Every mom worries about failing her kids. We wonder what we'll do if our kids turn against us, grow up to hate us, or end up disliking their lives. These are natural worries -- but these fears can drive us crazy.
They can also drive us to focus on minor details, hoping that if we can control the small things, the big stuff will fall into place. But posting the perfect "first day of school" picture on Instagram or making sure that our son gets the right football coach won't improve our parenting. It will just give us a false sense of control.
Instead, I have a suggestion. Why don't we forget the multitude of small parenting details and start focusing on getting the big things right? I believe that when we do this, life goes a whole lot better for moms and their kids.
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Here's where we can start:
I've pulled the car over a few times in my life with a back seat full of fighting kids. I know firsthand how hard being nice can be. So I think that it's important to train ourselves to be nice. Personally, I need some alone time in order to keep myself calm and less irritable. Some moms need to work a little, exercise, pray more, or go out with friends periodically.
These aren't selfish things. They are important because they help us be kind, and being patient with our kids is crucial to good parenting.
We often spend more time with our kids than anyone else, so they hear everything we say. They hear us talk to friends, our husbands, parents, and neighbors. And of course, they take to heart what we say to them. Words are powerful. They can heal relationships or crush them, shape the identity of your children -- or deeply injure it. Jesus always chose his words wisely and He used them to build people up -- not cut them down. Pay attention to your words and the tone that you use.
As much as we'd like to believe that we are good at loving our children unconditionally -- the truth is, we're not always very good at it. We always want more from our kids. We want to show them that we love them, but we also want them to succeed and love us back.
Loving them when they're flunking fifth grade, not liked by any of their friends, or doing things to embarrass us is tough. But loving them when no one else will is what being a good mom is all about. That's where we shine. Ask God to give you grace to love better.
The kids who I see in my practice who get in trouble aren't the ones with strong mothers. They are the ones whose mothers have no spine. Forgoing discipline, failing to stick to rules, and blurring boundaries makes kids crazy. Kids need to look at their moms and see stoicism. They won't listen to a mother who is a pushover, who can't make up her mind, or who has no convictions. But they will listen to a mother who knows who she is and makes no apologies.
Assert who you are, and your kids will stay close by your side.
Moms, you're doing a great job! Hang in there, focus on love, kindness, and discipline -- and most of all, don't sweat the small stuff.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course, "The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids," which is part of The Strong Parent Project.