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An easier parenting solution to the try hard life

As is normal in most families, or at least this is what I tell myself, we face seasons where peace seems a lofty wish. Siblings bicker more than normal, and we see hints of deeper heart issues needing to be addressed.

I have a stack of index cards filled with verses for such occasions. I’ve been known to pull out a card, read the verse, discuss with the kids, even have them write it several times. But they are getting older, and these methods don’t have the same effect as they did when they were younger. And this leads to me seeking control in an area I have no control.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may remember I posted a picture of a verse I’d written on the chalkboard in our mudroom.

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3

We gathered for a family meeting recently to discuss any issues we each feel weighing on us. A theme I’ve seen is what feels like a lack of love, which creates fights and hurtful words to be tossed about. After we each shared our thoughts, we prayed and went about our day.

I felt discouraged honestly. God brought to mind my favorite parenting book by Paul David Tripp titled Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. In his book he reminds us that God never tasked parents with the job of heart change. That is God’s job and absolutely 100% impossible for us.

The harder we try to change a person’s heart, the more discouraged we find ourselves. Only God can change a heart. In his book, Tripp tells us our role is to reflect the Savior and point our kids to their need for a Savior over and over and over again. Not in a preachy, Bible-beating way, but in a way that shows our deep love for them.

As I remembered my role in the lives of my kids, I opened up my lesson for the day with Community Bible Study. This year I’m a core group leader for our local CBS. We are currently in the book of Philippians. In the commentary that day the theme was “Christ – The Supreme Model” from Philippians 2:1-11. This sentence jumped off the page, “The letter reflects Paul’s deep concern about their lack of love and unity, but instead of exhorting them to try harder to be more loving, he directs their attention to Christ as the perfect example of living.”

Well, about an hour prior Steve and I sat our kids down telling them how they needed to try harder to love each other better. Yet, here I sat at my kitchen table hearing the Holy Spirit gently reminding me of a better way. Not only was God showing me that telling my kids to try harder was useless, He was reminding me for myself as well.

Out of my love for Jesus and my kids, I was caught in a try hard cycle. Again. It’s a weakness of mine. I see a problem and want to fix it right away. So I get to work. But when it’s matters of the heart, I simply wear myself out until My Savior whispers me away and gently pulls me back into Him.

He’s so kind like that. He hears my cry, and He responds. He reminds me of how He loves my kids more than I do. They are His not mine. I’ve been tasked to steward this job well in Him, but I’m not responsible for the results.

There’s freedom in understanding this. When I walk in this understanding, fear can’t have its way in my parenting. Parenting from fear and frustration never ends well.

I’ll need this reminder again. But for today I’m grateful I can rest in my Savior. His grace is available in our hardest parenting moments. We simply need to reach out and accept what He’s offering us. He won’t force us. He’s too gentle for that.

 

 

 

 

 

On Raising Teens & Some Great Resources

 

 

I’ve never bought into the world’s view of parenting through the teenage years. I cringe when I hear people say, “Just wait til they’re teens.” Or worse, “When they are teens, they won’t want to be with you.” I don’t like generalizations.

I’m careful the words I speak aloud. Words can bring life or death. Words are powerful. Words are like seeds looking for a place to grow and bear fruit. If I speak words of doom over my family in any season of life, I am planting and preparing for exactly that.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21

I also want to protect my kids from believing lies. Kids tend to live up to what people believe of them. If a teen begins to feel that everyone thinks he will or should rebel, maybe he will. If he thinks that all adults think his opinions mean nothing, maybe he will believe it himself and look elsewhere to be heard. If a teen feels that adults think all teens are lazy, maybe he will start living into that belief.

I want my teens and soon-to-be-teens to know that I value them as a person and soon-to-be-adult. I want to speak into their potential, growth, and gifts. I want them to stand taller because they believe the ones around them see the best in them and believe in them. More than anything I want them to begin to learn who they really are in Christ. Not who their friends think they are, but who God says they are.

We are in the very beginning of a new and beautiful stage of life. A season I’m excited to enter and desire to treasure every bit as much as the baby, toddler, and elementary ages. Each stage of life, Steve and I have believed it to be the best. We’ve told each other it doesn’t get better than this. Then it does.

It keeps getting better. Not easier. But better. Fuller, richer, deeper, closer. Hard? Yes. Heart wrenching at times? Yes. More to come? You bet. Is Christ at the center still? Yes. Each new season we enter finds us pressing in closer to Christ. Leaning in and clinging. And I can’t think of a better place to be than right here with my Savior.

I’ve written and spoken over the last several years that life is a journey.  We are heading towards destination Eternity. The moment by moments of life matter. They are creating something. A look-back. When I look back over my parenting years, what will I remember? What will they remember? Have you ever noticed that in the middle of a family vacation or outing, it might not seem spectacular. But when you look back on pictures or spend time thinking over the memories, this is the point when you fully appreciate that time spent together. The memories and experiences seem to sweeten with time and space. I try to remember that when the days feel monotonous or unbearably difficult.

Just like these kids are constantly changing, so am I. Or at least I should be. And because of this need to change with my kids, I’m back to reading a new supply of parenting books. I’ve shared a few of these on Instagram and want to share here for you.

The two I just completed listening to and can’t recommend enough are Parenting and 5 Love Languages of Teenagers. Please put these on the top of your summer reading list. Parenting is for all stages of parenting. Read it and allow your perspective to be radically transformed and wait for the freedom to wash over your daily interactions. I am not typically a non-practical book lover. This book does not give you practical strategies, but you need this message! And 5 Love Languages of Teenagers is excellent. Fast read! I listened in the crevices of my days.

Parenting : 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp

( I listened to the Audible version of Parenting)

The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers : The Secret To Loving Teens Effectively by Gary Chapman

(Audible version here)

 

On my “To read next” list:

Have a New Teenager by Friday : From Mouthy and Moody to Respectful and Responsible in 5 Days by Kevin Lehman

(If you want the Audible version here you go)

Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide To Parenting Teens by Paul David Tripp

Parenting Teens With Love and Logic: Preparing Adolescents For Responsible Adulthood

Middle School: The Inside Story by Cynthia Tobias and Sue Acuna

I love Kevin Lehman’s books. His humor and practical, no-nonsense approach to parenting have helped me tremendously. I love everything Paul David Tripp writes and I’ve never read a Cynthia Tobias book I didn’t like. I am confident these will all be worth the time and money spent soaking in the wisdom, guidance, and encouragement.

While I’m filling my mind with encouragement and excitement for these years, I’m keenly aware how fast they will flee. My oldest will be 14 in the fall. We are entering the 4th quarter of the years we have with him, Lord willing. 13 1/2 years have zipped by despite every effort to make the most of it all. Despite the fact that we are all in, making memories, shepherding hearts, loving hard and loud, time refuses to slow down.

Our desire is to end well. End the season, the race, the game of the parenting years under our roof well. Even if you didn’t start well, each day is a fresh start. End better than you started. The end of one thing is always the beginning of something else on the horizon.

Thank you, God, for the gift and calling of parenting. Make us wise for the task you’ve called us to. Strengthen us to do the hard work. Soften hearts. Break down walls and pride. Grow love in new spaces of our hearts. Create in us a pure heart. Give us a vision to parent with the gospel at the center.

 

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