5 Parenting Mistakes to Avoid | #4 Discontentment

5 Parenting Mistakes to Avoid | #4 Discontentment

It only takes a brief look at my Facebook newsfeed to feel fairly discontented. Everyone’s having such a great time. Travelling the world, climbing the career ladder, buying big houses, setting up businesses, running marathons for charity (I know, right – crazy people!). Our lives look fairly insignificant and un-glamourous in comparison.

Scott spends his time testing the eyes of elderly people, because that’s a great thing to do – but also to pay the bills and look after our family. I do lots of wiping bodily fluids, feeding tiny people, attending playgroups and being a general children’s entertainer/dogsbody.

We love our lives, we’ve chosen to have children young, to live in the UK, to put my career second to other priorities in our lives. Nobody forced us into these things. We decided that this is what we wanted from life and we’ve gone for it. And by and large we feel very satisfied and contented with our lot.

But then, I scroll through Facebook and my friends are doing really significant things, really impressive things, things that display their worth, power and status. I have one friend who works in parliament, several are doctors, another is a TV presenter, several are successful entrepreneurs, and then there are the ones who are in full time Christian ministry. 

Cue the green-eyed monster making her appearance. Envy starts to grip my heart and I start to believe that I want what they’ve got. I want to be free. Free from responsibilities and obligations. Free to travel, to progress professionally, to sleep-in! And then I start to think the inevitable… it’s those children who are the problem. They are the ones who are limiting my freedom.

Dare I say it (on a parenting blog no less!)? I start to imagine what life would be like without the little ones.

What if we had waited a few more years first? What if we were still child-less now? Where would we live? What jobs would we be doing? What once-in-a-lifetime experiences would we be gaining?

But can you see how futile and joy-sapping this is? It’s a one-way track to discouragement and resentment.

So what’s the parenting mistake here? Well it’s this –

Discontentment with your lot.

To think the grass is always greener. To be discontented with your phase of life or position in it and wish you were in another.

You don’t just have to be a stay-at-home mum to experience this. It might be that you work part time, and as you say goodbye to your children at nursery you have a pang of jealousy at those mums who get to stay at home. Or you think about how you’ve had children later in life, and wish you had the energy of the younger parents you see. Or you may look at your home and wish you had a bigger home, a warmer home, a more beautiful home. Or you look at your spouse and you wish they were just a bit more godly, attractive, or considerate.

It’s so easy to look at aspects of our lives and wish they were different – wish our lives looked more like our neighbours’, our friends’ in church, our teenage fantasy of what life would be like. We think if we had this, that, or the other thing, then we’d be sorted and content. Whatever it is we’re looking for – worth, joy, significance, pleasure – we are discontent with what we have and think we’ll find a better version of it elsewhere.

But there is another way – it’s to realise that the gospel is the only true source of our significance, value and worth.

Just this past week I read this and it really encouraged my heart:

First and foremost, your identity is hidden in Christ. And because of that you didn’t need one more thing to validate those decades of motherhood. You invested your whole self in raising the souls God entrusted to your care. There isn’t another career that requires more sacrifice, more round-the-clock need-meeting than motherhood. The results of such work stretch into eternity, so don’t you dare look down on your years like they were something small and now you’re smaller for not having done more. You did the most and it mattered.”

Kate Skero, Nourishing Little Souls

She addresses two things there: let’s deal with the first one first. Our identity is in Christ.

What does that even mean?

Well it means that we have absolute value and worth. Jesus thought that we were so precious that he spilled his royal blood to provide our forgiveness, freedom from sin, adoption into God’s family and eternal life. And not just that, he united himself to us in an indelible bond – our old lives are gone and we have a new identity – the very righteousness of our perfect saviour. When God the Father looks at us he sees perfection. He sees me, he sees you, he sees us – with our unique personalities and personhood and he sees the righteousness of Jesus. So think about the very best version of you – the version who never hurts other people, never thinks dark, bitter thoughts, the version who has no regrets and no secrets. The version who loves fiercely, freely, sacrificially. Well that’s who God sees, because he sees Jesus. That is what it means for your identity to be in Christ.

