Parenting Is Difficult Work Posted on July 19, 2023, updated on August 31, 2023 by Dr. John Hawkins, Sr. The Reality of Life’s Difficulties M.Scott Peck, in his book, The Road Less Traveled, has a great quote I love:“ Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” This quote is about adjusting our expectations to reality. Unrealistic Expectations and Negative Emotions Many people get angry, anxious, or depressed because they have expectations not based on reality. They expect something that is never going to be because there is no basis for it in life reality. You set yourself up for disappointment and failure with unrealistic expectations; as well as a lot of stress. The Challenges of Parenting I want to talk today about parenting and its challenges in certain areas. Parenting is difficult work. If you are expecting it to be anything else, you are setting yourself up for all the above negatives I just mentioned. This will result ultimately in anger and a negative attitude toward your children as well as conflict with your mate. The Impact of Unrealistic Expectations in Parenting Your family will become fractured, divided; and remember that a house divided will not stand. Children will pick up on this negative attitude and will feel unloved, develop a shame-based identity, and have a high likelihood of developing into a rebellious teen with all the dangers that can lead to. Accepting the Difficulty of Parenting However, if you accept parenting is difficult, it won’t be so difficult. Accept it is difficult work because it is about life training not just telling and yelling. It involves parental modeling because children imitate what they see. It involves repetition, saying the same thing over and over and over through the years so it sticks. Good or bad you can probably still remember things your parents said to you as a kid – “Turn out the lights, do you think I own the power company?” “Close the door, were you born in a barn?” “Quit crying or I will give you something to cry about.” That never made sense to me because Dad had already given me something to cry about, which is why I was crying. Repetition is one key to learning, it is never just one and done. Time and Emotional Presence: The Language of Love in Parenting Parenting requires time for physical and emotional presence. That is what children translate as love. They are ego-centric in the dependent state of childhood. They want you to come into their world. They want your time and attention. They seek your approval and acceptance as the parent. Even as a teenager still in a dependent state, transitioning to the independent state of adulthood; they want these things. All discipline and desire to impact their life in a positive way is based on the love relationship between parent and child. Dads this is not just mothers work. God expects fathers to lead in this area. We are not just providers but also nurturers and life trainers, mentors. That is why God challenges fathers in Ephesians 6.4 – “ Fathers do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” How do we keep them from becoming angry and bitter towards us as parents? We invest time with them in a positive and enjoyable way. We come to their events, we are available to talk and pay attention to them. The Bible as a Manual for Parenting People say, “Well, there isn’t any manual for parenting and raising kids.” But there is, it is called the Bible. God has a design for the home and parenting. After all, he created the whole concept of it, why wouldn’t he know how to make it work successfully. Look at our culture and families today. They are a mess. Suicide, besides accidents, is the leading cause of death for teens. Parents as well as children and teens feel lost and overwhelmed. As a therapist, I can tell you I have never seen so many children and young people dealing with stress and anxiety in what should be their carefree years. The problem is as a culture we have rejected God and his design for the family and marriage. When we do this, we are left to our own devices and wisdom. How is that working out for us? God’s Design for Parenting Here is a simple job description God gave to parents in Deuteronomy 6. 4 – 7: “ Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Teaching God’s Principles in Daily Life God is saying to parents first you learn to love me with all your heart and model this love to your children. How do we do this? Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” They watch us live according to God’s principles. Then we are to teach our children to do the same thing. We should be diligently teaching these principles to our children. We talk of these principles in a natural way as we live our daily life; from when we get up in the morning to when we go to bed at night. Reactivity in Institutions and the Wisdom of God’s Design Have you noticed that our institutions such as the government and the educational system are reactive? They are constantly jumping on the bandwagon of the latest philosophical idea of what they think you and your children need; even to the extent of trying to force on us what we don’t want or need. Inevitably, it doesn’t work (because anything that leaves out God’s design will never work); after suffering the negative consequences of these policies, they form a committee to study the problem. They react to the problems with another dumb “solution”, throw more money at it and repeat the cycle. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. God tells us how to make life, and that includes parenting, work. We just need to humble ourselves and acknowledge he is wiser than us. Parental Responsibility and Children’s Free Will Someone is saying about now, “I did all that right stuff and my child didn’t turn out very well. A couple thoughts on that subject. First, go back and read Deuteronomy 6. 4-7 again. Ask yourself honestly, “Did I really do all these verses say?” Secondly, remember as a parent we are responsible for modeling, teaching and praying for our children. They have free will and we can’t override it. Eventually, they become responsible for their own decisions and life. All you can do is the best you can do. Specific Parental Duties and Challenging Questions Before we wrap up today’s thoughts, let’s be a little more specific about some concrete parental duties in fulfilling our parental job description. People send in questions on this subject of parenting. I have pulled out five that I think are important and challenging. Here they are: How can I model unconditional love for my child? How can I explain the concept of spiritual authority to my child in a way they will understand? How can I explain the concept of consequences for disobedience to God in a way that is developmentally sound? How can I explain the concept of grace and forgiveness to my child in a way they will understand? How can I teach my child to apply godly principles in their daily life? Below is a video blog I made answering these five questions. I hope you will take the time to watch it. I also hope it will give you some practical help in this difficult task of parenting. Neverlose sight of the reality that children are a blessing from God, even though it doesn’t always feel that way. Children aren’t given to us simply for our enjoyment. They are given so we can train them and raise up the foundation of the next godly generation. Also, in parenting, you will learn a lot more about God and grow closer in your relationship to him. Remember, you are not alone in this difficult task; God is with you to help you, if you allow him to. Until next time may you look to your faith and realize you are an overcomer.