I sat there at the table in the restaurant with my two-year-old and stared in disbelief as he balled up his little fists and whined like his world was ending. His problem? He didn't want ice cream and he didn't want to play in the play-place. Actually, he didn't want anything. He just wanted to be mad. Normally I would have wanted to be mad back at him. But that night, God convicted me.
In the past I've been the mom that walked past the screaming child in the grocery store and disdainfully thought of the mom, "if only she'd discipline, she wouldn't have this problem." Then I had a toddler, a strong-willed, independent child who tests every boundary. A demanding little fellow who would throw himself on the floor screaming and wailing because we were only buying one bag of goldfish instead of two. There have been days filled with tantrum after tantrum and days where every noise that came out of his mouth was whining.
If I didn't believe in discipline, I might be more inclined to understand it. But, the fact is that we DO discipline. This is what has brought me many a time to the place where I want to just throw in the towel. It's the fact that I can discipline over and over for the same attitude and it keeps popping up here and there. There are days I feel like we take one step forward and two steps back and it leaves me weary. I know I'm not the only mom who's thought to herself, "this isn't working." Maybe it was the irony of throwing away a bowl still half full of perfectly good ice cream, but God in His goodness allowed me to take a step back that night and realize the need for great grace when raising a toddler.
First, there needs to be grace extended toward the child. Perhaps we’re approaching our discipline the wrong way. Every person is born into this world as a sinful being who needs a Savior. Instead of beating our children over the head with “don’t do this, don’t do that," what if we extend grace, because we know they lack the moral compass, and show them their need for Christ. Instead of viewing discipline as a way to take the bad out of our child, we should view it as an opportunity to pour goodness in. Extend to them the grace you would to an unbeliever you were trying to win over – because that’s what they are.
Second, give yourself grace.
"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." Galatians 6:9
When you are tempted to grow weary, think of the reward you will reap.
"I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth." 3 John 1:4
Those daily moments when you wonder if it’s worth it, if you’re even making a difference when you demand for the third time that your child sit still at the supper table, think of the eternal reward.
"Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." Colossians 3:23-24
It’s easy to lose sight of the reward when we’re parenting to have well-behaved children or impress other parents rather than parenting with a desire for our lives and our children’s lives to glorify God. We’re putting the pressure on ourselves to have our children become great men and women of God. While God uses us as tools in that process, our children ultimately have to stand before God for their own souls. Do not carry that burden, mommies; it was never meant for you to carry.
After we start with a basic groundwork of grace in relationships regarding our children, we must then make sure we are consistent. We must consistently require obedience and respect toward authority, but we must also consistently follow through with the consequences when there is not. I’m sure none of us would condone child abuse. However, when we define child abuse as angrily using physical force whenever we feel like it to get our child to do what we want them to do, isn’t discipline even in a godly home often frighteningly close to looking like this? How often do we deal out consequences angrily, only spank for disobedience when we feel like it or it’s convenient for us, and just demand that our child obey without any reason for our rules? Ah, but this is where we grow weary.
Here I have to stop and ask myself if it is a self-imposed weariness. I say I discipline consistently, but do I really? Can I not count the times I’ve ignored a wrong attitude or behavior in my child because it was an inconvenient time to deal with it? Or, the times I’ve responded to my angry child with an angry or frustrated spirit and tone? Then, too, when I discipline, am I doing it out of love? Am I doing it from the viewpoint of winning a lost soul for Christ? Am I doing it wholeheartedly for the Lord?
Parenting is hard. Being a stay-at-home mom is really hard. You give up things you never knew you’d have to give up (like just getting up and walking out the front door to go somewhere). God, in His great grace and mercy, knows this. Run to Him. There will be times when He will just hold you. He will refresh your soul and you will be able to press on yet another day. And then there will be times when He will stand you back up on your feet and remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing and Who you’re really doing it for. Extend and accept an extra dose of grace, press on, and do not lose heart. There is an eternal reward within reach, mommies.
For an extra dose of encouragement, I highly recommend THIS short video.