Parenting Insecurities

In your parenting role, about what do you feel insecure?  Whether you planned to have children or it just happened, the insecurities begin while they are still in utero.   It starts with unanswerable questions and a lack of experience.  We don’t even know how we will handle labor and delivery, much less nurturing a child for the next eighteen plus years.

Many of us entered parenting with strong convictions of what we will do like our parents did and other things we will not do as our parents did.   After all, “we are much smarter than our parents were at our age.  We have lived and learned through their mistakes.”  ….I wonder how many generations of humanity have thought this.  Maybe, every generation has.

I recall telling my parents, as a seventeen year old, that I thought they had been good parents. But there was one area which I wish they had done a bit differently.   I told them I wished they had given me more information about male and female anatomy and sex.    At 11 years old, after the topic was introduced to all the 6th grade girls (only girls) by the school nurse, I was given the basic information a girl needed to enter puberty.   My mother told me more than her mother had told her.

As I look back on this setting, I am rather ashamed (insecure) by my teenage boldness and audacity.  My comments to them were unnecessary and unhelpful.    The irony of this situation is that plus twenty years later, I did sadly better with my own daughter.

13432330_991497890963103_517149806296911717_n Also, I look back with wiser perspective at my own parents and am amazed at the extraordinary job they did at parenting and juggling two full time careers.  My mom chose to work the third shift so that either she or my dad were always at home with us.  They were incredibly sacrificial parents.  I wonder when she slept.

Parents continually make sacrifices of which their children have no knowledge.  Nor do they have any understanding.   It is not until we are parents ourselves that we can fully appreciate our own parents.

As parents we probably will have one or more of our teenage/adult children boldly proclaim or gently describe what a mess or a mistake we made while parenting them.   Even after our children are grown such a confrontation adds to our insecurities.  They may describe how badly we managed some situation.   Of course they are looking back on it and don’t have full knowledge of all that was involved.  We too, can examine the setting with hindsight and perhaps decide a different action should have been taken.

When our children are critical of our parenting, it often is really more about them and whatever they are dealing with than it is about us personally or our parenting.  But we project onto others what we cannot resonate within ourselves.best in people

Just as we made parenting decisions based on the knowledge and experience we had at the time, some day they will do the same.   Then they will have a new perspective on our decisions.

Every stage of parenting has its challenges and we may not feel confident in our ability to handle those challenges.    About the time when we do figure things out and implement our strategies, the needs change.   In addition to this, every child is an individual and has different needs and a different temperament.    I have frequently heard my parents say a stern word was sufficient to change my sister’s behavior, but I usually needed a spanking to receive the message (another area where parenting has changed).

If you feel anxious or apprehensive (insecure) about parenting issues, then start by praying about it. Pray for yourself, the need and your child. Keep praying until it is resolved.

You may discover your own parents to be quite insightful and pleased to be consulted about parenting. Other parents can be empathetic and might share a creative strategy that effectively helped them.   Parenting books, blogs, podcasts, and even radio programs can be helpful.     My parenting was heavily influenced by the Focus on the Family radio program.   It was always encouraging, inspiring, and challenging.

The best thing you can do for your children is love your spouse.  Strengthening your marriage and making it a higher priority than your children, gives them a secure home where love is demonstrated and expressed.                                                                               (see my post:   dianesergeant.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/guarding-marriage/)

No one is a perfect parent.   No doubt you won’t be perfect either.  You don’t have to be.  Just be loving, patient, kind, selfless, gentle, persistent, understanding, wise, . . . . . . .and when you’re insecure, ask the Lord to help you.

ask wisdom

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I Procrastinate

Confession Time. Here is my hidden secret.  I am a closet procrastinator.  Because, in general, I am a well- organized person and productive I can hide my procrastination. But there are many things/tasks that I put off, delay, or postpone.  Of course, I would rather talk about someone else’s struggles than my own.  Yet, I think I must examine why I procrastinate and what I can do about it.laundry

Why do I procrastinate?  Sometimes I just don’t want to do it. If it was a request from someone else and I had an option, then I should have said NO up front.  Saying NO can be difficult because I don’t like to disappoint people.   Sometimes I am just uncomfortable with the task.  I actually hate making phone calls to ask others to do stuff, or even to make appointments.

Sometimes I am afraid.  I am afraid that I will fail or even do a poor job.  It is a fear of how others will react or maybe even reject me.   Sometimes I delay because I don’t know where to start or I need an idea but don’t have one.

