When Parents Are Failing

Parents who fail. That’s what this blog is about. Written by my blogger friend Rosina Schmucker, it is real and raw. When we view someone else’s parenting, do we sit over, sit out, or sit beside them? Rosina blogs at https://arabahrejoice.com

What do you do when you think your friends are failing at parenting?

Of course, it’s easy to have all the answers about parenting before you’ve tried it out yourself. But suppose you have parented several children already, and what you see in other people makes you shake your head in despair?

Let me tell you a little secret. Having parented successfully does not make you an expert. The end.

Here’s why. You can follow basic guidelines for providing for your children’s needs, but it is impossible for one person to experience every possible parenting scenario. Children are all very different, and beyond that, some children are born with needs that go far beyond what you can put in the “different but normal” range.

However, the pressure to produce well-behaved, smart, socially-adept, flexible kids is high, and steadily increasing with the influx of media-sharing and sermon-sharing about how to raise the best kids possible.

While parents do need to learn all they can about how to raise their children, and it’s important to offer whatever resources they desire, I think many have forgotten the simple and powerful practice of sitting beside.

Let me explain from my own experience. My first child was unusual from the start. Although he was incredibly responsive and sweet at home, many times when we took him out he cried and cried.

I spent Sundays in the nursery trying to soothe a crying baby while the other ladies discussed the finer points of doctrine in Sunday school. After church I would ask Will what the sermon was about, because I usually missed most of it.

When we went to a friend’s house for a meal, the rest of the group laughed and chattered over their pizza while I sat in the bedroom with a crying baby, tears rolling down my own cheeks.

People noticed my cute baby, and they also noticed that something was wrong, but they could not see how fiercely I loved him and how hard I tried to take care of him. They could not see how alone I was.

Before communion at our church, we had a special service in which each of us had to meet with one of the preachers to talk about how our spiritual life was going. Our son was still a baby when Will and I unsuspectingly sat down and shared about our lives.

“I have a concern,” the preacher said. “Your son is too noisy in church, and I feel you perhaps are not disciplining him appropriately.” The rest of what he said was a blur, and although I’m sure he meant to be kind, I felt my cheeks burning in shame. How could we possibly begin to explain what we didn’t yet understand ourselves? That we knew there was something wrong, but we were pretty sure it wasn’t a discipline problem?

I’m not a person given to public displays of emotion, but I slipped to the coat rack in the back of the church foyer and burst into tears. Will and I collected our baby and quietly left for home.

Later we learned that our son was on the autism spectrum and had, among other issues, extremely sensitive hearing. Church services, especially the music, was physically painful for him, and that was why he cried. But we didn’t know this at the time, and going places became miserable.

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On one hand, some people were openly critical. They sat over us in judgment about all the wrong ways we were parenting. We heard sermons and topics and group discussions on how to properly raise children, with little sympathy for anyone with unique challenges.

Then there were also people who politely sat out. They were too kind to judge, so they carefully looked the other way when our son misbehaved. They maintained cheerful talk even when things were going badly, and pretended that we were fine. They did not offer judgment, but they did not either give us the support we truly needed.

We needed someone to sit beside us in the difficult place. And one Sunday, this happened.

I was in the nursery (again) with a crying baby (again). By this time, I had mostly resigned myself to spending my Sundays this way. I knew my baby was tired, and if he could just fall asleep, I might be able to get a little out of church. But he was overstimulated and could not fall asleep, so he wept.

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Partway through the sermon, the nursery door opened, and a youth girl slipped in. She smiled and asked kindly, “Do you need me to hold your baby?” I could feel the genuine sympathy and care flow from her heart and wrap like a mantle around me and my baby. I knew my child wouldn’t do well with a stranger holding him, so I told her that I just needed to hold him until he fell asleep.

But she didn’t leave. She settled into a rocking chair beside me, and talked to me in her sweet way. Within a few minutes, in the glow of her gentle presence, my son relaxed and fell asleep.

