5 Tips For Becoming The Mother You Want To Be

Being a mother is a beautiful gift that can bring joy and fulfillment to our lives. Sometimes, though, we let the burdens and failures of motherhood make us feel inadequate and guilty. We get caught up in the fact that we don’t measure up or that others are doing a “better job,” and we can become critical of our efforts.

It’s okay. We’re all in the same boat here.

My sister has a magnet on her refrigerator that sums up how I’ve often felt. It says:

pabloLet’s face it—parenting is easy until we have kids. Once we do, we realize how little we know and wonder if we’ll ever figure it out.

As we head into the new year, please take a minute to remind yourself that you love your children more than anyone else could and that you are enough for them. Settle that first.

Then, we can look for areas we’d like to improve. And it’s never too late. Whether our kids are adults or are still in the baby stage, there is always hope.

So here are 5 tips to help on your road to being the mom you want to be.

1—Pray. This is my starting point for everything. I have 4 children, two of whom are adults, and I still find myself wondering what in the world I’m doing most of the time. I ask God regularly for ways I can improve and He is good at whispering His ideas into my mind throughout the day. He promises to give us His wisdom generously and “without finding fault,” (James 1:5). But He won’t intrude, so you have to invite Him.

2—Focus on one area you’d like to improve. Just one. Let’s say you’d like to have more fun with your kids. Maybe you could take an hour one day a week to go to a park or playground, or maybe take 20 minutes a few times a week to play a favorite board game. Once you feel you’re doing well in this area, then focus on the next. Tackling more than this can be overwhelming and defeating.

3—Find a mentor and learn from her. I have always enjoyed time with moms more experienced than me. It has helped me find ways to deal with challenges, and it has offered me hope to know that the “great moms” I look up to mess up also. One thing to keep in mind though is that you are you. You can benefit from the advice of experienced moms and learn from their mistakes, but take what suits your personality and parenting style without trying to be someone you’re not.

4—Take time every day to connect with your child emotionally. Hugs, smiles, and relaxed chitchat do wonders for our relationships. We never have to look very hard for opportunities to “train” our children, which means we are likely either telling them what to do or correcting them for what they didn’t do. Every moment can become an exercise in “character development”, which to them may translate into criticism.

During those times, my son used to give me this advice (which made me want to pinch his lips shut at the time, and still does actually). It was simply, “Chill Out Mom”—GRRRR! It was so annoying, but it was also great advice.

5—Have regular family meetings. Children often feel like they don’t have a voice about all the things that concern them. If there are regular times to come together to talk about what needs to be different and what is working, then everyone feels more valued. Teamwork is established and the family becomes a unit rather than the “parents against the kids” mentality and vice versa. My only advice here is to establish rules of respect. It can’t be a bash session on anyone, but rather a time of open communication where everyone feels safe to share without criticism or anger, whether they are agreed with or not. These times of sharing give great insight into your children’s hearts as well as communicate to them their importance.

Remember that failure is an integral part of the journey to any success. Parenting is no different, so look at failures as opportunities and let them teach you, not paralyze you. As we enter the new year, I hope you will embrace motherhood without fear of failure but instead with the expectation of becoming more like the mother you always wanted to be.

Happy New Year!

I’d love to hear from you. What is it you think you do best as a mother? What do you know you need to work on?

 

 

 

10 Do’s and Don’ts When Your Child (Or Teen) Is Angry–Part 2

thumb_IMG_4772_1024One of the most critical tasks we have as parents is to teach our children to handle life’s wounds and injustices (real or perceived) in healthy ways rather than with reactive emotions. By teaching this vital skill, we help ensure healthier relationships as they become better equipped to handle conflict constructively.

Unfortunately, it is far too easy to allow our children’s emotional eruptions to push our buttons, causing us to meet their anger with our own rather than with compassion and love.