IMG_5249I can even procrastinate at writing, which I love and do all the time.  I have written daily in a journal since 1984 but there are days I don’t want to do it. I also write Bible study lessons, communion meditations, sermons, and this blog.  I write a lot.  Yet I often postpone working on one of these by addressing a smaller or easier assignment.

Some of my children are proficient at procrastination.  I can commiserate with them. It is much easier to point out their struggles than to admit my own. I have failed at helping them get a handle on their struggle with procrastination.   I have learned that encouragement is more effective than nagging.  Nagging shuts down communication and builds up defiance.

 

The following are some things that help me with procrastination:

  1. It is okay to just say, “No thanks”.
  2. A feared outcome is seldom as bad as expected.
  3. Finishing a task/project feels SO GOOD.
  4. Provide a reward as incentive for completion.
  5. Or maybe rewards for steps towards completion (frequently used).
  6. Make lists for daily, weekly and monthly goals (I love checking them off).
  7. Prioritize tasks and set deadlines.
  8. Pressure and stress melt when tasks are completed.
  9. Just start somewhere. Make some progress.  Any progress.
  10. Tackle the hard tasks first or early in the day to get it over.
  11. Remember what I have accomplished in the past and that I am capable.

I believe that these can be useful tools for teens and children. If you see procrastination in your children, I hope these tools can sideline a lifestyle of procrastination.

 

“You never know how courageous you can be until you face your fears.”

Kids in Pain

Kids experience pain.  It can be emotional pain, physical pain from illness or injury, mental or relational, and it is often all mixed together.  Being a long-term chronic (30+ years) migraine sufferer, I have learned a few things about pain.  As a parent, I stumbled upon some insight for helping kids with their pain.Bad Day Bad Life

My very active children were frequently involved in physical feats which sometimes resulted in breaks, bruises, stitches and even an occasional regret. There was lots of physical pain.  I wrote more about this in “Breaks, Stitches and Concussions”   https://dianesergeant.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/breaks-stitches-and-concussions

Any time a child is in pain their parent has a wonderful opportunity to express compassion, mercy and care.  If it is a relational issue, then the parent should gently enquire about the nature of the issue and help the child determine if there are things for which he or she is personally responsible and should address.  Then help the child to be brave enough and courageous enough to do so.  Some relationships are worth the effort and some are not.

Our youngest son had a “friend” in the neighborhood with whom he tried to play and develop a friendship.   Effort after effort was made.  They wanted to get together.  So we mom’s made the arrangements, but their time together was not fun.   They could never agree on what to do.  Each wanted to be the boss of the other.  They would not take turns leading or following. They were equally at fault.  It was not a friendship worth keeping.talk to three year old

Our eldest son experienced relationship loss over and over.  Between age 7 and 12, he had three best friends each move hundreds of mile away.  Each was devastating.   Each of these losses was completely beyond his control.  Each of these losses was very painful.

One of our sons was absolutely appalled at the sight of himself when he had chicken pox.  It was more disturbing to him than the discomfort.  He was ten years old at the time.  He required much comforting.

The entrance to adolescence opens a Pandora’s Box of emotions.  As a mom, I was not ready for this, as it hit earlier than I expected.  Also my adolescent experience was limited to the female gender and I had no idea what to expect with those male aliens in my house.

respond with compassion

Here are some of the lessons I learned through various pain issues with my children:

  1. Acknowledge the pain is real and don’t minimize it – be merciful
  2. At the same time, help them understand that this is not a new permanent existence- give hope
  3. Help them get a grasp on the enormity of (or more realistically the lack there of ) the issue- be realistic
  4. Adolescents excel at exaggeration and blowing things out of proportion – be genuine
  5. Discern how much comfort or how much prodding is needed in each situation – be truthful
  6. Considering the child’s nature, be available to talk and listen as much or a little as is needed- be accessible
  7. Some children want to converse late at night, some in the early morning and some all day. (we had them all) – be kind
  8. Some children will want to vent/talk at the time of the incident and others will wait and wait and wait before they are ready. – be patient
  9. Share your own similar experience, how it affected you and what you did that was successful or failed – give empathy
  10. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know the answers. Perhaps together an answer can be found. Be willing to pray with your child for the answer – be vulnerable

 

I once asked the Lord, why He would give me such a sensitive child, when He knew I was not a sensitive person.   The answer He gently dropped into my heart was, “That’s why you need him. “

 

Everything’s Brok en

“What broke today?”  Those were the first words Daddy said daily as he arrived home from work. Yes, something broke every day.  It was at least a something.  Sometimes it was multiple somethings.