Several years went by, as Will and I loved and delighted in our child and did our best to take care of him. He was funny and frightfully clever–at five years old he could crack a side-splitting joke and accurately describe in great detail how a car motor works. But some things were so different for him, and the judgment never stopped coming. It got to the place where I felt skittish every time I saw a preacher drive in the lane, or heard a discussion on child training. I didn’t enjoy going out in public. And I felt incredibly alone.

I remember lying on my bed one Sunday afternoon, sobbing into my pillow and pleading God to send someone to come talk to me and encourage me in my parenting journey. I was too battered to reach out for help myself. “Send someone to talk to me!” I cried. But nobody came.

As our child got older, his emotional problems and developmental delays worsened. Then one evening we went to a big auction designated to raise funds for Haiti. The event consisted of lots of high-sugar foods, noise, excitement, people, and kids tearing around at breakneck speed. Our son’s motor amped up and up, until it was time to leave. Then his fuse blew, and he unleashed the worst tantrum I had ever seen.

As our son thrashed and raged on the floor, Will tried his best to gain control of him while a large circle of shocked onlookers stared in silence. I knew that a mental health therapist (who was also a family friend) was in the crowd, so I dashed off to him and asked him for help.

He came immediately, and went right to Will’s side. Together they were able to calm down our son enough to take him outside into the quiet darkness. The therapist sat with Will for a long time, talking with him and our son, offering hope and companionship.

As we drove home, Will and I both wanted to cry, because while everyone else either looked on in horror or looked away in polite denial, this man sat beside us and extended grace. Just as the young girl had that Sunday in the nursery, this therapist’s presence channeled the healing love of Jesus into our breaking hearts.

That is why I say that when you see your friends struggling with parenting, they don’t need you to sit over them in judgment. Chances are, anyway, that they are not failing as much as it appears. Likely they are facing challenges that require a unique set of skills. These parents are probably more resilient and courageous than you can imagine, and are crying to Jesus daily for wisdom. When you judge their parenting, you are essentially saying that you do not believe in who they are. You are saying that they are not worthy of raising their children.

Neither do they need you to sit out and ignore them. Ignoring sends the message that you are uncomfortable and unwilling to engage in the messy parts of their lives. It tells them that they are not worth noticing, not worth the effort to support. Ignoring says that you don’t care.

Struggling parents need their friends to willingly go to the center of their pain and sit beside them.

No pat answers, no disengaging, just sitting and holding their souls in the love of Jesus. This sitting-beside is what paves the road to redemption.

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

 I Corinthians 12:26 (ESV)

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Why Respect for My Husband Has To Be Earned – or Does It?

 

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A Stranger Noticed My Respect

The sun was streaming the day I pulled into the small town north of us and hopped out, ready to drive the new (to us) 15-passenger van home. Dave was there waiting for me, and he handed me the keys. We chatted for a few minutes and then Dave went to move our other vehicle out of the way. The owner and I continued chatting. I’d met him the week before when I had test-driven the van and our conversations were just normal run-of-the-mill talk.

I noticed that the owner watched me as I pulled out of his small business, checking carefully for traffic. I assumed he wanted to make sure I would make the turn okay out of his lot onto the highway. Soon I was sailing home, enjoying the ride and the drive.

That evening Dave told me that the owner had talked to him about me.

“George told me that he envies me,” Dave told me. “He said, ‘Not only can your wife wheel that 15-passenger van, she treats you with such respect and admiration.’ ”

This business owner (whose marriage was failing then) admitted that over the two times he’d met me, he noticed how I talked about my husband.

What had I said or done? I really don’t know.

I might have said something like “I’m waiting for my man,” or “He’s my favorite person in the world,” or “Doesn’t he take good care of me?”

When Dave asked me what I’d said to him, I had to stop and think about our conversation because I couldn’t put my finger on anything. I suppose that’s because the conversation didn’t seem unusual to me.

I rather like my man, and I don’t mind if folks know it. Somehow, during our conversations about possibly purchasing this vehicle, in whatever it was I said, that must have been evident.

