“I’m afraid to take him anywhere because I know it will end with my embarrassment.”
I read and reread her words several times before my fingers could move to type a response. Part of me wanted to cry out for all of humanity that we would EVER, as parents, think of our kids that way. And part of me knew the truth was that I had totally been there.
I’ve been that mom in the middle of the store wishing that the children throwing a fit around me would just somehow disappear and reappear as angelic beings. I’ve been embarrassed by the actions of my children and I’ve felt the shame of the “poor parenting” skills that caused all the heads in the store to turn our way.
But I’ve also been the mom who has wiped their every tear and held them through the things in life that no child should ever, EVER face. My embarrassment of their inappropriate behavior in public hasn’t ever been a reflection of my love (or rather, lack of love) for them. I just want them to behave. Is that so bad?
I found myself sitting there in front of the computer, tears streaming down my face, trying to encourage this sweet mom who had emailed me and at the same time, finding God’s grace whispering the truth about one of the hardest parts of parenting.
It’s not about me. <— Hey, did you read that? I don’t want to be the one to tell you this, but it’s not all about you either.
This parenting thing isn’t about training them to look good in front of others. That’s what they do in the circus.
These precious children that HE so graciously gave me – they are real people. Not robots. Not machines. Not circus monkeys. They are living, breathing, flesh-filled people. Just like Adam and Eve. Just like me. And they aren’t always going to “behave.” (That was as hard to type as it might be for you to admit to yourself.)
They are going to do stupid things. They are going to yell when it’s a really good time to be quiet. They are going to spill something that I told them not to touch. They are going to hit each other RIGHT after a long talk about loving your siblings. It’s going to happen.
I can’t force my kids to act a certain way in any situation, EVER. I can try to coax them with limited success and sometimes ridiculous bribes, but that’s not what I’m really after and I know that.
So what am I after? That is the question of the hour. My ultimate goal isn’t to raise children who make me look good. Which is a good thing, because I’d be in for a huge disappointment (just like every other parent).
That’s not my goal in parenting and I am guessing it’s not yours either. My heart’s desire is to raise godly children who love and serve those around them. I want to raise children who live their lives as an act of worship to the Savior and Creator of the universe. I’ll be honest, sometimes that seems a little far-fetched when you’ve got a toddler who just remodeled the house with a sharpie marker.
I promise, it’s not far-fetched. I know this because I know that God can be trusted. He has given us a high calling as parents, knowing that we are going to mess up and knowing that our children will too. He still gave that calling and we can rest assured that He will equip us for this job! (Hebrews 13:21)
Truths to Remember when Embarrassed
The next time we are faced with an embarrassing child situation, let’s remember these truths!
1. God is in control and I am not. I find that if I can remember that God loves these children more than I ever could, it’s so much easier to open my hands and let God fight the fight. It also takes the pressure off of me as a parent. I don’t have to look good for Him and the behavior of my children is not necessarily a reflection on all the time I have spent parenting. (Of course, sometimes it is my fault and I know that I need to change something.)
2. God is daily equipping me to train my children to walk with Him. I also find this truth to be a lifeline in those tense moments. Fear is a huge catalyst to anger. We can’t allow ourselves to be afraid that we can’t handle the situation. God will give us what we need when we need it.
3. Every parenting situation should point them to God. So train them in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), looking for that end goal of godly servants and not worrying quite as much about how nicely they walked next to the cart in the grocery store. I’m not saying we should let the kids run through the aisles screaming like banshees. We just need to always remember that the ultimate goal is salvation and a daily walk with God. Everything else is small stuff!
4. Real and effective discipline is actually daily discipleship. Let us never grow weary of teaching and training in every single moment of life. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” Deuteronomy 6:7.
If we are really going to change their behavior, their hearts must change.
5. We must teach them to WANT to obey. If we are really going to change their behavior, we have to help them change their hearts. I know it sounds like an oxymoron. It’s absolutely not. All people have to get to that place where we are willing to accept the authority God has put over us, or we will face grave consequences in our lifetime. We need to understand when and how to obey. We need to understand the importance of obedience.
I see this issue as a huge obstacle in today’s parenting. We are afraid of training our kids to be push-overs or to quietly face abuse at the hands of wicked leaders. Honestly, we should be. There is much in our country that I don’t want my children to blindly obey. They are never too young to understand when, how, and why they should obey and when, how and why they should NOT. If you are looking for a resource on this topic, you might enjoy this Bible study for children on obedience.
Your turn –> What truths do you rehearse when you are facing a challenging behavior situation?