Yes, there were the typical household issues such as a broken vacuum, dish washer, dryer, pedal on the stationary bike, leg of the mini trampoline, tub drain, bathroom door lock, sliding closet doors off the  track,  a bowl, a glass, a jar of jelly, the garbage disposal and the car battery.   Everyday usage wears things out.   BUT if you have children, and particularly active boys, then you have additional breakage.

They weren’t necessarily being malicious or abusive.  They were just very busy, childishly careless and naïve.   There were times that even I, with a clear memory of my own childhood filled with accidents and carelessness, was exasperated.

March 30th.  My sons were 9 months, 2.8 and 5.8 years old. They were all three playing boys in benchtogether.  Their play was happy and cooperative and creative.  The two older boys were giving rides to their littlest brother.  He was seated in an upside down step-bench.  They pushed the bench along the inside circle of the house – through the living room, down the hall, through the little bedroom, across the kitchen, around the corner of the dining room and back to the start. (It was so adorable I even took a photo.) All of the flooring was not the same and so some of the pushing was easier than in other areas.   What they didn’t notice was that a slightly too-tall screw in a threshold between the bedroom and kitchen was gouging the bottom of the seat (the top of the bench) with every pass around the circle.  Damage was done that was not intended.

 

This was the same day that the # 2 son, who was 2.8 years old, had also managed to break the leg off a dining room chair and bend the chandelier when he swung from it like a monkey.  He also pulled up little baby plants in a starter garden box in the window.  I needed three sets of eyes and I didn’t have them. The poor boy had to stand for a few meals while his father repaired his chair.

Toys were broken every day as the boys played with them. I could manage the simple gluing of parts, if that was a sufficient fix, but gluing plastic did not always work.  Daddy handled the bigger repairs, particularly with anything electrical or electronic.   But the boys were watching and learning.

I will never understand why my mom thought it was a good idea to give each of the children a  real-glass snow globe. They were cute and each one was unique.  But, Glass.   Of course, each one eventually became a wet mess of glass and glitter on the floor.  Some lasted longer than others.

The most frequent repairs were to G.I. Joe figures.  The boys eventually learned to take the screw out from the man’s back to expose the inner rubber band which held the legs and arms in place.   They knew exactly what size rubber band was needed to replace the broken one.

14117878_1151295281609318_672909174127295656_n

As they got older, and their toys became more expensive, they were more responsible and careful with them, but also more adept at the repairs.   They had laser guns which they repeatedly rebuilt.

Many lessons could be learned from broken stuff.

  1. When it is broken I can’t play with it. I have to be patient while it is being repaired.
  2. How tools are used, where to find them, and to put them back in their place.
  3. Tools can be dangerous, even glue. Respect them.
  4. If it is too broken to repair and I have to replace it, then I can’t spend my money on something else.
  5. Try to fix it. It is already broken.  Nothing can be further lost.
  6. Through making repairs one learns how things work.
  7. Stuff can last longer than expected.
  8. I will respect others’ stuff more if I am responsible for replacing what I break.

My three sons now have their own homes and their own children to keep them busy repairing stuff.

Best Eight Steps to Get Past Failures

Have you wondered, what is going on? How long has it been? Why has it been so long?  I will try to explain.  Even explaining is extremely difficult.  The last blog I posted was in July 2017.  I had intended to write again at the end of August, but I was completely occupied with four of my granddaughters. Then September came. I was blasted with criticism.  The criticism led to discouragement and discouragement led to fear of more criticism, which led to self-doubt, which eventually spiraled downward to paralysis fueled by excuses.

flat

Critics abound in life.  But when the critic is someone we love, then the criticism has extra punch. When the criticism is over something we are passionate about it is powerful.  I have been struggling.  My life is not in shambles. Many excellent things have happened.  My hurt and struggle is in the area of parenting.  Parenting is the topic about which I write.  Or wrote.  Is it all in the past?  Am I done?  Or, is this just a set back?  How do I recover and go on again? How do I recover from failures?

Here are the steps I am implementing:

  1. Admit failures (we cannot change the past)
  2. Seek forgiveness where and when possible
  3. Recognize that I cannot control the perspective or response of someone else.
  4. Recognize that people who hurt others are people who are hurt themselves.
  5. Evaluate and find the truth in the criticism
  6. Apply the truth
  7. Re-evaluate goals and passions
  8. Pick up the pieces and take a step forward

travel back

This blog post is my step forward.  I am tired of feeling the way I have been feeling—like a defeated failure.  I am ready to return to writing about parenting.  It is a topic I am passionate about and still learning much about even though my children are all adults.