I’m not always that good.  Oh no, I am not always that good.

Others Can Notice my Lack of Respect

I remember times (and I’m sure my kids can vouch) when I said things like, “I know you’re hungry. I have no idea where your father is.” I’ve said things like, “If he would only call, we could know if we should go ahead and eat supper or not.” I’m not saying that stating the reason would be wrong, but the attitude in which it is done is key.

There are times I’ve failed to honor and respect the man to whom I’m married. I can blame tiredness, illness, being frazzled, or any number of things. Or if I’m honest, I can blame selfishness, impatience, or frustration. The fact remains that I choose how I will respond and what I will say. Like all the other wives in the world, there are times when I’ve majorly blown it.

I like to think that I have gotten better over the years. I like to think that I’ve grown up since the first years of our marriage. I like to think that I recognized the seriousness of doing what the Bible says: reverence my man. In today’s terms, that word would be “respect”.

Respect Does Not Have To Be Earned

We tend to think we only need to show respect when our spouse deserves it. He has to earn it, we say. You know, when he’s doing everything right and is meeting my needs and unselfishly yielding what he wants to do. We tend to think we only have to respect his role if he’s honest, kind, and faithful. If he meets our needs, then he deserves respect. He’s supposed to be a leader, so he’ll get respect when he rises to the occasion and takes charge as we think he should.

The problem with that scenario is that it doesn’t work that way if we’re following what God says. You see, God said that marriage is a symbol of Christ and the church. The husband (symbolic to Christ) is to love his Bride just like Christ loved the church (which means he is willing to die for his bride). The wife (symbolic of the church)  “must see that she reverences her husband.”

Well now, that doesn’t sound like it comes naturally.

It doesn’t. Come on, folks, if it came naturally we wouldn’t even need to be instructed in it!

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Respect is a Conscious Choice

Truly, respect is a choice we make.

I rather figure if I got paid a million bucks for being positive and respectful (even if I was sick, tired, feeling negative or frustrated with him) I’d find some good things to say without having to search too hard. You would, too. There you have it.

I reckon with the fact that, as emotional women, it’s easier to respect someone if there’s something there to respect. It’s easier to show respect if someone “deserves it.” It’s easier to be respectful if the person has our approval and admiration.

But. Yes, but.

We do not have a choice if we want to do marriage the way God designed it to be. That’s because God’s Word tells women to respect and reverence their husbands. It gives us no “IFs” to consider. We are called to respect.

  • Not IF he deserves it.
  • Not IF he asks for it.
  • Not IF we agree with him.
  • Not IF there is anything in him to respect.

Men need Respect Over Love and Sex

We respect because of his position and his title in our family/relationship. We respect because, in the same way that Christ is the head of the church, the man (husband) is ordained by God to be our head.

Respecting him does not mean I applaud him when he is wrong.

Respecting him does not mean I defend him to others.

Respecting him does not mean I go along with his desires if they conflict with God’s requirements in His Word.

There’s a reason God did not instruct us specifically to love our men.  There’s a reason God instructed us to respect our men. Men are wired for respect.

It matters more to them than money or fame. It matters more than love. It matters more than sex. If you don’t believe me, google it. I found so many links and studies that I didn’t know where to start.  You can click right here and it will take you to Google’s finds on “Does a man want respect more than sex?” Not all of these links are from a Christian perspective, but it’s interesting to note that a relationship with God doesn’t change their need one iota.

[I’m not saying sex isn’t important to a man. It is, even when marriage is hard. To read about that, you can go here.]

Men need our respect in public as well as in private. It might be a good idea to ask your man if he feels respected by you. If he says yes, then ask him what you do that shows respect. It will help you keep doing what you are doing right. If he says no, then ask him to tell you what you can do that will make him feel respected.

