Raising Children When It’s Hard: My Reason Determines My Method

Originally published in 2012.

We look happy, don’t we? We are. Sometimes. But not all the time.

There’s something funny and horrible about the Internet–we can reveal or hide anything we want to about our lives. And the ones reading are comparing their worst days to our best days. The Internet might possibly be responsible for a whole new generation of feel-like-failure-moms who compare themselves to the pretty peeks they get into others’ lives.

Of course there’s the other side. You likely wouldn’t want to read a blog who showcased its family’s failures either. Pessimism is fun for no one.

But I want you to know that I believe behind every smiling family picture is a real family with many of the same struggles and challenges that you face.

“Do I want them to make my life easier by acting right, or do I ultimately want them to obey the Lord? The answer to that question is critical, because it determines how I parent, how I go to battle for the hearts of my children, and how I handle each opportunity to bring them to the throne of grace.”

I wrote this post, in fact, because this morning I have been dealing with sibling strife, some of which has been on-going, which really begins to wear on a parent. I want my children to treat each other like friends. I want them to use gentle words, look over offenses, and speak kindly. And I will never stop parenting them in this direction.

But wanting that and doing the hard work of digging in and daily training, reminding and correcting are two different things.

I have to be so committed to this job, and keep my goals so firmly planted in front of me, that I do not grow weary and faint (and I do grow weary). This has to be important. Important enough that it’s worth the heartache, the time, the prayers and the work.

Some days I want to walk off.

Can you believe I just said that? Yes. There are days when I simply don’t know how to handle a situation. There are days I envy moms who have quiet houses without training responsibilities at every turn. There are days I’m discouraged, frustrated, and just down right *mad* because my children aren’t behaving the way I want them to.

And that’s when the Holy Spirit whispers…“it’s not about what you want.”

Ouch. I wrote about this more in “The Secret to Mothering With More Patience”, but it boils down to MY heart’s intentions. Do I want them to make my life easier by acting right, or do I ultimately want them to obey the Lord and become more and more like Him, their maturity spilling over into their relationships and bearing fruit?

The answer to that question is critical, because it determines how I parent, how I go to battle for the hearts of my children, and how I handle each opportunity to bring them to the throne of grace.

“His compassions are new every morning”and so must mine be.

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


30 Responses to “Raising Children When It’s Hard: My Reason Determines My Method”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your heart – and REAL life. It’s funny ’cause I was thinking similar thoughts only yesterday. After we finished a fun and delightful “photo shoot”, a few hours later our wonderful “tea time” turned more into “correction time”. 🙁 Here I just wanted it to be a lovely celebration and instead needed to address some ugliness. (And the worst part was my daughter caught me sighing over it!) So I had an “ouch” too. I was immediately convicted that it wasn’t about my agenda…but HIS!

  2. Thank you for sharing. It’s nice to be reminded that I am not the only one! I’m in the last weeks of my pregnancy and it seems some days like my children are taking full advantage of my fatigue.

  3. Melissa says:

    Beautiful picture, Kelly! And beautiful words, too. Thanks for encouraging us all to desire true beauty (peace and harmony) in our homes and not to be satisfied with a facade of beauty that can be admired only from the outside. Thank the Lord for his new-every-morning compassions!

  4. Becky says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. Yesterday was thee worst day our homeschool ever. It really was horrid all around. Today is better because HIS Compassion truly are new every morning and we all need to be reminded of that.

  5. Erin says:

    So needed by me!!! People tell me that I am so patient….I want to bust out laughing! I tell them that they do not see me at home. Thank you for this post. Beautiful picture!

  6. Laura says:

    The strange thing is, I know that my brother and I fought like cats and dogs when we were young, and when I look back on it, I don’t really understand why we did… we have gotten along great for the last 15+ years. I don’t know if when you are a child, small things seem so big, and you have so little of the bigger world to compare to, that your own little thing that is going wrong IS THE THING at that moment, and you are going to let everyone know it…does that make sense?? So in that respect, I think it is actually good to allow some exposure to others’ way of life to broaden and allow for a greater understanding of the fact that we all need to learn to forebear with each other, and be an easy forgiver. There have been times, however, when toys seem to be more important than people, and toys–all of them–get put in the attic for a month or so. No cars, nothing but a stuffed animal for bedtime. Then we allow them a few here and there and eventually bring back the toys box. There are times when I think it would be “easier” if we had to have less stuff(like in the depression era). Nowadays if you not Amish, other people feel sorry for you and buy your children presents…

  7. Such good words, Kelly! And such an awesome family photo! I think I’ll forward this one to the moms in our church! Miss you!

  8. Rebekah says:

    I have been dealing with this too in my home and I am just plain tired out with it all. I would like to hear more about how you handle this please. oh, and great family photo!

  9. Mrs L says:

    An important message- THANK YOU.
    I know I am so quick to fall into idolatry in the blog world- ‘Wow, I bet her kids are so cheerful all the time and they all sing all day long as they live and work together.’
    On another note- just HOW did you get such a brilliant picture with 11 people in it?? Even your beautiful baby is looking at the camera! Everyone looks great- you must have been happy when you saw it!

  10. Charlotte Moore says:

    Beautiful family!!!

