Let’s get right to it: parenting is hard. Feeding, teaching, encouraging, disciplining, and more gets quite overwhelming. It can feel like paddling a canoe in the ocean. Add in a kiddo that has a hard time listening or understanding. It’s a big wave. Add in some stressors like financial trouble (more waves), marital problems (more waves), family illness or death (even bigger waves)… you get the idea.
In this three part series, I’ll briefly cover some tips to help ease the troubled waters of parenting. No matter if life is sweet and calm or scary and uncertain, parenting is challenging and we could all use some support.
The first thing to remember is consistency. Imagine you start a new job and your boss explains things to you. You go about your job until your supervisor yells at you for doing exactly what you were told. She explains things differently and you adjust. Then the regional manager comes along and says you’re doing it all wrong. This is what it’s like as a kid when parents and other adults send mixed messages. You can’t tell which way is right.
Throughout the Bible, the message is consistent: love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). Many thought Jesus would bring about a new law but He said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” It would be so confusing if God the Father said one thing and Jesus said another. Jesus is the Son and the Word of God, so he does not contradict the Father but fulfill His Word.
Parents must also stand shoulder to shoulder with one another when it comes to parenting. If bedtime is a certain time, try to be consistent (barring the occasional weekend event or the like.) Make meals regular and eat together as often as possible. Make them healthy too: protein, vegetables, and starch. Have a routine time and place for homework, such as right after school or before dinner. Lay down the rules for screen time and stay consistent.
All these things and more create routine and solidify expectations. When a kiddo knows what to expect, even if he doesn’t like it, he knows you’re honest. He can trust your word. Then, when you need to offer encouragement or advice, your words will have more meaning. This is all easier said than done. The waves can and do come in the choppy waters of parenthood.
The most common but not least among those waves is tiredness. We as parents can get weak in willpower when we’re tired. Tired from sheer exhaustion physically, tired from a difficult situation personally or professionally, even tired of a disobedient child, we cave at times. Breathe in, breathe out, and shake it off. Get back on track. Bonus points for explaining your slip and even apologizing. If you allowed something you shouldn’t have, let it play out. If you restricted where you shouldn’t have, go back on it but explain.
Let’s skip to the most troublesome wave, the challenge of disagreeing adults. This ugly wave comes in the form of marital strife, divorce, step parents, grandparents, or even teachers. Now, don’t get the wrong idea. Many of these people have good intentions and sometimes the difficult adult is the biological parent, but any time a dynamic is added, parenting techniques need to be more clearly communicated, keeping the wellbeing of the children in mind.
Many times a remarried couple faces challenges between a new spouse and an ex. When children get caught in the crossfire, it gets ugly. The best support for that child is peaceful communication. It can happen! The most important factor is to always be honest with each other and the children. The children will know who is telling the truth before long, so be honest from the start (Proverbs 12:6-7).
If you can’t come to consistent parenting rules among other adults in your children’s lives, at least be consistent in your own house. That way, the children will learn to understand what and why the rules are under your supervision. Ultimately, even if it doesn’t seem so at the time, you will gain more respect.
Consistency is important in all aspects of life and, when raising children, the habits you create and the values you instill will last a lifetime. Again, it may not seem so at the time, especially when you have a difficult kiddo, but they will remember your efforts and how you spoke to them. They will remember and appreciate your consistency, if not now, then as adults (Proverbs 22:6). This is especially true if you explain your reasons.
One more note on that: your reasons need to make sense. If you’re consistent about a rule but can’t explain its reason, you may need to examine that rule. Early bedtimes are important for sleep and getting up early, not just for your TV viewing pleasure. Outside play is important for fresh air and exercise, not just to get the kids out of your hair. Make sure your reasons are honorable and make sense for the children and they will learn to instill these values in their lives later.
Much more can be said on consistency, but this is just a blog. I will be speaking with Anne DeSantis from the St. Raymond Nonnatus Foundation so stay tuned for that podcast sometime in June or early July this year. Stay tuned here for parts two and three where I’ll talk about more tips for parenting through troubled waters.