I’m going to tell you, in one sentence, the exact synopsis of a whole bunch parenting books you will probably want to read.
It’s developmentally appropriate for your children to be jerks. It’s not developmentally appropriate for you to be a jerk.
Here’s a little secret…you probably are going to be a jerk at times anyway.
In reality, us parents are also growing and developing.
This…is why parenting is so challenging.
Of course, being a parent is completely amazing and yada, yada, yada….but, common! If a parent tells you they always get it right, they have it all figured out all of the time, their children are perfect little angels, you should never, I repeat, never, trust that person. At least until they’ve had some counselling for their denial and lies. Haha!
Children are growing, learning, and their brains are not fully developed. They fall, make messes, have a difficult time sorting through their emotions and processing all that is going on. They are in constant transition with the new skills they are learning, sorting through what they are good at, what everyone is trying to teach them or get them to do and children often have some large questions they are asking and working through in their hearts. It’s really not easy to be a kid.
Us parents also have a whole lot of transition, large questions we are dealing with, stressors and especially when we are new parents, we are learning along side of our children what is developmentally appropriate for them. We are bombarded with voices, opinions, questions and judgements. It really is not easy to be a parent.
But, it is worth each and every challenge.
However, what is a mother or father to do when they are struggling to feel love toward one or two children in particular?
Of course you love them. You carried them in your womb, or perhaps you adopted and carried them in your heart and went through the labor of brining them home. They are eternally part of you.
But, you are tired. You are beyond that, actually. You are absolutely exhausted. Your kid is driving you crazy with their backtalk, their lack of boundaries, poor decisions, sibling fights, grabbing and constant demands for attention. Perhaps they are off the walls with energy, plain weird, loud, and for goodness sake, they are always hungry!
I have been there…when one of my kids, more so than the others, is really testing me and I’m struggling to even want to be around them. Once in a while it comes up again, but not as often as it used to.
I remember when I first realized this. I had just had my third child and I was feeling overwhelmed with all the demands of having three kids under the age of 4. My oldest child was driving me nuts. She hated having a bath, never picked anything up, and when we did crafts and painting, it ended up looking like a bomb had gone off. She was an early talker and an early back talker too. On top of it, I was babysitting other kids, doing after school care to help make ends meat and every ideal I had as a mother was being challenged. She was the one I had the most difficulty with. She needed attention, and I didn’t have it in me to give her all that she needed.
Then one day at church, my answer came. An upbeat song came on and everyone was dancing around the room. My newborn baby was sleeping in his car seat, my two year old was with her daddy and my eldest daughter tugged on me to dance. I picked her up, twirled her around the room and joined in the celebration with her. We were laughing and dancing and God gave me a feeling of love that I had been missing with her for the past while. As we danced for a long while, I heard in my spirit, the way to overcome feelings of disconnect is to connect as much as possible.
If you have a child who is driving you crazy, a child who you don’t want to be around, THAT is the child YOU need to connect with the most.
THAT child is the one who needs the most hugs, kisses, time on your lap, etc. She is the one who needs to feel the most loved, like you would lay down everything for her. It is about her, but mostly, it is about you.
When we are challenged with a particularly difficult child, sometimes what is being revealed is not what is in their heart but what is in ours.
And something magical has the chance to take place. A heart transformation in us. However, it is a process. It takes time and effort. Here are some practical tips for your journey of connecting with your child.
- Take time for you. If you are exhausted, you are going to not be able to engage with your child very well. If you’re not sleeping well, reach out to someone who can come help you take a nap during the day. Then use the time you feel most refreshed to connect to the challenging child.
- Refuse to let anything in YOUR heart come between your relationship with your child. Forgive them for being a brat, for not handing themselves well, or for not listening to you. Spend time with God laying down your feelings of anger. DO NOT bury those feelings down and deny they are there. Allow them to come and have compassion on yourself. It’s not an easy boat you are in.
- If you’re pregnant and/or hormonal, have extra grace on yourself. You’re body is putting you through A LOT! I really hope you have some help around you during this season. It’s wonderful but for me, was always an extra challenge to maintain self-control and feelings of love when I was tired and sick all the time.
- Get into a bedtime routine. It doesn’t matter what time bedtime is, do three things. Get ready for bed, read them a story and pray for them, with them listening to you. If you didn’t get a chance to connect during the day and this is it, and this is still a very powerful thing to do. If at bedtime you constantly feel tired (like when you’re pregnant or going through crisis), try to start earlier the next night or perhaps do story time and prayer time before supper so it’s a shorter process at night.
- Find what brings your child alive and do that together. Then do whatever brings you alive together. For me, I love nature walks. When my kids come with me, I always feel connected to them. We usually have a great time.
- Keep trying. It may not happen overnight, but over time, you’ll find your heart changed. Your relationship will also change because your child will respect you more and want to follow your lead.
- Realize you are not alone. I think this is a very common issue with parents. Our children are designed to push our buttons and challenge us. These challenges are what causes us to grow and become better than we were.
- Last but not least, have compassion. On yourself, on your child, on the situation. Because, like I said, parenting is not easy but neither is being a kid.
You are loved. You are the perfect parent for your child. You’ve got this.