Of all the roles I play in life, I have to admit that mothering is probably the one area that I am the most insecure with at times. I want so desperately to be a good mom. And when someone belittles me as a mother, it hurts deeply. When I get into the comparison trap and begin to compare my mothering skills with the skills of other (more perfect!) mothers, I fall into insecurity - big time!
Being a mother for the past twenty-five years, I’ve learned some important and life-changing things that have really helped me to fight these common insecurities. There are actually five specific things that have really seemed to help not only gain confidence, but let them go, as they get older:
1. Teach Them About Jesus. Every day, I want to teach them about the only One who will never fail them. As long as the emphasis isn’t on me making their lives perfect or holding them together, they won’t hold me to that expectation. The only One who can live up to that expectation is Jesus Christ! So, I teach them about Him. I share how much He loves them. And I do my best to live a life that shows them that He is the only One I trust with my life. I teach them to love His Word and how important knowing His Word is in their lives. I ask them often, “Have you been in God’s Word lately? What is He teaching you?”
2. Pray for Them Daily. My mom heart wants to make it “all better” for my kids, but sometimes they have to learn things the hard way. This takes a lot of self-restraint on my part and the only way I make it through is by praying for my children. I know God hears. I know He loves them even more than I do! And when I pray for them, it makes it so much easier for me to trust Him with their lives – even when it seems like they are falling apart. When I pray, I realize things are really just falling into place for them.
3. Be Open and Authentic. I don’t mince words. I don’t avoid topics that are hard. As a matter of fact, I often encourage my kids to talk to me about the hard stuff. And I try not to act surprised when I hear something a bit hard to hear. I want my kids to talk to me about things because I know that if they don’t talk to me, they will talk to someone! I want to give them eternal perspectives on their problems and their life issues. I try not to judge them, but try to help them make judgments for themselves, based on their values, morals and faith – not on how the world sees things.
4. Model Humility. Your children do not expect you to be perfect. They need to see you as a real person with flaws, so it’s important to admit and apologize when you mess up. There are times when I’m very wrong in my judgments of things or sometimes I just blow it with a temper tantrum. Rather than be prideful and tell them, “It’s okay for me, I’m an adult!” I admit I was wrong, ask forgiveness and ask God to give me wisdom not to do it again. I am always surprised how quick they are to forgive. They have mentioned to me several times how much they appreciate that I do this. They see a pattern of how they are to live their lives, too. I remember the first time I did this, I was afraid it would make them respect me less. The opposite has happened. They respected me more for it. They never expected me to be perfect in the first place. It’s nice for them to hear me admit that and to model humility.
5. Allow Them to Make Choices and Mistakes. This is by far the hardest lesson I’ve learned so far. I have to start trusting them at some point. As they get older, I allow them to make choices on their own and sometimes, unfortunately, they must learn the hard way that the choice may not have been the right one. Then, they have consequences. As a mom, I try to allow them to feel the sting of those consequences without cushioning it. I would rather they feel those consequences and learn than make those same choices again. At some point, our kids have to start taking ownership for their lives. I’ve learned that when they begin to get older and make those decisions for themselves, it’s easier if they begin to do that under our roof, rather than out of the house and without our guidance.
I truly want my children to make decisions from their heart, not because it’s what I want – but because it’s what they know is right and it’s what they want. How will I teach them anything if I’m constantly giving them no choice? I trust that the values, morals and faith that my husband and I have taught them will help guide them and give them the strength to do the right thing. And if they do not choose what is right, the consequences will be life’s teacher in their lives. So you see, this is the hard one. It requires trust – not only trusting my children, but also trusting the Holy Spirit to guide them and help them along life’s way. Only He is with them all the time! I cannot even come close to that.
One final note - just as I cannot take credit when my children make good choices, I cannot blame myself when they make wrong choices. At some point, they must grow up, choose for themselves and take responsibility for their own actions. Trust that no matter what they choices, the wisdom, guidance and love you've given over the years will win out at some point. Cling to that when you feel they are slipping away. God sees. God knows. God cares.
I won’t always get it right and there are times when I mess up royally, but I’m so thankful we serve a God who is gracious, loving and forgiving. My prayer is that my children will grow up not only knowing Him, but also showing His grace, love and forgiveness to others (including me!).
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.