Therefore we don’t need one more thing to validate our life choices. Our worth is not found in our vocation, our maritial status, our giftedness, our bank balance – there is literally nothing that gives us significance but the righteousness of Christ. And in him we are perfect and God is for us. We can be perfectly content, whatever our lot. 

Wow that puts things into perspective doesn’t it!

Secondly, while we shouldn’t put our sense of worth in our life choices, they are significant to God. God cares deeply about how we spend our days and what we do with the time and resources he’s given us. He doesn’t love us any more or less depending on our performance – but he does see it and he cares about the details of our lives. And those who are in Christ are able to do real good in this life.

While the world might look at me and pity me for the decision to be a stay-at-home mum, while people may be saddened by how someone with “so much potential” could spend her best years attending to the needs of tiny children and while I even feel this myself some days (believe me, being a parent is hard work and you don’t get much credit for it). Raising children, leaving a legacy, discipling the next generation of Godly men and women who will go out into the world to herald good news – that has eternal significance. Why would we wish we were in a different phase of life, when that’s what we’re doing?

And the same can apply in your situation. Just take a moment now to consider how you’re tempted to be discontented. Apply the gospel to your situation – remember the value that you have in Jesus, and remind yourself afresh of how the thing you long for (even if it’s a good thing) isn’t the answer to your joy/worth etc. That’s found in Jesus. Remember that he sees your life choices and cares about the decisions you make, and that he is able to use you for good in the situations you’re in.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, why not check out other posts in the series, by clicking the links below.

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5 Parenting Mistakes To Avoid | #3 Faking Perfection

5 Parenting Mistakes To Avoid | #3 Faking Perfection

Hypothetical parenting is easy. Before having our actual children it was easy to come up with solutions to other people’s parenting struggles.”Just establish a routine.” “Just make sure you follow-through on discipline.” “Just read this book.” We didn’t say it, but we certainly thought it!

Ha! How naïve and arrogant!

And then our son came into our lives. That squashed the know-it-all attitude.

Real parenting… real in-the-trenches, sleep-deprived parenting is a minefield. It’s hard, it’s complex, it’s exhausting and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

This is the third part in our series “5 Parenting Mistakes To Avoid”; a series designed to help us overcome false beliefs that we have in parenting by remembering how the gospel applies. Click through to read part 1 and part 2, if you missed them.

It can be tempting to want to appear sorted as a parent. None of us want to be the sobbing wreck with the messy house, unwashed hair and badly behaved child. Nobody wants others to think of them as the Dad who doesn’t know what he’s doing, or the Mum who’s close to breaking point. But sometimes that is the reality –  there are many times when we genuinely struggle to keep on top of it all.

Parenting is possibly the hardest thing you’ll ever do, and we want to put it to you in this post, that it’s much better to show weakness than hide it.

Why?

Well in the end, there’s no good reason to put on a front.

The gospel liberates us to say that we’re not the people we’d like to be, and that includes in the realm of our parenting. We’re not who we should be, yet we’re deeply loved and valued by Jesus in the midst of our mess. He doesn’t look at our parenting with a disappointed frown on his face. He sees our weakness and with a gentle smile he gets alongside us, comforts us and gives us fresh power by his Spirit to keep going.

So there’s no point in pretending to God we’re sorted. When we see this, and when we’re reassured with the warm welcome of the gospel, we can go out with a sense of security and acceptance that allows us to drop the front that we’re sometimes tempted to put up.

pexels-photo-97558

And here’s the wonderful thing…

when we drop the pretense and are real with people, there can be some wonderful consequences.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. As our maker, God knows the best way for us to live. So when we live in line with that, things generally tend to “work” better.

