Raising Hard Children

You know that some of them are just easier. Every personality different, some subdued and quiet, people-pleasers by nature. But some are hyper-sensitive and critical, self-absorbed and viciously just, but too immature for real justice (which translates, “That’s not fair!!!!” a hundred times a day).

It’s the hard thing of parenting. And it’s the good thing. It’s what reminds us that “doing everything right” doesn’t work, and we can’t take credit for the grace that God pours out on our children.

And yet, we don’t–we can’t throw our hands up either and leave it all to chance. We are still commanded to walk with them in truth, to nurture them in love, and to show them the blessing and curse of choosing wisdom over foolishness.

God gave them to us to teach them about Him. It’s what we were created for.

Cutting through the theological jargon (though we do have to understand responsibility vs. God’s work), some of you have a child who simply makes you cry a lot. I know because I have one. It’s a child who, when God grips that heart and indwells that spirit, will do amazing things. It’s a strong child with simply the strength pointed in the wrong direction some days.

What to do?

Be consistent, and be real. This child is your catalyst. This child may be just like you, all the harder to parent. Raising this child is not just about him…it’s largely about you. God will chisel and hammer away at you and it will hurt. But He’s doing something good in both of you. And because it hurts, you will say things you shouldn’t say and do things you shouldn’t do. You will need to repent and ask forgiveness. Do not refuse to ask your child to forgive you! No matter how often. This could be one of the most important lessons for him to learn. To see your humanness, your utter dependence on the Lord, your tears and your humility as you realize you don’t know what to do.

This child makes you feel like giving up some days. But it’s not an option. So you dig in. You love him with all that’s in you, over and over. You listen. You hug him, you tell him you’re not giving up and you prove it.

You speak truth to him. You read him God’s Word. You require him to as well. You find ways to laugh. And in his anger you let him know you are on his team.

You pray for him. You pray hard and long. You get through the day and the Lord will give you strength for tomorrow. You’ll get through it. We’ll get through it.

 

*Need practical help and encouragement as a mom? When Motherhood Feels Too Hard–the book that will change the way you parent.

31 Responses to “Raising Hard Children”

  1. “It’s a strong child with simply the strength pointed in the wrong direction some days.”

    This is my son!! (2nd born)

    Thank you for this post, Kelly. This is exactly how I feel about my son. He has such a strong personality. It’s hard sometimes for my husband to understand him because he himself is a people-pleaser. I encourage my husband in our parenting, because I share my son’s strong will and fiery temper. It’s something I have struggled to bring into line with God’s will my entire life–it’s so hard, but it gives me certain gifts as a Christian that others don’t possess. I know how horrible apostate I could be, though, if I don’t yield my will to God. Turning my son’s heart toward Christ and letting the Spirit guide his strong will is so important–breaking his strength will only hinder the design that God has for him–and maybe even turn him away from God and from us. It’s my job–and it is sooooooooo hard!!!–to train him to use his little feisty will for God’s purposes.

    Like you said, envisioning the possible ends is such a great motivator, and it makes those hard days worth it.

    Blessings,
    Bethany

    • Word Warrior says:

      Bethany,

      Your comment reminded me of something I went back and added…so often they mirror our very own traits. (And for some reason this makes it even harder for me.) Such is the case, too, in my circumstance. And you are so right about the horrible apostate “I could be”. I was. But for God’s grace, I’d still be there.

  2. Linnie Lues says:

    I’m crying as I read this posting. Thank you!

  3. Kim M says:

    Great post! I have one as well.

  4. Mrs. Santos says:

    Out of three, I have two. But their “hard” ways are so different. Parenting has been the hardest thing I have ever done – even harder with an unsaved husband. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one who wants to give up, to send them all to El Salvador. Thank you for showing me I am not alone in this hard task.

    God has been so good and gracious. I know that He is faithful to complete the good work He has started in me and my kids and even my husband! God bless you.

  5. Erin says:

    Powerful post. So much truth woven in here, and much appreciated.