Here are some things wives do that show a lack of respect:

  • rolling my eyes
  • avoiding looking at him
  • ignoring what he is saying or doing
  • refusing to help him, especially when he asks – finding his keys, his socks, his glasses
  • speaking negatively to him
  • speaking negatively about him to others (including my kids)
  • not speaking positively about him to my kids or to others
  • deliberately doing things that not have his support
  • doing what I want instead of checking with him first – especially when I know that he would not feel good about it
  • frequently correcting him in public (when the details are unimportant)
  • telling him how to do something that is not my responsibility
  • questioning his judgment in front of others

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Choosing to Respect is Well Worth the Effort

In marriage (or any other relationship), it’s easiest to wait for the other person to be intentional. It’s easy to expect someone else to make the first move. Yet, easy isn’t always what is best or right.

I find that the oftener I do something, the easier it becomes. Sometimes we have to make that conscious effort to do what is right because God asks it of us.  Not so surprisingly, when we start looking for things to respect, we will keep finding them.

Choosing to respect is so worth the energy and the effort. It might not change my spouse, but it will certainly change me!

 

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How to Help Your Child Be a Daniel in School

be a Daniel

No matter where your child goes to school, he can learn to be a Daniel.

No matter who your child’s peers or friends are, there will be peer pressure. Whether your child is in homeschool, private school, church school, or public school, there will be peer pressure. We see it, not only in families and churches but in society at large. It is a part of life, and pretending that it does not exist is one of the greatest detriments to our families.

Dave and I chose to have our children in public schools in our county. This worked for us because of the community and county in which we lived. It might not work for you, and it might not be what you choose to do. No matter where your child goes to school, he will likely run into a conflict – either with an adult or a fellow classmate – at some time during his education. Even if he is homeschooled, he will experience peer pressure in church, sports, or other social events. That’s the way our enemy works.

be a Daniel

The principles of teaching our children to be a “Daniel” are true no matter how we choose to educate our children.

As we teach and train our children, we must constantly measure our instruction with God’s word. Is what we are teaching plumb with His Word? Is the bubble right in the middle or it is off to the side?  Our measure is His word and not those around us, even if they are family, friends, or church folks.

Our children are all we can take with us to Heaven. They are our greatest responsibility.  How can we send them out into the world to be inundated with the philosophy of ungodly wisdom? How can we expect them to dare to be a Daniel when their peers are moving with the crowd? How does a parent train and guide a child as he/she makes decisions which could affect the rest of his life? How, especially, can parents ask their kids to be different from their cousins or church friends?

Every parent knows the scripture in Proverbs 22:6. “Train up a child in the way he should go [according to his bent] and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

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Training is More Than Protection

Training is a life-long process. The purpose of this process is to develop an understanding and conscience against evil and a desire to do good.

In our effort to protect our children, we often fail to recognize that protection does not make a person stronger. All of earth’s nature tells us that! Children who are allowed to get dirty develop a greater resistance to bacteria and germs than those who are sequestered away from normal childhood dirt. Children who have learned to face new situations adapt better than those who always have someone working out the wrinkles for them.

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It’s true that we should never “throw our kids to the wolves”, but we can help them develop battle plans for when wolves are threatening to devour them. It’s true that we’d never want to push our child outside during a tornado, but we can help him learn what to do in the event of the threat of a tornado. The only way to do these things is to have our kids experience those maneuvers under our direction and supervision. By modeling for them and tutoring them, we are helping prepare them for dangers and pitfalls – and for life.

Sadly, some children and youth face peer pressure among their own church friends and youth group peers. It happens more often than most folks care to admit. Sometimes the pressure comes from uncles and aunts, and sometimes it even comes from leaders. It ought not to be so, but it happens.

Just because our kids are in church or in a Christian school does not guarantee there will be no peer pressure and no times when they might need to stand alone. Satan is alive and well. Why would we think he will leave our kids alone just because they are in church or in a Christian school setting?!

What Made Daniel Different

When Daniel and his Hebrew peers were taken captive to a strange country with foreign gods, they had a choice. They could give in to the king’s demands and eat what had always been forbidden by God, or they could offer an alternative and then be prepared to respectfully refuse and stand alone. You can read the story here.