So, what are these consequences of wearing our weakness rather than presenting perfection? Well, here are four:

1. Displaying Weakness Shows Integrity

People can see right through the façade of the “sorted parent”. Any parent knows that it’s not all perfect all of the time. It’s disingenuous and discouraging to chat to someone who never shows any weakness in their own parenting, or in the behaviour of their kids. (But just as an aside, remember that honesty is very different to simply complaining. You can adore your kids but still admit it’s hard). If you feel like someone isn’t honest with you, then you end up doubting their integrity. It doesn’t endear you to someone if you confide in them and are met with a brick-wall. So be honest about what you are finding difficult. At the very least, you’ll show those around you the real you and your real life – but there’s much more to gain from it too because…

2. Displaying Weakness Builds Friendship

Integrity builds friendship. Confiding in others about struggles and fears helps you to connect with other parents who are going through similar things. Each stage of parenting has it’s own struggles – whether it’s trying to get your child to sleep through, poo in the potty, revise for exams or learn to drive. Keeping the challenges to yourself isolates you but sharing the highs and lows builds friendships with others. You need to laugh, cry, sigh and pray with others – we were never designed to carry this great joy and burden alone. We’re meant to do it in community.

Cathy has found that some of the closest and best friends she’s ever had have been the mum-friends she’s met. Lots of parents go to play groups not just because it’s great for the kids (although they are fab – big spaces, different toys, other children and messy crafts that mum doesn’t allow at home!), but because they can chat to other adults. A cup of tea and a natter with another parent is therapeutic!

cup-hot-hands-medium

3. Displaying Weakness Creates Opportunities For Support

Being honest and open means that you make friends and gain a support network. Not everyone has the luxury of family close-by. Not everyone has other parents to young children in their churches. But, unless you live somewhere very remote indeed, you’ll probably be able to find a play group to go to. If you are open, honest and friendly then you’ll meet some like-minded people who can provide a listening ear, a hug and, over time as the friendship deepens, practical help in a time of need.

But some of us do have family close by. Some of us do have a church where there are people in our congregations who can help us out. But even then, we still need to be willing to ask for help – and that means we need to be ok with showing weakness, exposing our real lives and being humble enough to receive help.

Often pride is the only thing which is really holding us back from receiving help.

God taught us this lesson the hard way.

We help to lead a church with a team of other people. We planted the church just over a year ago. But, we often feel our role in the church has been to model weakness. This certainly wasn’t our plan or desire! Since the church has been going we’ve suffered a miscarriage, Cathy’s been pregnant with Boaz and now we have a new-born baby.

It’s been quite a rollercoaster!

It’s been physically exhausting.

There have been times when we haven’t had much to offer people.

We often feel like we’re lagging behind the others that we planted with, in terms of hospitality and practical service.

We’ve had a challenging time. But we think God wanted us to be open and real about that with others in our church community. In doing so, we’ve built a more genuine community and have been the recipients of others getting alongside us, supporting us and blessing us. Others have grown in Christ-likeness as they’ve ministered to us.

It’s reminded us that we are not the Messiah, we aren’t anyone’s saviour, we haven’t got it all together, but mercifully we know the one who is all powerful, all good and for us. He’s the one our church is all about. 

4. Displaying Weakness Means Jesus Receives The Glory

When we are honest about weakness we build community, gain support and in the end Christ is glorified. If we hide what’s really going on then we can’t ask for prayer, receive practical help or have our friends encourage us and gospel us.

Weakness is good. No let’s go further than that.

Weakness is essential for Christian community.

As our weakness is exposed, Jesus and his strength is glorified.

And there’s often another way that Jesus is glorified.

Cathy has found that she’s developed genuine, deep, reciprocal friendships with non-Christians since becoming a mum – whether they’re wiping Reu’s nose, changing Bo’s nappy, or handing her a cup of tea while she breastfeeds – she’s found that she could not walk this journey without them; they are God’s gift to her. Parenthood is a great leveller, and as she’s shared her life with other parents, she’s been able to share Jesus too.

pexels-photo-110440-large

So there you have it – don’t hide your weakness.

Jesus accepts weak you and me, so we don’t need to pretend. As we wear our weakness, it connects us to others as we lean on them. And weakness enables us to point others to Jesus and be pointed to Jesus yourself.

If you liked this post, then there’s a book you might like – read our review of it here.

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5 Parenting Mistakes To Avoid | #2 Competitiveness

5 Parenting Mistakes To Avoid | #2 Competitiveness

“When did your little one start walking? 12 months? Oh darrrrling, my little princess Cherry-Blossom could do back flips by then!”

