Parenting with Guts

There is plenty about parenting that is gross: changing diapers, cleaning up vomit, wiping bottoms, wiping snotty noses, bathing kids when diapers malfunction. It’s just the truth that to be a parent you have to have a strong stomach. The dad who “doesn’t do diapers” eventually will, and the mom who doesn’t handle spit up will be feeling it run down their back. It happens and parents have to get use to it. The thing that turns my stomach the most, however, the thing that requires the most strength to endure is my children’s tears. No parent likes to see their kids cry and it is very hard to watch it happen, especially when you know you are the cause of it. These are the moments when I want, the most, to relinquish my responsibilities as a parent. These are the moments I want to cave. I want their tears to dissipate so badly that it becomes very tempting to give into whatever their demand is at that moment, regardless of its implications. This is the moment that parents must have strong stomachs, moms and dads, and if you will your kids will be better for it.

Learning to have a strong stomach, perhaps more pointedly a strong will, begins with acknowledging that your kids are going to be sad at times. Too many people are under some false illusion that their children should not have to face disappointment, suffering, and hardship in this world. Of course your desire is that they not have to go through anything too difficult, but trials are good for us all. They do several things: (1) They help us to better appreciate the pleasures and joys of our life; (2) They do build character in us, frustrating our self-indulgence and laziness; (3) Most importantly they drive us to Jesus, which is what every parent should want. Furthermore the simple disappointments that they face as little kids in your home are preparing them for the real disappointments they will encounter as an adult. So, yeah, your kid screaming and crying in Wal-Mart because you said they couldn’t buy that toy is embarrassing, and sometimes heart-breaking, it’s a good lesson for them. If they get every toy now they won’t be prepared for not getting what they want later in life. Bratty kids usually make bratty adults, a slogan to live by!

Saying “no” is an important part of parenting. It must come with grace and often with explanations, but it must still be said. Some no’s, of course are easier to say than others: “No you can’t sleep in mommy and daddy’s bed,” “No, you can’t have another cookie,” “No you can’t stick that fork in the electrical socket.” Why is it that sometimes the last one seems like the only really important issue to address. It’s easy to say “no” when we think we are rescuing our children from something harmful. Playing in traffic, electrocuting yourself, drinking Windex…easy to say no to. What we don’t realize is that there are many issues that we need to say “no” to, because in each scenario we are rescuing our children from something else. How about materialism? When was the last time we tried to rescue our kids from worshiping stuff? How about dependence issues? When was the last time we tried to rescue our kids and help them become more independent and self-sustaining for the future? How about consumerism? When was the last time we tried to get our kids involved in giving, serving, doing chores, etc? Are we breeding consumers who just take and take, even from the home, even at a young age, or are you finding ways to help them get involved in home life as servants? Rescuing children involves a lot more than simply avoiding strangers with candy.

Being strong-willed, saying “no,” is not easy…I can speak with experience on this one. But if we will practice it consistently it will get easier…I can speak with experience on this one too. That heart-break and that temptation to give in never quite go away, but that’s why parents must have a strong stomach. We can clean their bottoms, but if we can’t help them develop through discipline then our kids will still be walking around in their own mess for years to come.

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