 

Dare to say NO to your children

Is it harder for you to say No to your children than it is to say Yes?  It can be extremely difficult to know when to say which.  The best answer is sometimes what is best for the parent, but usually it is what is best for the child.  Sadly, many parents’ lives revolve around their children and “making them happy”.   Have you seen households where the child’s schedule controls the parent or where the child’s activities control the finances?

IMG_3988Happiness is not achieved by having all our wishes fulfilled.  Do you know any CEO’s, professional sports people or entertainers who have stopped receiving a salary because they have enough or too much?  Are they the happiest people on the planet?   Have you ever met a thoroughly spoiled person who was happy and content?

The following are a few times to say NO:

Say NO to unlimited snacks between meals (https://dianesergeant.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/snacking/)

Say NO to unrestricted media

Say NO to Disrespect

Say NO to Disobedience

Say NO to begging, chanting, whining and fits.   Parents when you say no, hold firm to your no.  Do not cave in to begging, whining, chanting, or fits.  When bad behavior is rewarded with giving the child what they demand, then that bad behavior is reinforced.  If the bad behavior is ineffective and even brings about negative consequences, it will cease. However, if a child presents a reasonable and calm argument, then the topic can be reconsidered.

Say NO to bending the dating rules.  Our eldest son tried to convince us to drop the rules at age 17.5 which would be dropped when he turned 18.  He asked why not.  I answered because he would be 6 months older and wiser then.  It was the right decision.

Say NO to immodest clothing

Say NO to buying everything requested

Say NO to spending money you don’t have is outside the budget, and you can’t afford

Say NO to computers in bedroomsmoney can't buy

Parents or grandparents who overly indulge may be creating ungrateful monsters.  We are all more thankful and appreciative of items for which we have had to wait or for which we have had to work.  Children who receive everything as soon as they ask for it will become demanding.   Sometimes over indulgence is compensation or guilt driven.   Address the true issues, don’t spoil.

Our children need to be told no.  They need to learn to accept that they will not always have their own way.  Remember the long-term goal is character development.   A diva may be cute to watch on the silver screen, but she s miserable to live with.  Narcissists are not happy people.

Balance your use of NO with frequent the use of YES.   See https://dianesergeant.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/say-yes/

Always keep in mind the well-being, needs, abilities, character, protection and nurture of each child when making YES and NO decisions.   Maintain room for the compromise when possible.  Do not put wants and desires as the first priority in decision making.

butterfly on blue flower

Still Letting Go, part 2

D. French ClockI am thrilled, excited and emotional again.  It is only eleven days away.  I hope I am ready. Thinking about it makes me tearful.  I have lists of tasks and I am confident each will be accomplished.  But will I be ready?  I have my dress, matching shoes and purse, jewelry, new suit and tie for hubby, all the items for the reception table decorations, and only a few small items left to purchase.  But will I be ready? This is a really big event.

As I reflect upon my own wedding on May 29, 1976, I note some differences.   The biggest difference is that we had a simple church reception with cake, mints, nuts, coffee and punch.   It was served by a few of my aunts.  My mom and I shopped together for the cake and the flowers, but I ordered and mailed the invitations, made my own dress and don’t recall ever having a conversation about a wedding budget.  There were a few things my mom and I disagreed about but she let me have my way.  I hope I communicated as well with my parents regarding the details of the wedding as my daughter has done with us.  I am thrilled to be a part of her planning.

I was confident in my choice of a husband despite my young age of almost 18 years old.  I am confident in my daughter’s choice too, because I trust her judgment. entry to shower

As a minister I have officiated weddings. I have created check lists and timelines for other couples.  Three times I have been the mother of the groom.  I understand the details and mechanics.  But will I be ready for my only daughter to be a Mrs.?   My future son-in-law has begun to call me  “Ma”.  And in some unexplainable way it is helping me draw him in as one of mine.

Our daughter lives three hours away from us.  But as she likes to remind me, we moved away, not her.  I thought that was my final “letting her go”.  She loves to travel for fun and for ministry, yet she lives and works in the same community where she grew up.   She and new hubby will continue there.

It has been my joy to attend two wedding showers for my daughter.  They were elegant and idyllic.  I am confident her wedding day will be as delightful.  My little clutch purse will be packed with lipstick, my phone/camera and tissues.

