Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Best Parenting Advice I've Ever Received

As soon as you get pregnant, everyone seems to have an opinion of what you should/shouldn't do.  They will give you all kinds of advice, usually unsolicited.  Honestly, I'm guilty of it, too.  Sometimes, you get to reminiscing and forget. "Enjoy this time, it goes by so fast!"  Yeah, I've said it.  I can't help it when I see a newborn, because I'm reminded that I will never again go through that phase.

I've heard pretty much everything there is to hear in the past 8 years and 4 babies.  

Sleep train.

Don't let them cry it out.

Teach them to entertain themselves.

Put them in every activity imaginable.


Don't co-sleep.

And the list goes on...

But along the way, I have had some very wise people pour into me and I am so grateful for them.  My parents, my Lifegroup members, my friends - they've all contributed to this list, and I am so thankful to have them alongside me for this ride called Parenthood.

So, without further ado, here is the list of the best parenting advice I have ever received:

1.) Prayer is the key. 

 Nothing will save us like dropping to our knees before the throne of God and laying our cares, frustrations, and fears at His feet.  He already knows what we feel and what we need, but He wants us to come to Him anyway so we can feel the freedom in laying it down.  I struggle with this one a LOT.  What would my home look like if every time I got angry, I walked into my room, dropped to my knees, and prayed?  Probably a lot more peaceful, that's for sure.  This is something I need to work on big time.

2.) Our children are not our possessions.

Hear me on this, friends.  When we have babies, they are cute and snuggly and OURS, amiright??  I mean, we spent 9 months baking them and went through hell to get them out, so they belong to us.  WRONG.  This is something I have wrestled with over the years and leads directly to #3, which we'll get to in a minute, but these children - these gorgeous, precious, beautiful children - belong to the Lord.  HE created them.  He grew them and delivered them into our hands, and He loves them more than we could ever fathom.  And just as quickly as He gave them to us, He could take them away to be with Him.  I'm not trying to make light of this - this is one of my worst nightmares, losing a child. I know that far too many mothers and fathers have faced this battle, and no matter how old the child, it never gets easier.  However, if we remember that they are not ours and are only loaned to us, we will not live our lives in fear of losing them, but will release them into the hands of the only One who could ever really protect them anyway.

3.) Do not make idols out of our children.

Up until this year, I had no idea what this looked like or that I was even doing it.  But I totally was.  I was making an idol of my self-sufficiency and choosing my control over the Lord's control.  Let me explain.  

We were talking in Lifegroup about missionaries in our church who work overseas with young girls who are sex trafficked.  They have 2 small children, one of them a beautiful little girl.  I expressed my thoughts that I was concerned that they brought their little girl into that environment and that I didn't think I could or would ever do that.  Someone immediately shot back with this question:

"Why is that, Laura?  Do you value God more, or your children more?"  

And for the first time, I really had to question my motivations regarding my children.

Up until that moment, I had believed that yes, God is in control, but it is my job to protect my children and do everything I can to do so.  If something were to happen to them, then I would have failed at my job as a mother.  Losing control and possibly failing is my worst fear, and is evidenced in every part of my life, but nowhere more clearly than my role as mother.  I hold onto my children tightly.  Sometimes, when a horrible crime is perpetrated and I hear it in the news, I have panic attacks that day thinking about the "what ifs" and my children.  

But this was a breakthrough.  Do I value God more, or my children more?  If I had to answer honestly in that moment, I would have had to say my children.  And what is that called??  Idolatry.  I was not living what I said I believed in the most basic and fundamental part of my life.  I said God was sovereign, but I didn't live like He was.  I refused to give Him what was already His, but instead held on tightly to them and said "God, I don't trust you with these gifts you made and gave to me."  How foolish is that?!  So now, I remind myself that they don't belong to me and they are not my idols.

4.) If you want your children to respect you, treat them with respect.

First, what exactly does respect mean?  According to the dictionary, it means "the condition of being esteemed or honored."  This sounds super simple, but really, REALLY isn't unless you remember #2.  These are human beings.  They are not objects to be possessed.  They have hearts and minds and feelings and wills of their own.  When you view them as objects, you get frustrated really easily when they don't do exactly what you want, you speak to them harshly, you don't respect them.  When you remember that they are human beings that you are trying to train up to righteousness and that they do not belong to you, then you start speaking more kindly, listening, and being more patient with them.  You communicate your feelings instead of yelling them.  You try to get to the root of the problem instead of just punishing the results of it.  Am I good at this?  Not really, no.  I very often resort to yelling, threatening, punishing, and sometimes even sassing back.  But if I did #1 and remembered #2, I think my home would be a lot more peaceful.  Besides that, how are they going to learn respect if they never see it shown to them?  How can we demand something from them that we have not given them first?  If they don't have it, they can't give it.  Period.  

So as I move forward in this journey called motherhood, I strive every day to remember these four critical points and thank God for the good and the bad - we learn from them both.

What advice and/or lessons have you learned since becoming a mommy?  I'd love to hear about it :D

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