There are certain parenting mistakes that we can make. We’re not talking about mistakes like not keeping a boundary we’ve set, or saying something in our child’s hearing we shouldn’t. No, we’re talking about a different kind of mistake – mistakes in the realm of what we believe – the mistake of forgetting the gospel and being robbed of our joy and freedom in parenting. These are mistakes in what we believe about God, ourselves or our children, things that lead to a sense of guilt and inferiority, or else pride and superiority.

That’s why we decided to write this series of posts: “5 Parenting Mistakes To Avoid”. The aim of this series is to remind us of the wonderful good news of Jesus in areas where we often forget it as we parent. If you missed the first post (“5 Parenting Mistakes To Avoid: The Comparison Game”), then click through to read it, and to find out more about this series.

This week we’re thinking about the second of these parenting mistakes: competitiveness.

But before we go any further, just a quick reminder. There’s a type of competitiveness we very much encourage – entering our competition! You have until just 5pm today to enter our competition to win a Madlug backpack. Click through to last week’s post to read more about this wonderful organisation and find out how to enter – the winner will be announced tomorrow!

Back to this week’s topic.

rubix-cubeGetting The Scales Out

We’ve all met one, haven’t we? A parent like Cherry-Blossom’s mum. That parent who is constantly putting their child on the scales against yours. Which child talked first, or with greater clarity or broader vocabulary? Which child is more socially accomplished? Which child has greater dexterity, better problem-solving skills, has a better grasp of maths, is more creative, is more beautiful? Which… well you get the picture.

The funny thing is, it always seems to be their child that tips the balance.

Not many parents are as brash as little Cherry-Blossom’s mum. Most are far more subtle. We see it in that knowing little look or that “innocent” comment.

Competitive parenting is so unattractive.

But let’s not be too quick to point the finger. We love our children, we spend so much time with them and grow to appreciate their talents, the developmental steps they take, the new things that they learn. That’s right, of course. But as we do that, it’s all too easy for us to move from simply appreciating them, to comparing them to others. When this comparison starts, we’re just a few short steps away from being that competitive, pushy parent.

A Bit Of Healthy Competition?

So what’s the problem? A bit of healthy competition is good, right?

We’re not so sure. Broadly speaking, we think that competitive parenting only ends up leading to one of two things.

Firstly it can lead to pride or arrogance. As we look at other children in comparison to ours and come to the conclusion (rightly or wrongly) that our child is “better”, we feel proud or arrogant. We feel superior to that other parent – their child is clearly either genetically inferior, or else their parent(s) haven’t done quite as good a job as us.

On the other hand, if we’re on the sharp end of competitive parenting or if we look at our child and see that they’re behind their peers, we’re deflated. We feel guilty – have I not been doing the right things to teach my child? Am I doing something wrong? We feel inferior – I’m just not as good a parent. We feel disappointed – why can’t my child outdo the others? We feel short-changed – how come I’m the one who gets the child that struggles?

It’s not a surprise that here on the Gospel-Centred Parenting blog we think that the gospel has something to say to competitive parenting.

mummy-and-boazA Unique Answer To Competitiveness

What the gospel says to competitive parenting is wonderfully liberating.

The Bible describes humanity as made in the image of God. Every single person has dignity and is deeply significant because they bear the likeness of the God who made them.

And what’s more, that is not simply generally true of all people, but personally true of each individual in a unique way. Check out these wonderful verses from the Psalms:

“You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Your child was intiricately and purposefully created by our kind Father. They are who they are because that is how God designed them. That means that gratitude is the appropriate response to your child’s abilities (be they top or bottom of the class) because the good, sovereign God of the universe knew exactly who he wanted them to be, and made them so. That strips away both inferiority and pride (it’s not down to us really – and even when have taught our children something well, it’s only because God knew my frame in the secret place and knit me together to enable me  to do it – it’s down to him, not me!) We can rejoice in who our children are.

What’s more, we can rejoice in how God has made the other children around us too.  They are masterpeices of God’s creative, varied goodness and each show us something of him as his image-bearers.

