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9 Tips to Tackling Difficulties in Parenting

9 Tips to Tackling Difficulties in Parenting

Moms, I have been where some of you sit. I’ve been through the times of lacking techniques, realizing no one really taught me how to parent. I’ve been having a teenager failing classes, getting in trouble at school, smoking weed, sexual immorality, dishonoring our family, disrespect. I’ve been through wayward children.  I’ve been through it all. The following tips are truly everything I know and everything the Lord has laid on my heart about parenting in difficult times. 

Watch what you are saying. What is coming from your mouth matters. It matters in the spirit and natural realm. The things we are saying to our children can often be bred from frustration and exhaustion and disappointment. We’re battling the demand of work and school demands and disobedience in the home and spiritual battles. And honestly, we often don’t know what to do and so we begin to speak from those emotions.  Saying whatever we feel in the moment and then coming back to apologize is a terrible parenting strategy.  I have spoken thousands, hundreds of thousands of words of edification over my children – praise, honor, encouragement. I’ve written letters. I’ve praised publicly & privately. But the few times that I have spoken out of discouragement or misspoken over my kids, it is the very thing they remember – even years later.  We are the same way. We tend to remember the harsh words far more clearly than the words of encouragement. This is critical to understand when you are parenting through difficult seasons. What you say matters.  

Create healthy conversations around their father. Do NOT badmouth their father in front of them or even behind their backs to others. Honor that he is their father. They are part of him. Be open to conversations. Do not avoid them or ignore his existence. (Note: My dad ignored my mother’s existence.) Be careful with your words.  Some of you are battling unbelievable situations with fathers who are abusive, addicts, or abandoned the family and have no interest in engaging with their children. I know that. I’ve endured that. I made the mistake, for a long time, of acting as if he didn’t exist, so I wouldn’t say much at all. Then, if questions did come up, I didn’t guard my heart to respond in kindness and compassion and mercy to my children. I responded with an attitude and an eye roll.  It wasn’t until years later that I had walked through forgiveness, realizing his immense brokenness, that I was able to speak not from hurt but from honor.  When they would ask the hard questions, I could say, “I don’t know.  I know your dad loves you in the best way he knows how, but I know his actions have hurt you.”  

Allow your children to endure consequences. If they do not study for the test, let them fail. If they didn’t write the paper, let them fail. If they didn’t research the project, let them fail. If they didn’t practice basketball, let them not make the team. If they are disrespectful to the teacher and get suspended, do not get mad and confront the school. Do not try to fix everything for your children.  Many parents do this for many reasons, certainly not just single moms. But I’m convinced that much of the reason I did this, early on in my parenting, was to create a façade of perfection. I was trying so hard to out-run all the negative statistics and all the naysayers and gossipers, so my proud compelled me to constantly pretend it was much more together than it was. So when you are operating under a façade, there is pressure to keep it all neat and clean to the outside world.  When we do this, we are enabling our children. Consequences build character. If they don’t work hard, they don’t get the reward. If they don’t respect and honor us, they don’t get the reward. If they don’t exhibit integrity, they don’t get the reward.  They must suffer the consequences.  We know that Deut. 28 teaches of the great blessings of obedience and the great curses of disobedience. We must teach our children this.

Teaching your children is not the same as leading your children. Be sure to lead by example. Work on you – your walk with the Lord, your integrity & character, your kindness & patience, your hopes & dreams.  Sometimes, you’ve talked until you are exhausted and at a loss for words. So much of our parenting is their observation of us. It’s not what we’re saying. It’s what we’re doing. 

Offer regular encouragement. When our children are small, it is easy to praise their first words, first steps, and first potty visits. But as they age, it can sometimes be harder to encourage. It seems that we tend to focus on all that is wrong. The dishes aren’t clean. The room isn’t straightened. The C could’ve been a B. The friends aren’t good enough. The mouth is too sassy. Offer regular words of encouragement that edify. Do NOT fake it. Do not say they are doing a great job in this area if they aren’t. Be honest and sincere. Be intentional and mindful. But there are many times that we miss the opportunity to encourage and affirm positive behavior.  Examples can include: “You always make your bed. I want you to know that means a lot to me.”  “You always work hard at basketball. Choosing to work hard is a good character trait.”  “Thank you for picking up the dishes after your friends left last night. I’ve been so tired and that was greatly appreciated.”  

Take them to church. It is probably one of the single best things I did to endure during the hardest times of parenting. We were just always there. We were there when they were mad and didn’t want to go. We were there when they acted like they didn’t hear a word and crossed their arms and were rude. We were there every Sunday. It was a non-negotiable. Here is what I have seen in my adult children.  Even when they were far from God, even when there was no evidence of fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives, they have always found a church home. They keep going back to church. They keep coming back to our home as a safe place and they keep going to church. They likely aren’t going to see church as a place of hope and priority in the future, if you have not made that a place of hope and priority in your home. If you haven’t taken them regularly, put it in place.  

Get to know your kids.  Spend time with them getting to know them. What do they like? What do they want to be? Who are their friends? What do they enjoy doing? Why did they select that movie? I’m not convinced that all of us really know our children. We have the checklists and the duties and the responsibilities and the chores and the grades. But somewhere along the way, I think we stopped getting to know our kids – what makes them tick, who they really are. We get busy with the demands of parenting without being present and intentional.  

Stay the course. Parents, I know it is hard. I know the days are long and sometimes thanks are few. I know that there seems to be little rest for weary souls, but don’t stop praying. Don’t stop believing. Don’t stop implanting wisdom and truth and wise counsel. The Lord will mount you on wings like eagles. He will restore, in due time, so stay the course. When they are adults, they will – I repeat, will – stand and called you blessed. Don’t give up, even when you can’t see the fruit of your labor in this season. You are planting seeds. Do not throw in the towel because you cannot see what is going on beneath the service and it’s just easier to quit and let them do whatever they want. Do not give up because you are tired. Be a good parent. Be a responsible parent. Stick to the boundaries you’ve established in your home. And if you don’t have any, it’s not too late to start now.  

Know your authority.  Stop negotiating with your children. There is certainly a time to adjust boundaries as a child exhibits more responsibility and maturity and as things evolve in your home. But there are too many moms who are being pushovers, allowing their children to bully them, to take captive the home, and to dictate how things are going to go. Sometimes, you don’t take your place in authority because you are tired of fighting and just want some peace. Our kids will never get away from authority – there is authority spiritually, there is authority on their jobs (even if they are entrepreneurs), there is authority through the laws of the land. Our children must learn to honor us as their authority. There is also a component of spiritual authority as the head of your home (until you are married). This means that when you have a teenage son who is now bigger than you who is trashing his room or cussing you out or showing up at any hour of the day or night or whatever – you say calmly but authoritatively – “I will be honored in my home. You will respect the peace of this home. You will respect the boundaries in this home.”  (Note: Be prepared with consequences, loss of phone or other privileges, relocation out of your home when necessary, loss of amenities in the homes.)  I also want to mention the authority you have from a spiritual perspective.  

Jennifer Maggio is a mom to three, wife to Jeff, and founder of the national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is author to four books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in America by Dr. John Maxwell in 2017 and 2015 and has appeared in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Family Talk Radio with Dr. James Dobson, Joni and Friends, and many others. 

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