    Those “hard” kids are also the ones that make me love my husband all the more. They do tend more toward his personality (more analytical, like to hang on to things, but also more compassionate in their own ways). I find myself leaning heavily on God, but also turning to my husband for his human insight into these unique creations.

    It also helps all of us to remember that often their hard parts are also great strengths that just need (lots of) refining.

    Thank you for the reminder to not quit. Thankful to not be traveling this journey alone. ~Erin

  6. Lisa says:

    Thank you. I needed this SO much.

  7. Charity says:

    I said to my husband through tears the other night that one of our children is so hard! He smiled and gently said, “well, odds are as we have more of them, some of them are bound to be.” ;) I struggle because I am such a people pleaser myself, that I want to make the child happy, which is an icky trap to fall into. You’re right, it’s hard! Thank you for saying that, and to all the others who have commented and said that we aren’t alone with the hard child. Plow harder….it’s become mine and my husbands motto this year.

    • Kristen says:

      Charity, I am a people pleaser too, as well as a peace keeper (not peacemaker, peace keeper) which is not a great combination to be when you have hard nosed, strong-willed children. I can relate to what you said! It’s also hard for me to understand why my kids don’t want to please me like I wanted to please my parents. I obeyed most of the time and I was respectful of their authority and my kids are absolutely not that way.

  8. Maudie Smith says:

    This is my 2nd born also! She is my most difficult child and at 13, it’s getting even more hard. Thank you for this post! I needed it today especially at 6 months pregnant with number 7…. My mind is a tad loopy!!!!

    Blessings,
    Maudie S.

  9. Kristen says:

    I have five difficult ones, but my oldest is the hardest. And with him, I am working on perfecting the art of the apology because I do it so much. He is the one who drives me to my knees constantly.

    • Amy says:

      Well said Kristen. I have four difficult ones and my oldest is the most difficult. Thank you for post, makes me feel not so alone. Just like you, I am also “working on perfecting the art of the apology because I do it so much. He is the one who drives me to my knees constantly.” Thank you, also, Kelly for your post about difficult children. Parenting is not easy, but it’s made a little easier when you know you’re not the only one dealing with difficult children. :)

  10. Natalie says:

    Oh Kelly…a good word. And sounds like it is a balm for many. It is for me too. I’m praying God will do something huge in all of these little lives that will bear eternal fruit. God uses broken vessels to showcase His glory.

  11. Gayle says:

    Dear Kelly,

    Thank you so much for this post! A reminder I needed, to dig in and not give up! To be purposeful and trust God, and remember His grace in all things. Very encouraging, thank you!

  12. I needed to hear this today. I have one of mine that I struggle with constantly! From attitude, to school, to diet, and relationships. I daily remind myself to “take every thought captive” since my thoughts aren’t pleasing to The One who created him, and placed him in our family. Blessings and thank you for sharing the reality and the hope!

  13. Ponder Woman says:

    Once again I have long been absent from reading your blog because life was so busy. It still is and probably always will be! :)

    I loved what you shared in this post. I’m blessed to have two fairly easy going children. They squabble and try me but they are not so extremely trying as some are. My problem is more that I lack the patience I need as a mother. That’s pretty much what makes it necessary for me to go and ask them for forgiveness and keeps me praying. Sigh. I hope with all my heart that God will grant me greater patience as the days go by.

  14. Sommer says:

    So good to read this today! I have one that is especially challenging at times…and yet, I know her fire and passion could be so mightily used for the Lord. God give me strength!

    So very much appreciated this post!

  15. heather c says:

    Sigh…this post ended up in my Inbox tonight. When I was once again on my knees crying, feeling hopeless, defeated and as if all of my efforts to lead these children (and the “hard” one #2) in truth, have been for nothing. “They’re going to do and be what they will, regardless of what I do/have done.” I cried to my husband. Thank you. Thank you. And Thank You Lord for knowing what I need and always providing.