  11. Dovey says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I so needed this today. I have 6 children, and I feel like my rope is getting shorter and shorter all the time. It seems easier and easier to feel on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I know that my husband is worried. With homeschooling, potty-training, sibling rivalry, responsibility issues, discipline issues (especially the 3yo and 1yo) and housekeeping, homemaking to boot, I’m really struggling. It helps to hear that others feel like walking away because that is what I’ve said before (not to my kids, of course). I think I really need to work at spending more time with the Lord. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks and my abundance has been depleted for awhile. I don’t usually get to hear an entire sermon at church since we are training the 3yo and 1yo and I have a nursing 6mo. Anyway, thanks for the post. It was an encouragement to me. 🙂

  12. Jill says:

    Hang in their ladies. As a mom who is on the other end – our seven children are all older than 19 – and although my husband and I are enjoying having more time for each other, let me warn you that before you know it, those little ones will be grown. I see now that I was trying to do way too much when the kids were little. God’s Work truly is the most important thing you can share with your family and if you teach them reading, writing and arithmetic, they’ll get the rest. We still have our youngest two at home and we’re still working on the ‘being nice to each other’ stuff. It is sweet to see our children homeschooling their children (11 grands so far~) and training them in God’s ways.

  13. Thank you Kelly!
    I posted something similar, Today. The squabbles, strife, and selfishness can really wear a homeschool mama down. Sometimes, it just feels too big and too difficult. That’s when I remind myself that God is molding and shaping me, and that hurts! Blessings to your family! I love the picture!

  14. Shannon says:

    I so appreciate your honesty. For those of us that miss the mark sometimes it can feel like others have found something we are missing. I want others to see me in a real and honest way, but it is so true that we only tell the good stories on our blogs most of the time.

  15. Kristen says:

    Good post, Kelly! And beautiful picture, btw. Lately I feel like I am so underwater that I can’t even reach the surface to see my goals. And if I can see them, I have no idea how to reach them. But, you are right about blogs. It’s easy for one to put one’s best foot forward in a blog and hide all the bad stuff. I hide a lot of the bad stuff, because I figure no one wants to read about a whiner. But, life is hard and parenting is hard and it’s even harder when you compare yourself with others and feel like you don’t measure up and feel like a failure every day!

  16. Dana says:

    I had to stop reading blogs. These days I read your’s, Kathy’s, and Robin’s. That’s it.

    I was becoming discouraged to see all of those happy faces, and hear their wonderful stories about how they took a trip to the library, then stopped by an elderly neighbor’s home to drop off cookies and read scripture to her while the oldest was playing the violin in the background. Then they all go home to eat something they caught themselves (after dissecting it, of course, as a science experiment), accompanied by bread they’ve made with flour they’ve freshly ground themselves with a food mill that’s worth more than our car.

    Ok, so I’ve been known to exaggerate. But, thanks for being “real”!


  17. Deborah says:

    I was once a feel like a failure Mom because my life sure did not look like the blog photo I had just admired. Then I clicked on a picture on my desktop. My smiling daughter was holding up something she had just sewn. If I had not known better I would have guessed her little home school life and Mama were soooo perfect. I did know better. Good reality and gratefulness check. When we compare one another to one another we will make an error.

  18. Imelda says:

    Do I want them to make my life easier by acting right? What a great and awesome question. The other day, about two days ago, God was telling me that life is not about me and to consider others (my husband, then my children) as more important than myself; to do everything that will make them strong in spirit/successful- for their good, their benefit. Philippians 2:8 ….but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.

  19. Amber says:

    What a beautiful family pic!! Thank you for this article. This has been on my heart for some time now. I often worry about this when I post on FB statuses and articles, etc. I want to be positive and encouraging, but I don’t want people to think I have it ALL together. I often counter this (in person) by being self deprecating and listing all my faults in conversations…. not a good way to handle it either. I want people to know that I post all these things, not because I necessarily embody all of it, but because it encourages me and I want to pay it forward.

  20. Kim M says:

    Thank you for sharing! We moms out here feel encouraged that we aren’t the only ones struggling. Thank you for the mentoring type posts as well; they have challenged me over the years to be a better wife and momma.

  21. Darcy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I have been struggling today (and yesterday) with some sibling strife (again, like you said, some of which has been ongoing). I really needed to hear this.

  22. Dawn says:

    I have 10; 2 are married and my oldest girl is still living at home. But it’s the 6th and 7th children that are making me CRAY-CRAY. Boys, 18 months apart. I am an only child, and my hubby is so funny, he keeps apologizing for how these boys are acting. LOL!!!

    This that you said-
    “But wanting that and doing the hard work of digging in and daily training, reminding and correcting are two different things.

    I have to be so committed to this job, and keep my goals so firmly planted in front of me, that I do not grow weary and faint (and I do grow weary). This has to be important. Important enough that it’s worth the heartache, the time, the prayers and the work.”…..

    SO true!!!! Keeping my goals firmly in front of my face needs to be my priority right now. Super helpful Kelly!!

  23. deborah says:

    Loved your post. So true.

  24. tiffany says:

    We seem to be going through a rough season in our home right now. Boys are 5 and 3, and baby girl turns 2 tomorrow. I am 8 months pregnant and this has been by far the toughest pregnancy. I feel so tired all the time that I really struggle with dealing with strife and disobedience properly. Have you had these issues while pregnant? Any bits of advice? Thanks for all you do on this blog!

    • Tiffany,

      Don’t be too hard on yourself. Try to sneak a nap when your younger children do (even if you have your 5 year old just lie down with you). Focus on the majors, don’t sweat the other stuff. This is a short, passing season, and you will get through it. Be consistent, loving and firm.

  25. Moira says:

    Thanks for being so honest. We, too, are dealing with a lot of sibling stuff. We are in the process of adopting a new one and adding to the mix. This is hard work! I get so discouraged when they don’t act like adults! 😉 (Although, adults don’t really have it down either, do we?) I have to keep in mind that all these conflicts are really training opportunities.

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