In part 1, we talked about 5 things not to do when your child is angry (Click to read part 1). This time let’s look at 5 things we can do that will help our children and us get through a meltdown a little more effectively:

1—Do acknowledge your child’s feelings and be empathetic. Validating your child’s feelings doesn’t mean you are saying he is right. It is simply letting him know you understand and care. It just as easy to say, “I understand how hurt you are and I’m sorry, ” as it is to say, “What’s your problem? You’re making a big deal out of nothing.” The first builds trust while the latter builds defenses.

2—Do establish boundaries for behavior and consequences for ignoring them. Being upset can not be used as an excuse for poor behavior. While we have to set the example of grace and compassion when tensions run high, we cannot allow our children be abusive to things or people. In our family, it is not okay to call names, hit anyone or anything, or break things. Respect for people and property is still a must and ignoring that comes at a cost. Better to learn that in the safe environment of home than the larger context outside of it.

3—Do talk with your child when things have settled and apologize if you mishandled the situation. Take the opportunity to teach that emotions are important and that even as adults we have to work at sharing them in healthy ways. We want to avoid the extremes of either burying them or puking them all over people. The first destroys you, while the latter destroys others.

4—Do spend lots of time enjoying your child. A filled up emotional tank goes a long way toward preventing and diffusing over-the-top emotions. I find that when I’m the busiest and need the most cooperation is when things are most apt to go haywire. That’s because children just need us. Give them plenty of what they need and they will more likely do the same.

5—Do keep the goal in sight and pray for the road to be smooth. Remember that our goal is not to have perfectly behaved children who make us feel like, and look like, good parents. Our goal is to train up healthy, well-adjusted adults who love and serve others. That doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey, but one that lots of love and a good measure of consistency makes considerably more enjoyable.

Mamas, we’re not perfect and we won’t get it right every time, but with a little intentionality and a lot of prayer, we can enjoy the fruits of watching our children manage their emotions in ways that deepen, not destroy, relationships.

You are not alone! I am praying for you, and if you let me know specific needs I will lift each of them personally. Hugs Mamas. You are doing a tough job and it is all worth it!

For Deeper Reflection:

As I said, this was an area of struggle for me. It wasn’t until I began to sow the word of God in my heart that true transformation took place. I hope you don’t mind if I share some of them with you here. Perhaps they’ll do the same for you.

Ephesians 4:26 In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.

James 1:19-20 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Proverbs 14:29 (NLT) People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.

Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:18 A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Do’s and Don’ts When Your Child (Or Teen) Is Angry–Part 1

thumb_IMG_4772_1024Let’s face it—to parent is to sacrifice. It starts from the beginning. We mamas go through backaches, weight gain, sleepless nights, and intense pain just to bring our children into the world. We pass on job opportunities, social engagements and even hot meals in order to nurture them. And then one day, they have the nerve to yell at us and say we don’t understand, or we don’t care, or that they don’t like us? Really?

There are few things as painful to a parent as hurtful words from our children and it is easy to take them personally and launch an attack of our own.

Let me say publicly that I failed often in this area with my oldest children as I allowed their emotions to pull me into battle. I’m grateful for the growing understanding that God created us as emotional beings and, in and of themselves, emotions are not wrong. However, our emotions are also subject to our fallen nature and therefore can get out of control.

Our job then, as parents, is to help our children be good stewards of their emotions in order to produce God-honoring results. So how do we do that?

First, here are some “Don’ts” I’ve learned along the way:

1—Don’t take it personally. Having your own meltdown will only make you stoop to your child’s level and say hurtful things as well.

Our children, and even teens, need to know that they can count on us to be the calm in the midst of their chaos. They need the security of knowing they can trust us with their emotions without fear of our own.

2—Don’t get in your child’s face. I’m sure you know what I mean. Somehow we think that if we get close enough, point our finger the right way, or put our hands on our hips and speak in that ever-so-stern manner then surely they will get it together. Can we just admit that’s dumb? When someone is headed off the emotional cliff, it’s best to back up and back off, seeking to gain understanding rather than control.

3—Don’t try to reason with your child in the heat of a meltdown. Trying to make an upset child think rationally won’t work and will just frustrate both of you. Decide to just take a break to cool off and revisit the subject later.