  16. Kristy says:

    God used this post for me too today! I have 2 of those children and today one of them had me ready to cry, scream, you name it. I love them all immensely but sometimes it’s so hard to know what to do. Spank? Don’t spank? Grace based parenting? I’m expecting my 6th this February, am hormonal, tired and some days just plain empty. It never seems to fail that those are the days my strong willed ones try my patience even more. And now my one year old can be added to the other two that keep me in prayer 24/7. Thank you for this post.

  17. Jennie says:

    “Raising this child is not just about him…it’s largely about you.”

    This is so true. I feel like I’m the one who has done the most growing up these 13 years of parenting. My hard one {thus far} is also my second born. I wonder sometimes if birth order has anything to do with it.? Thank you for this Kelly, and all your wisdom you share with us mommas.

    • Melissa says:

      My second is the easiest. :) I can identify with you, though, in that I’m the one who has grown the most in 18 years of being a mom. I’ve certainly been stretched!

      My challenge now is to love and direct a young one who doesn’t want to be told what to do and will do the opposite sometimes even if it’s what she wanted to do in the first place! Pray for me!

  18. God used my 4th to knock me right off my parenting high horse. And having her has changed me so much…I have much more grace towards others for one. But mostly, I have been humbled and made to depend on the Lord more than I ever did before. Thanks for this, Kelly!

  19. Cassandra says:

    I have one of these children. I love her more than I can explain, and she is so much like me. That’s part of what is so frustrating for me…disciplining her when I have many of the same faults. Thank you for your post, Kelly.

  20. I thought my firstborn (although she tries hard to please, she is a strong spirited one) was my hardest one until… #3 turned 5 years old. Oh, my Lord!! It’s like seeing my first born all over again. My husband reminds me often it’s God’s job to arrest their hearts, we just need to keep showing them Jesus and asking for forgiveness when we fail.

  21. Jenn Hoskins says:

    Do you have cameras in my home??? ;) I have one of these children and he keeps me close to the Lord! He just had a ‘moment’ that we (barely) resolved just before I sat down at the computer. You spoke straight to my heart because all I could think of is “God, I am alone in this! Other moms don’t have one they struggle with SO much! How can you use me for your Kingdom when I am struggling with this child so much?… and worse yet, I see so much of ME in him” and then I read your words and felt such peace knowing I am not alone and though the enemy is seeking to destroy God will never leave nor forsake and He knows far more than I do. That same child is now facepainting the little ones and giggling. Fills my cup to be able to pour it all out again. God is faithful. :)

    • Word Warrior says:

      Jenn,

      Ah, this was precious to me. Rest assured you are not alone. And God doesn’t pick perfect families/people to use for His Kingdom. If He did, there would NO ONE to use. And the Lord reminds me how even His own disciples had such issues–fighting over who would get to sit beside Him in heaven, denying Him, and probably more that we didn’t get to see. It is hard, but we keep at it, faithful and trusting Him to complete the work.

  22. Rebekah says:

    This was a wonderful post! I don’t comment often as I am very busy but I had to on this one. This is my 2nd one. (There seems to be a trend here). Not only is she emotional, dramatic, and strong willed. But she has an auditory processing problem that puts everything over the edge. I felt just today like giving up while not feeling good since I am just pregnant with my 7th child. Today is one of those days I want to give up. It made me think that I really can’t have any more children. sigh…..

  23. Keri says:

    I had a really hard one. He hated school and it was so tough for him.

    I am not kidding when I say as we sat at that table and studied with me helping him alot that the tears flowed often for both of us.

    I thought many times..Lord..I can’t do this!! I cried with him..helped him..and encouraged him.Many times I would tell him to look out the window to the Heavens and tell the Lord that he can’t do it.

    He is now 23 and engaged to be married in a year! He loves the Lord and is a really hard worker! He has a Wonderful Godly fiance!

    It is so hard to see the big picture when they are young and struggling..when we are struggling..lol.

    It will be so worth it to keep running this race!!

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