Tough Seasons of Parenting
Tough Seasons of Parenting
How to Make It Through
When we are in the middle of each season of parenting, we think it’s going to go on forever. The day-to-day grind of child-rearing is frankly much like a series of ultra-marathons that we weren’t fully prepared for but have no choice but to push through till you finish. And like an ultra, parenting truly involves selflessly putting our head down and running our tail off for 16-20 years. At least, that’s what I found. It is a big sacrifice and a long race.
In spite of the rigorous demands of the race, I have fully loved parenting our children. But with each stage of child-rearing — infant, toddler, preschooler, the primary years, preteen, teenager or beyond —new surprises and challenges arise. When it’s good and the kids are tracking with you and cooperating with your best parenting plans, it is really good. Wow. You love your role. You run with ease. This is how it is supposed to be. This season can go on forever. You LOVE this stage. You can do it.
But…when its bad, and your parenting skills are being fully taxed and your perfectly crafted plans are completely failing – it can be really, really bad. Each parenting step is uncertain and unsteady. You run because you have to not because you want to. You are now both exhausted and exasperated.
I can relate. First there’s the infant who relentlessly won’t stop crying no matter what motions or movements you try – walk, rock, swing, bounce, cuddle. There’s no comforting that works and you’re pooped. Then it’s the toddler that throws up in the night the 3rd time but this time their puke went all over the sleeping little brother. Really? Then, there’s the time that the preschooler takes an orange sharpee and writes all over four walls of your living room. Great. The eight minutes of unsupervised play creates 8 hours of work for you! Full repaint needed. Unbelievable! Then, the preteen who takes an Indiana Jones type bull whip to school to take on a bully. Seriously? Who taught him that? Oh ya, how about the teen who forges signatures of teachers to get out of certain classes in high school. The call from the school was rather embarrassing. Did we teach them anything?
These were only some of our parenting challenges. And yes, looking back on them is far easier than being in the middle of them. With our four active and fully expressive, independently-spirited children, it would be fair to say that at least bi-weekly, we had some sort of discouraging or disappointing parenting blunder. Though we tried, many times, I know we didn’t handle hard parenting situations the right way.
You have your stories too. Complicating things, is when you end up saying and doing things that you would have never imagined possible to come from your lips or through your life. It might even scare you how you are handling some of these parenting challenges.
Yes, you’ve had some victories. They feel good. But boy, you’ve made some humdinger mistakes. And over time, with every new difficult parenting situation you face and don’t feel you’re winning on no matter what you try, you feel overwhelmed and fully done! You ask yourself, “When is this season going to end?” You don’t know what to do.
And your silent ‘Jesus help me’ confirms you’re at your end. At least, for most of us, we pray when that’s the only thing left we haven’t tried. Sometimes it gets so bad that you even regret being a parent. It’s not what you signed up for. Where do you go from here when you’re your parenting pains are by far dominating your parenting pleasures?
It’s into these tough times that I want to coach you. I will suggest some of my most practical tips to help you make it through the tough seasons of parenting. Depending on the stage your children are at, not every one of these ideas will apply. Remember also that the older your children are, the more pressure you are under to get it right — you are running out of time. May God give you grace to live out the ones that would change things for the positive.
Practical Tips to Keep You from Going Crazy
- GROW UP AS A PARENT: Be the parent. Be the adult. Your life wisdom should count for a lot. Many decisions won’t make you popular but they are still right. Let go of your need to be a friend to your kid. Be the wise and caring guide for their good.
- TIMEOUTS WORK: But they are mostly for you. Sure, it true that it helps out your child by separating them from other children or other distractions. It gives them time to think. But remember, it’s important for you make sure you are making your best moves at these most challenging times. Don’t just react. Slow down. Some of my best decisions as a parent were the ones I slept on overnight.
- TEAM PLANS WIN: Talk to your spouse. Merge your minds. Find your God-honouring balance. One parent is usually too strict and the other might be too lenient. Talk it through. Discuss options. Stay with it until you can find a balanced decision. Talk and act as one with your spouse to your child. Be sure to not act independently without unity and then expect your spouse to back you.
- NEVER PARENT IN ANGER: STOP! Calm down. Be sure your motives are right. Parent for their good not to make you look good. Train for what’s best for them and not your convenience. I will never forget the time when I was losing it with one of my teens. Donalyn kept urging me in the middle of the blow-up, “let it go, Dave, let it go!” I couldn’t and wouldn’t. I had to be right. Big mistake.
- TONE TRUMPS TRUTH: Lead with heart. Let your love come through. The older they get the more you have to urge not demand. Tone is everything. Listen to yourself. What is your attitude toward them saying? Are you demeaning? Criticizing? Condemning? Attacking? Rejecting? Belittling? Punishing? What are they hearing in your tone? Truth will not get through when your tone is wrong!
- CALL FOR BACK UP: Look for a significant other in your child’s life who can speak truth when you have lost your platform. Someone else can often say the very same thing but your kid listens to them and feels it was so profound. I have seen a rather strange re-occurrence in many teen-parent relationships. When the child gets around 14 or 15, the parent allegedly becomes ignorant. Then, for the next 5 years or so, the parent just doesn’t get it. But, that same parent somehow starts to come out of their brainless ignorance when the child hits their early 20’s and they often start to make some sense again. Strange phenomenon. Beyond looking for those significant others to influence your child, sometimes it’s wise to go to a parenting expert to help with your best next steps.
- FIND COMMON GROUND: The greater the relationship, the greater the influence. When parent-teen relationships go haywire, I have countless confused and anxious parents asking what should they should do. I ask this. “What are you doing with your pre-teen or teen that is neutral or positive?” Literally, they go, “What???” You need to find ways to keep connected to them through things you can do together that to the child is at least neutral or even better, positive about — meaning they like the activity. Don’t let the only weekly point of contact with your child be the negative stuff, the disappointments and the fights. Work hard to have fun.
- PRAY INTENTIONALLY: At the risk of sounding simplistic, embrace the truth that PRAYER CHANGES THINGS. Ask God for wisdom and strength for you. He will give it. Don’t respond in a tough situation before you and your spouse pray together about it. Ask the Lord for a softening in the heart of your child. Ask God to help you with the right tone. Humble yourself too and ask for prayer support from other trusted sources. There is no doubt in my mind that God’s wisdom overshadowed my resident pride and stubbornness many times in my parenting. Looking back, I can see how He answered my desperate prayers and stepped in to turn things around when challenges arose with one of the kids. Pray daily into their lives and then doubly during the tough times.
I’d love to hear from you on what you have found works for you in these tough seasons of parenting. You can ask your questions too. Take care and God bless.
© Dr. Dave Currie – June 2020