Here's how moms can find relief from pressure

Be perfectly patient, perfectly calm, perfectly thankful, perfectly loving, perfectly fun and perfectly kind so that your children will also become the same picture of perfection. Yes. 

In other words, perfect parenting in = perfect kids out. 

That’s the equation that drove me to despair and nearly stole all the joy in my parenting, because I was confident that I wasn’t modeling perfection. I wasn’t even close. 

No matter where we are on the parenting spectrum, we feel the pressure to get it all right so our kids will turn out all right. But, at the same time, we are painfully aware of our weaknesses and our shortcomings and the ways in which we get it wrong. 

Here’s the thing about parenting that took me entirely too long to figure out: God doesn’t only work through us to grow our children. He works through them to grow us.

This pressure leaves us in perpetual fear that our kids will turn out wrong – or worse, have already turned out wrong. And we fear that it’s too late to get it right now. 

On how many days have you been ashamed of who you’ve become and how you’ve treated your kids? If you’re anything like me, the answer is “too many.” 

Like when my son overheard me say an unkind thing about a woman who had been gossiping about me, and I realized I wasn’t modeling how to love our enemies and bless those who persecute us. 

Like when I yelled at my boys to stop yelling at each other, and I realized I was modeling the very thing I was instructing them to stop doing. 

Like when I lost my patience with my son for not listening to me, and I realized I was crushing his spirit rather than correcting his disobedience. 

And that was all in one day. 

Friend, the struggle is real. Every single day I am confronted with my humanity and fallen nature. 

Here’s the thing about parenting that took me entirely too long to figure out: God doesn’t only work through us to grow our children. He works through them to grow us. 

He works through them to make us rely on him to be who we can never be for our children, even on our best day!

See, parenting is not about God relying on us to be perfect examples for our kids to follow. Parenting is about us relying on God to captivate our child’s heart despite all our mistakes. And so much of the pressure we experience stems from us getting this backward! 

For example, Proverbs 22:6 says: “Bring up a child by teaching him the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn away from it (NLV).” 

Now, what I’ve come to discover is that most of us read this verse as an if-then promise. If we train up our children correctly, then they will not turn away from our teaching.

This puts us under immense pressure, thinking our child’s future is riding solely on our performance. Our mentality is either: “It’s all about me, and if I get it mostly right, my kids will stay on the right path;” or “it’s all about me, and if I get it mostly wrong, my kids will turn down the wrong path.” 

But we need to remember that this proverb is just that – a proverb, not a promise.  We are foolish not to heed its advice but we need to recognize it’s not a “good parenting in = good kids out” promise.

This isn’t to suggest that we parents don’t play a crucial role in the healthy development of our kids. Of course, we do. What we do and what we say absolutely matters. 

Our actions can hurt or heal. Our words can build up or tear down. What we model has an enormous impact on the thought patterns and behavior of our children. And we are wise to remember that how they see us living our lives is even more influential than what they hear us say. 

Therefore, we should seek to model “the way our children should go” and heed the instruction the apostle Paul wrote: “And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching” (Titus 2:7 NLT). 

And this is what we must remember: Our children need to know that there is only One who has never and will never let them down. And that One isn’t us. It’s God, their Heavenly Parent. 

The truth is that as hard as we try to be good examples for our children to follow, we will fail. But confessing this does not make us failures. It makes us free! Free from the pressure to be the absolute perfect examples for our kids. 

Free from trying to play God’s role, and free to trust in God’s sovereignty over our kid’s lives. And it makes us moms who are truly grateful for God’s redeeming grace that is bigger than our biggest mistake. 

Embracing this freedom empowers us to say: “It’s not all about me. I am significant, but I am not God. I can trust God with the kids he has entrusted to me as I seek to raise them to his glory, not mine.” 

This is an excerpt from Jeannie Cunnion’s forthcoming book, Mom Set Free, available everywhere books are sold on August 29th.  Jeannie Cunnion is the author of Parenting the Wholehearted Child, she holds a Masters Degree in Social Work, and she is the mother of four boys who range in age from teenager to toddler. Connect with Jeannie and learn more at JeannieCunnion.com“Be the person you want your children to become.” If you’re a mom, it’s unlikely you’ve escaped that well-intentioned advice. No pressure there, right? 

Jeannie Cunnion is the author of "Mom Set Free: Find Relief from the Pressure to Get It All Right" and a blogger at www.jeanniecunnion.com. She has a Master's degree in Social Work, and her background combines counseling, writing, and speaking about parenting and adoption issues. She and her husband, Mike, are the proud parents of four wild and awesome boys.