4—Don’t send them to their room to cool off. I know this seems like a great tool because it can diffuse the immediate situation, but if used often, it can encourage misguided thoughts and can produce poor problem-solving skills.

Isolation allows children to dwell on their feelings and reach wrong conclusions rather than solutions. Our job is to teach them to stay connected and work on relationships despite painful emotions. We don’t want our children to form the habit of avoiding or disconnecting from difficult situations, but rather staying engaged toward resolution.

5—Don’t give consequences in the middle of a meltdown. Chances are, the consequence is likely not going to match the offense and your child will become more frustrated. When you and your child are calm, consider appropriate consequences. A simple “I’m sorry you were so angry, but I can’t let you get away with screaming and slamming doors, ” is a great way to convey the importance of not allowing our emotions to govern our behavior.

Remember, Mama, you make a difference. What you don’t do is just as powerful as what you do. I hope you’ll come back next week for Part 2 as we continue the conversation with the 5 things To Do when your child is angry.

Do you struggle with how to handle your child’s meltdowns and subsequent hurtful words or behavior? I’d love to hear about what works for you.

 

 

 

 

Kim’s Jeans

Candy Abbott, Executive Director of Mothers With a Mission

Candy Abbott, Executive Director of Mothers With a Mission

Although my daughter is now the mother of two teenagers, I vividly remember a day when she was twelve that helped me learn to recognize God’s voice. It was a simple matter, really. She needed new jeans for her sixth grade class trip to the Smithsonian Institute the next day. In a sudden growth spurt, she had shot up two inches and could hardly bend over in her old ones. For a month, I’d been promising to get her a new pair, and I was down to the wire.

At that time in my life, I had another mission, too: to get better acquainted with the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Every morning, I climbed the stairs to our attic for some alone time with the Lord. If you’ve seen the movie, War Room, you’ll have an idea of how serious I was about this. I called it my “prayer closet” where I used The Helper, a book by Catherine Marshall, as my devotional guide.

The page open before me that morning was “He Saves Me Time,” so I prayed that I’d be able to find Kim some jeans that fit and still get to bed on time (not only for her benefit but also for mine since I was one of the chaperones). Before leaving my attic prayer closet, my eyes rested on these words from pages 75–77:

Lord Jesus, so often I ignore or ride roughshod over these strong inner feelings supplied by the Spirit. . . . What is willfulness in me, Lord, change . . .  Nothing could be more foolish than thinking I know better than You do. Help me this day, no matter how busy I get, to listen and to obey.

I worked as a secretary at Delaware Technical & Community College, and things were fairly slow at the office, so my thoughts drifted back to the day’s lesson. Would the Lord save me time if I could actually recognize and heed the voice of His Spirit? Around 11:00, I began to toy with the idea of using some overtime hours to make a quick run to the Salisbury mall to look for Kim’s jeans. My boss was in a meeting, so I arranged for someone to cover my desk. I’m sure he won’t mind, I rationalized, and it sure will save me time. Off I went.

The 45-minute ride was, in a word, harrowing. I hardly ever speed, but I did that day. My thoughts kept time with the speedometer as I raced along. If it was difficult for me to recognize the Lord’s voice in the quiet of my home, how could I ever hope to hear Him with cars and trees whizzing by my window?

My heart tugged and told me not to go, but I tried to ignore it. Wonder if that nagging feeling is God’s inner nudge? No, I countered, it’s probably just my guilty conscience because I didn’t get the official okay. Besides, I asked God to save me time, and this looks like a golden opportunity time-saver.

“Listen. Don’t go,” the tug repeated. My heart thumped, but I sped on.

Rounding the bend, an inner voice cautioned, “Turn back; it’s not too late.”

“Is that You, Lord?” I couldn’t be sure. “If it is, please bear with me.” Was I guilty of ‘riding roughshod’ over the strong inner feelings supplied by the Spirit? Maybe I shouldn’t buy Kim’s jeans without having her along to try them on. As I reconsidered my excursion, the internal struggle eased a bit. My mind is made up! I insisted. Again, something grabbed at my gut as I pressed on the accelerator.