Scripture tells us “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”

What happened to all the other “young men” who were taken captive?  We don’t know how many were taken captive or if they were all in the same prisoner group. We do know that Daniel and his friends are listed here as those who took a stand.

Daniel and his friends could have used some peer support. What made them stand out?

They knew God’s law and what was required of them. They knew God was with them, even in this pagan land where the culture and language were foreign to them. They wanted to follow God instead of these pagan people.

I wonder if part of it was the training of their parents as well as their own developing faith and trust in God. I also think Daniel knew what God had commanded His people, and he wanted to follow those commands.

If I had been Daniel’s mother, I would have been so pleased. That’s the kind of son any mother wants to claim as hers.

When your child faces a situation where he must make a choice, there are certain steps you can take to continue that training process. You can help him learn to be different and to take a stand.

So what can we do to help prepare our children to find their way across the foreign territory and false teachings?

Seven Things to Do When You Feel Your Child is Being Tossed to the Lions

When your child faces a situation where he must make a decision or a choice, there are certain steps you can take to continue that training process. Your child can learn to be a Daniel, too.

  1. Get a correct grasp of the situation. This will involve talking with the adults (teacher/youth leader/coach) and possibly other peers as well as your child. Ask God to help you understand the situation as it really is.
  2. Help your child understand the situation. Ask his perspective. He might be too young to realize that what is being asked of him is not best or right. Discuss the issue with your child explaining what the Bible says. Take him to the Word! Your child will find it easier to argue with you than with God’s Word.  Ask God to help your child correlate Scripture with what is being asked/required of him. When the son of a friend of ours was asked to do a paper on what sign he was born under, she took him to the Bible and showed him what God had to say about astrology. She asked him if he thought God would approve of this assignment.
  3. Discuss alternatives. This is what Daniel and his friends did. They recognized the king’s desire was for them to be in the best physical condition. They proposed an alternative to his plan (eating pulse and drinking water instead of the King’s food), then asked God to bless them and help them become as healthy as the king desired. The king granted their request and they were the fairest and finest in the land – proof that God can change the hearts of kings and bless those who are obedient to Him. Our friend’s son chose to ask his teacher for an alternative assignment and was granted it.
  4. Discuss the consequences of the decision he will make.  No matter which way he chooses, there will be consequences your child may face as a result of his decision. [“What do you think your teacher/youth leader will do when you tell him you won’t be able to do this assignment? What will your classmates/friends say? What are you going to tell your friends about why you can’t participate in this activity/assignment?”, etc.] Being prepared for battles helps win the war. What if the teacher still requires the assignment to be done?  What will you do?
  5. Do not run interference for your child. Allow him to do his own negotiating/reporting with his teacher/leader if he is capable. He will claim more ownership if he reports to his teacher/leader instead of having you do it for him. Encourage your child to discuss his experience afterward and affirm and encourage him. Just what was the response of his teacher/friends, etc.?  Was it difficult to be laughed at and made fun of? How did he feel? Did he make the right decision? What might he have done differently?
  6. Be sensitive to your child’s developing faith and conscience. Your child may make a decision which you feel is not necessary. One of our children chose not to dress as a cartoon character one year because he didn’t feel comfortable doing it the same week as Halloween. While we ourselves had no problem with the activity, we never told him. We supported him and his developing conscience as he made that choice to be different from the rest of his class. Certainly, there was nothing wrong with his choice, and it helped grow him up.
  7. Recognize your responsibility for the spiritual welfare of your child. When necessary, exercise your authority. At times you might need to refuse permission for your child to participate in an activity because of your convictions despite the desires of your child or other adults who want him to participate. Even though the adults might be believers or even fellow church members, you are the one responsible for your child. Remember that.

As parents, we need to recognize that each child and each situation is different. There are no hard and fast rules to follow (except for, of course, following the commands of Christ.) Our focus on eternal perspective helps us as we make decisions regarding the souls of our children.

