Sometimes with all of the information overload out there, it’s hard to know the “right” way to parent. There are literally thousands of books, websites, experts, doctors, psychologists and pseudo-experts (*cough* bloggers *cough*) who have an opinion on what that right way is. Some of them agree, some sort-of agree, and some are completely opposite from one another.
One of my favorite examples of how frustrating this can be was this viral rant posted by a mom a few years ago:
“You shouldn’t sleep train at all, before a year, before 6 months, or before 4 months, but if you wait too late, your baby will never be able to sleep without you. College-aged children never need to be nursed, rocked, helped to sleep, so don’t worry about any bad habits. Nursing, rocking, singing, swaddling, etc to sleep are all bad habits and should be stopped immediately.” To read the whole thing, click here.
Enough already, right? Where do you go for help?
When I’m in the trenches with my kids and I’m searching for that help – especially when it comes to governing my own behavior towards my children – this is where I go:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
As I’m going through my day-to-day life, and as I find myself in all sorts of situations involving my family, friends, neighbors or even just the thoughts in my head, I can usually use these verses as a barometer of where I’m at and where I need to be.
In case anyone has also struggled with this, for the next few posts I’m going to do a series on how I’ve used Galatians 5:22-23 in my own parenting journey.
Sometimes people ask me how I stay so patient with all of these kids constantly surrounding me. I know it may sound strange, but the simple answer is, I prayed for it.
When Layla, my nine year old, was a toddler, I struggled mightily with impatience. Her natural two-year-old behaviors would send me over the edge sometimes. I would snap at her, lose my cool and basically come unglued when she would disobey, push the boundaries or throw tantrums. I DID NOT have the patience to deal with that.
I soon realized that I didn’t want to be the mom constantly yelling at her kid, but I didn’t know how to combat that switch in my head flipping so fast. I tried deep breathing, self-help books, you name it, but, as usually happens for me, the last (and most effective) thing I did, was pray. I had heard any number of people say that patience was a horrible thing to pray for. “If you pray for patience, God will give you things to build your patience.” That may be true, but I already had a crazy two year old, so unless I really wanted God to take her from me, I needed to learn to adjust my own attitude so I could deal with her lovingly and effectively.
So I prayed for patience. Sometimes once a week, sometimes once a day, and sometimes multiple times a day. When Layla would refuse to do something I said after I had asked her what felt like 5,000 times, I would pray for patience. When she would throw a tantrum in the middle of the store because I wouldn’t buy her gummy bears, I would pray for patience. When she decided to run away from me in the parking lot I ran after her, hauled her over my shoulder, dumped her screaming body in the car seat, then shut the door and prayed for patience before I touched her again.
Over time I noticed progress. It was imperfect progress, but definitely progress. I would still get irritated by the toddler tantrums, but I would no longer tumble into anger. I could finally calmly sit and wait out a melt-down instead of melting down myself.
Fast forward six to eight years…
The other day we were running late so I decided to give all four kids a bath at the same time. Yes, we have a large tub, and no, it’s really not big enough to fit all four kids. This wasn’t one of my smartest ideas, but sometimes logic is sacrificed to expedience.
Me: Gwen, please stop dancing around the bathroom and get in the tub…Syd, here’s your shampoo. Scrub your hair…no, all of your hair…yes, even your bangs…No, Calvin, we don’t stand up in the bathtub…Gwen, come here and let me get the soap out of your hair…Calvin, sit down…Gwen, please don’t splash your sister in the face…Layla, grab the baby, he’s trying to climb out on your side…Oh my goodness, that’s too much shampoo. Is that how much you usually use?…Gwen, stop splashing Sydney in the face…Calvin, no, on your bottom…Ok, everyone rinse…Gwen, rinse YOURSELF only…Calvin, sit – for the love, just come here. I’ll get the towels…Well darn, I guess I forgot to do the laundry…
Something that would have sent me screaming into a dark room to huddle in the corner with my hands over my ears eight years ago, was accomplished with NO yelling. None.
The moral of this story? In my experience praying for patience is a good thing – just don’t expect it to come overnight.