“Turn back, turn back, turn back,” the voice seemed to echo.

“Lord,” I prayed, “if this is You and You’re trying to keep me from having an accident or something, please make it clear.”

“You’re speeding.”

“I know. I’ll slow down.”

“Go back. Don’t waste your time.”

“Lord, I’m sorry if I’m being bull-headed, but it’s too late to turn back now; I’m over halfway there. Besides, this will be a good test. If I don’t find any jeans in Kim’s size, then I’ll know it was Your voice after all. On the other hand, if I’m successful, then I’ll chalk this up to a vivid imagination. Either way, I’ll learn something. Thank You, Lord, for seeing me safely through this experiment.”

I rushed into the store and before my eyes stood a rack of 12-Slims, just what I was looking for. I scooped a pair of designer jeans off the rack and onto the sales counter where the cashier was quick to accept my credit card. I signed the form in haste, not paying any attention to the total.

An ear-splitting alarm sounded the moment my foot passed through the door on the way out. I jumped but, knowing I had paid, kept on walking, although I could hear a distant voice calling, “Ma’am, oh, ma’am.” When I turned around to see who was in trouble, the sales lady was racing toward me!

“What have I done?” My face flushed as she reached for the bag I was holding. She had forgotten to remove the security device from my purchase, and, although I was innocent of any wrongdoing, I had this eerie feeling that I’d been caught.

On the return trip, I concluded it must not have been the Lord’s voice to turn around, after all. My mind must have been playing tricks on me. The jeans were easy enough to find, and there were no traffic complications. Back at the office, everything was fine. I was relieved but a bit puzzled about that inner tug. I really had hoped that it was the Lord.

But surprise, the jeans didn’t fit! They were even tighter than Kim’s old ones. My heart skipped wildly.

“So it was You, after all! That is what You sound like.”

About that time, as if the ill-fitting jeans weren’t proof enough, I noted the sales slip and the outrageous price I’d paid. “Thank You, Lord, for convincing me. Next time, help me not to doubt Your voice and to be more obedient.”

Kim and I went shopping together that night, as originally planned. But this time, there was a difference. I was tuned in to the Lord’s voice, and I wasn’t racing around in a panic.

“You know where today’s sales are, Lord. Where should we go?”

“Dover.”

“Okay, here we are; which shopping center?”

“This one.”

“Which store?”

“This one.”

We drove into the parking lot and walked leisurely into the nearest store where Kim and I discovered a half-price sale and three pair of jeans that didn’t pinch, pull, sag, bag, or need to be hemmed. We were home and tucked into bed that night by 9:15.

Eventually, I returned the unwanted jeans to Salisbury. Some might say, “What a waste,” but I say, “What a workshop!” So many glorious lessons came out of that experience. It was almost as though God had enrolled me in a special “mobile classroom.” The return trip provided valuable time for reflection. Never again will I think that God is too busy with important things to be bothered with my trivial concerns. Not only did I learn that the Holy Spirit cares enough to save me time, but I know He’s big enough to pay attention to the tiniest detail and tolerant enough to deal with my clumsy experiments.

We don’t need good hearing to detect the Lord’s voice, just a sensitive, willing heart. I actually think the Holy Spirit delights in providing sensitivity training. Although the voice may be still and small, it is near. In fact, Luke 17:21 says, “The kingdom of God is within you”—in our very own hearts, souls, and minds.

But thoughts can be tricky. Not all inner nudges, promptings, impulses, or impressions come from God. The handcuffed, suicidal maniac I saw on the news who insisted, “God told me to do it!” as he was being thrust into the back seat of a squad car was responding to the voice of the god of destruction, not the God of heaven.

How can we be sure it’s God’s voice we’re hearing? Examine what the voice tells you in light of God’s attributes. I compiled the following checklist as a tool to test the validity of any inner leading I may have. Let the truth of these points sink deep into your heart, soul, and mind.