So next time you meet Cherry-Blossom’s mum at play group, don’t let her comment get to you. Whether what she’s saying is true or not, you can rejoice in both who Cherry-Blossom is, and in who your child is – there’s no need to compete. You can be grateful to God the master craftsman, and you can get on with your day with joy and freedom.

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5 Parenting Mistakes To Avoid | #1 The Comparison Game

5 Parenting Mistakes To Avoid | #1 The Comparison Game

Crying FamilyWe’ve all read those parenting blog posts “7 steps to a contented baby”, “10 totally terrific tips to tame your toddler” and so on – you know the sort. They tend to be lists of more things that you ought to do (or not do) to “sort out” your children. Usually, they just leave you feeling guilty and inadequate.

Don’t worry – this isn’t one of them.

There’s some great stuff out there in the parenting blogosphere, but there’s also some content that leaves you feeling like you’re failing as a parent – that your parenting is just one mistake after another.

If you feel like that, then what you really need to hear is the gospel.

So, this week we thought we’d begin a series of parenting mistakes to avoid. But these won’t be simply more guilt-inducing posts (we hope!) Instead, we believe the gospel can bring a sense of liberation and freedom as we seek to parent, by breaking through some of the simple mistakes that weigh us down as we navigate the tumultuous world of Christian parenting.

So let’s get started with the first.

Mistake number 1: Comparing yourself to other parents

This is such an easy trap to fall in to.

You notice that mum who always seems to be so “together”. She’s made-up, has a plentiful supply of home-made, organic, healthy snacks and her children are so well presented.

Or you see that dad who, alongside holding down a busy and stressful job, seems to have the energy to invent crazy-fun activities with his children as well as thought-through times of family devotion that are the highlight of his children’s day.

Or you notice that mum at church who seems so good at gospelling her children when they’re naughty. She’s so calm when her children tantrum. She seems to be able to juggle parenting, reading the Bible with others in church, sharing the gospel with her friends, all while keeping a tidy home.

Or… what is it for you? What do you spot in other parents that makes you feel lacking, somehow?

It’s okay to aspire to grow and develop as a parent. But if you’re burdened by a sense of guilt or inadequacy because of the parents you see around you, then it’s time to stop playing the comparison game.

Why?

Because you are inadequate as a parent.

Our guess is that’s not where you thought this was going. The usual response to our sense of inadequacy would be to say something like “you’re trying your best, and that’s all you can do”, or “you’re doing a brilliant job” or “those other people are only putting up a front – look behind the scenes and you’ll see they’re no better than you”. The thing is though, all of these comforts still leave us with a nagging sense of guilt.

But it’s true. You are inadequate as a parent.

You do mess up. You do fail. So do we – a lot! And so does every other parent. Not a single parent has got this parenting thing down to a fine art.

Well actually, that’s not totally true. There is one parent who has. His name is God. The Father is the perfect parent.

We want to highlight two things about our Father that bring us comfort when we’re confronted with our sense of missing the mark as parents.

Here’s the first: God is a kind father to your children who cares for them even more than you do.

If you look at other parents and wish you were doing a better job of parenting, then know this truth: God cares for your children, and he will always act for their good. He’s the better parent that you’re not able to be. So if you’re going to compare yourself to anyone then compare yourself to him, and when you see just how far you fall short then know that your children aren’t left wanting. In him your children have a parent who will never drop the ball. That takes the pressure off your shoulders – that’s a truth that can help you to sleep at night.

“God cares for your children, and he will always act for their good.”

And know too (and here’s the second truth to cling to) that this God is also your parent, who has dealt with your inadequacy at the cross. He’s seen it, he’s borne it, and he has dealt with it. You don’t need to keep dealing with it by turning it over in your heart when your flaws are thrown into sharp relief by the parents around you. You are inadequate, yes. So are they – but that doesn’t make it any better. You’ve still failed your children even if they have too. But God forgives you, loves you, has dealt with your failure and can use whatever is going on for good, in the end. He’s in control.

So don’t be burdened by an unnecessary sense of guilt. Bask in the glorious sunshine of the gospel that has bought your forgiveness and freedom, and get on with the job of parenting knowing that you have a Saviour and a Father who supplies where you lack and forgives when you fail.

 

 

 

 

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