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Encouraging Moms and Passing it On

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What to do with a kid’s tantrum tears

I wheeled my cart to the front of the store and waited for the mom in front of me to finish putting her items on the conveyer belt.  Seated in the cart was a toddler, probably two or three years of age. She was a blond pixie, and cute as a button.  When she asked to get down her mother obliged.

Pixie’s cuteness left when she ran to the shelves next to the counter and begged for the small bag of chips. Her mom told her no. She asked for pretzels. The answer was no. Miss Pixie begged for gum, for candy, for anything else she could find and she touched item after item, begging. The answer was always no.

Finally, Mom told her to come back to the cart, which she did.

Now the tears came. Mammoth tears. Pouring down your face tears. Woe-is-me tears. Won’t-you-feel-sorry-for-me?! tears. Pouting tears. Buckets of crocodile tears.

Along with the tears, there was a lot of noise. Loud, moanful wails. Sobbing wails. Gasping for air wailing.

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One by one, customers and a clerk came by and asked the little gal what was wrong.  From their actions, one would have thought the child was in danger or in pain. Their glares toward the mom told me what they were thinking. Definitely, there was one side to this story, and it was not the mother’s side! How could a mother be so uncaring? How could she continue loading groceries into her cart while her child sat there crying?!

Because it was the right thing to do, that’s why.

Before the tears had ever begun, little Pixie and I had exchanged smiles. I’d said hello and she had smiled back at me.

When little miss Pixie turned and looked at me with those mournful eyes after the crying episode, I gave her another smile.

Seizing an opportunity, I spoke loudly enough for mom to hear.

“You have a goooood mommy. You are so lucky to have a mommy who cares about you. I saw that you begged and begged, and your mommy kept telling you “no”. I’m so glad your mommy loves you enough to keep saying “no” when she has told you “no” once. She didn’t change her mind because you cried and pouted. She’s a good mommy, and you really don’t need to cry.”

Her tears stopped at once. Eyes wide, she seemed to contemplate what I said. I saw a hint of a smile in her eyes. Uh huh. This kid knew what she was doing all the time. Her tears were gone. I find it interesting that when people offered her sympathy, her tears fell faster and her crying was louder. Perhaps, instead of encouraging kids to misbehave by giving positive reinforcement, we should try encouraging moms to “stick to their guns”!

When it was my turn at the counter, I turned my attention to the pile in my cart and started putting my groceries onto the belt. I’d forgotten about the conversation because all was quiet in the grocery cart now.

I almost missed it, but just as mom turned her cart to wheel the groceries and cart outside, she caught my eye.

There was a faint glimmer in her eyes as she mouthed the words, “Thank you.”

Certainly. Moms need all the applause they can get when they are doing it right.

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Applaud the moms who are doing it right.

I remember those days.

Folks critiqued our parenting when they didn’t even know our names. There was the senior citizen who told me that she couldn’t believe I didn’t care if my son electrocuted himself. We were in the doctor’s waiting room and he had crawled underneath the fish tank to see how it worked. She seemed to know more about it than I did.

Another day, a clerk in the store told me I just needed to whip my kid. We’d traveled for six hours with a toddler who had spiked a fever and was sick the entire trip. The young whipper-snapper was obviously too young to have any kids of her own, but she knew exactly what should happen. Somehow she missed a runny nose, pulling at ears, and feverish face of the kid whose head was on my shoulder. (You see how I remember this over a quarter-century later?!)

I especially remember the time an older woman gave me the encouragement I needed. I think she made a practice of encouraging moms, especially when they needed it. You can read about that here.

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What Fun it is to Pass it on!

On this day in our Food Lion, I paid it forward. Instead of nailing the mom (or the kid), I chose to affirm what was right and good. Encouraging moms is a wonderful way to empower them in their parenting.

It’s so easy to sit back and make a judgment call about a behavior when we don’t know the whole story. It is so much better to find things for which we can applaud and then do it heartily.

Encouraging moms is more important than critiquing them (unless they ask). How much better to look for the good and begin paying it forward? It will make this world a better place. Plus, it’s guaranteed to give our kids better moms!

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