Checklist for Hearing God

  1. God will never lead me astray.
    He won’t ask me to do anything immoral, unethical, corrupt, vicious, dishonest, unkind, or unbecoming. If my morals or integrity are jeopardized in any way, the voice cannot be His. He is a God of righteousness.
  2. God will never violate His Word.
    He will never ask me to do anything that is contrary to the Scriptures. Even if I can find a passage that seems appropriate, I must be careful not to twist it to suit my own needs but rather consider the context in which it was written. He is a God of honor.
  3. God will never cause confusion.
    He offers me peace, joy, and clarity of mind. If I am experiencing anxiety or confusion, it is probably because of my own pandemonium, worldly pressure, or some unholy spirit—which I promptly and deliberately reject. He is a God of order.
  4. God will never bring condemnation.
    He is compassionate, righteous, and just. While He insists on confronting me with my own sin and shortcomings, He will not whip me with guilt. His desire is not to cripple but to lead me in the ways of repentance and restoration. His trademark is not incrimination but forgiveness. He is a God of mercy.
  5. God will never entertain discouragement.
    He builds me up and calls forth courage. He does not throw in the towel, promote defeat, or look for easy escape routes. He offers power and victory, no matter how bad a mess I get myself into. He is a God of hope.
  6. God will never contradict Himself.
    His message will never be in conflict with His nature that is comprised of unconditional love coupled with unwavering justice. God is love, and His Word is truth. Christ’s character and His law will always be reflected in the words His Spirit says. He is a God of conviction.
  7. God will never hurt me.
    He is the Great Physician—the healer and the restorer. He is the Good Shepherd—the seeker of lost sheep, the protector, and the guide. He is the Solid Rock—a ready fortress and refuge. He is a God of grace.

Morning by morning, O Lord, You hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before You
and wait in expectation
(Psalm 5:3).

The Ultimate Parenting Resource

The day was long and the night promised to be longer as I lay sobbing quietly next to my husband. I dared not wake him, afraid I’d have to confess the failed day with our son—a day of constant scolding and crying and putting division between his young heart and my own.

Eventually I rose, as I always did in such defeated moments, to scan the shelves for the perfect parenting book that would give me my next plan. As I stood bleary-eyed and hopeless, I uttered, more to myself than anyone else, “I need help.”

FullSizeRender-2Through the shadows of both the night and my own condemning heart, light penetrated with the words, “Ask Me.” I was not familiar then with “the still small voice” of God as I was rarely quiet long enough to hear it, but in that moment, I knew He had heard my pathetic plea and answered.

Although I’d cried without expectation, although I’d spent those early mothering years determined to do it my way, and although I rarely gave God the crumbs of my day let alone the first, He was there.

Psalm 145:18 promises, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” The truth was, I was weary and out of resources and in that great place of weakness, I was finally able to hear the treasures He longed to share, the insights on my child that only He could reveal as the ultimate parenting resource.

As I sat in silence before Him, His answer to my heart was simple. My son didn’t need a new game plan. He didn’t need more discipline or less structure. He simply needed eye-to-eye, hand-in-hand attention periodically throughout the day. That revelation changed our relationship instantly and forever. I learned that a hug was often all it took to diffuse a meltdown, and that a snuggle together with a book could transform a negative spirit for the rest of the day. God knew and now I knew simply by asking.

My son has since gone off to college, but I have three other children behind him that I still need personal guidance for. Sadly, I am often too self-reliant and have to be brought back to that night.

Through it, I am reminded that although there are many authors who know a great deal about children in general, only the author of my children knows them specifically. There are great books, many that have provided me with timely and wise advice, but my Father in heaven was and is the authority on my children, and He will never refuse to give me wisdom and direction when I ask for it.

I don’t know whether you believe in such a personal God, but I challenge you to test His word in James 1:5 which says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (NIV) He cares for you and your children, and you can trust every word He says.

This task of parenting is often a challenging and frightening one. I hope you know I’m on your side and that I have prayed for you today to find the answers you need that will bring peace and joy to your home. God Bless You!