking about. And yes, I’m going to post this on Facebook under this blog post because it’s unfair for any parent to think that there is a child who doesn’t act this way.
But do you know why the teachers said it was cute? Because they knew her. They knew how out-of-character it was for her. They know that this is not her normal personality. But this IS her sin nature. Call it the terrible twos if you’d like, but it’s just her strong-will surfacing. And the Bible talks a whole lot about how important it is to submit our will to God’s will. If our children can’t submit their will to ours, how on earth will they ever learn to submit to God?
If it happened every day, I assure you it would get un-cute in a hot minute. I know this because it has happened to me every single day since. Not every child responds the same way to a certain form of discipline, so prayerfully consider what works best for your child. Always with the mission in mind of teaching them that they are not in control of their life– God is. They can control their choices, but very soon they will learn cause-and-effect, also known as consequences. We are putting them at a disadvantage if we let them grow up thinking they can control their circumstances. They don’t understand all of this yet, so it is crucial that we behave towards them as God does.
Parenting is darn tough. It has been no cake-walk for me, either. As parents, we have the HUGE responsibility to prayerfully consider how we are representing Jesus to our littles. This is no small task. This is HARD, and it requires dying to ourselves, and submitting ourselves to Him, just as we are trying to teach our children to do one day.
I’ve seen parents punish for every little thing. I see little grace in this. I’ve seen parents threaten and count themselves to death, and I see the need for a bit more reinforcement here. My friend Megan said something to me about this topic of the (exhausting) consistency required in parenting: “I think both sides of parenting are equally as lazy. One side lets the child do whatever they want because it’s too hard to tell them no. The other side only wants to beat them over and over for every offense because it’s too hard to discern a correct punishment.” So how in the world are we EVER going to find a happy medium here?
Lots of prayer. Humility. Unconditional love. Well-known expectations. The Holy Spirit.
This is our job. We’ve got one shot to raise these kids. So how do our children view God? The way they view us.
In which ways are we representing Him wrongly?? God doesn’t ignore bad behavior, not in the long run. He doesn’t threaten without following through. He is not a pushover. He never says something and forgets to act on it. Now, we give ourselves some grace, because we are forgetful and we are human. But overall, we want our children to learn that God expects a lot from us, because we have been given much (Luke 12:48.) And we want them to know what to expect from God. He does not let sin go unpunished. Our sin will find us out.
After over a decade of nannying, babysitting, teaching, and now parenting, I’ve learned that there is a secret to it: consistency. It doesn’t matter as much what you do, as long as you see results from what you’ve chosen and you do it consistently.
I’ve also learned one other thing: if you question whether they are manipulating you, they probably are. We don’t give kids enough credit. They’re super smart. (Also, they can put on their own jacket and do their own breathing treatments much sooner than you think they can. Resume reading.) And just like all children, we are born with a will to rebel. God has granted us the huge privilege of identifying the areas where this rebellion exists and nurturing their hearts toward Jesus. All of life is about digging up more sin roots and surrendering our lives to Jesus, so why not give them a head-start now? Because it’s too hard? Because you’re tired? Because it’s embarrassing in public not to just buy them that candy bar? I hear you. And I know it is. But, oh, friend. It’s so worth it. Do the hard work now, and then the foundation will be laid when they become teenagers. You’ll make your job then and their lives so much easier.
The terrible twos turn into the terrifying threes if you don’t deal with the twos. And the terrifying threes turn into the ferocious fours if you don’t deal with the terrible twos. Read Proverbs and ask the Spirit for direction and wisdom with each parenting decision you make. Pray with your children. Fold them in your arms after you punish and tell them how much you love them, and how much God loves them. I don’t do this perfectly, and we mamas need to pray for each other! This is tough stuff. Right now, I am weary feeling that we may never escape this boundary-testing stage.
The day after the episode at preschool, Eden’s teacher sent me this picture. She said, “This beautiful and blue-eyed baby girl even on a rainy day is sunshine! Sweet, sweet, sweet, even when she is having a ‘moment’.” This is how God looks at us, friend.
He is waiting with open arms to receive us back into the fold again. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how cute their clothes are or how pretty their hair bow is. What matters is that they learn that when they see ugliness inside, Jesus can turn their ashes into beauty.