I will be ready (I hope, I think, I pray).  I will have tissues  just in case.

Deb and I

Fried Okra

Far too late, I realized today, that I was not the best example to my children. They are all adults and between my three eldest sons there are twelve grandchildren. I have a second opportunity with the next generation. Since I only see any of them occasionally I will have to be quite intentional.

I don’t really know exactly how I started on this path. It was not a New Year’s resolution, but sometime in January I decided this was the year to try new things.  This morning I wrote a note in a birthday card to a great niece wishing her fun and encouraging her to try new things. As I did this, the thought of my own failure hit me.  I always encouraged my children to be brave and try new foods. But they did not see me trying new foods.  I ate a far greater variety of foods than any of them did, but I was always asking them to not let appearances or even scent make a decision for them. As chief cook, I prepared food that I liked.  Well, I recently dared to eat cottage cheese and blue cheese.  In my mind they are both quite scary looking. I was a hypocrite. I asked them to do what I was not willing to do.

H and S in the garden

My husband with our youngest son in our garden pruning “suckers” off the tomato plants. 

I have been trying new things, mostly new foods.  In addition to the above mentioned cheeses, so far this year, I have tried Belgium endive, leeks, spaghetti squash, collard greens, fried okra, kombucha tea, and coffee.  I liked the coffee, squash, endive, and fried okra.  I plan to give the cottage cheese a second chance as I discovered my container was far past its expiration date. With food tasting, one only has to be brave very briefly.   Water washes away most tastes.

A willingness to try new things has extended to other areas.  I am trying yoga in the privacy of my home thanks to you tube.  This would be far too embarrassing to do in a pubic setting.  I think children might also benefit from trying something new in a private setting and not before an audience, even an audience of friends or family.

I have also been experimenting with new hairstyles.  I have long hair and I think I can learn to do much more with it than I do.  Here, too, I have gone to you tube for instructions.   Doing something new takes practice.  The first time is often messy.  First attempts at learning new skills can turn out badly and that is okay.  A friend who taught me how to knit gave me instructions for “easy” bootie slippers.   When completed, one slipper was at least 3 inches longer than the other.  Oops.  I have had much greater success with crocheting, but even that takes practice.

Sometimes we forget how long it took us

This “new things” quest has got me thinking about other areas to explore. Perhaps I should try a new genre of music, movies, or books.   I might make a very enjoyable discovery. This summer I hope to try zip lining.

I have always considered myself a brave and adventurous type, but my spirit of adventure was limited.  This is my year to expand my horizons.   What new foods or things are you willing to try?   How do you help your children be brave and adventurous?

Fat Momma Syndrome

Fat Momma Syndrome, or FMS.   You will not find this syndrome on any medical list.  You will not find its traits or characteristics described anywhere but here.  This label is my creation based on years of observations as a youth pastor.   Caveat;  I am not attempting to criticize any woman’s size. That would be the pot calling the kettle black.   I am labeling a parenting temptation.

I believe the syndrome begins long before the teen years, but that is when I saw it reach its peak.  I am referring to the teen years of the daughter, not the mother.   As she enters her teen years, her mom is entering her mid-late thirties or maybe her early forties. Momma no longer has the youthful figure that she had at 15 or 20 years of age, but she remembers. perfect-parent

 

Her daughter is beautiful and shapely.   Momma is proud of her.  Rather than helping her daughter to learn to dress tastefully and modestly, she allows or even encourages her to dress in ways that attract attention to her body.   I have many times been shocked at the alluring outfits that mom helped select for her daughter.

I think psychologists might use words such as transference or projection.  Others might say mom is living vicariously through her daughter.  However it is described, it is sad.   It is sad that mom is putting so much emphasis on outward beauty, which she knows changes and does not last.   It is sad that mom is passing along to her daughter her own inner struggles with self-image.

My own daughter was more sensible than I in this area.  I am proud that she dressed more modestly as a teen than did I as a teen.   As an adult, she has my permission to speak to me about my clothing if I wear something unflattering or too aged or too youthful or immodest.

 

Moms, no matter your size or shape, help your daughters to sail into womanhood with grace and style.  Perhaps together you could learn about fashion, styles, body shapes and discovering what looks best on each of you.  Teach your daughters to be discriminating and individuals not controlled by fads.    Hygiene, personal grooming, make up, and hair care are other areas that need to be taught.   Learning to do these well will instill personal confidence, which is very attractive.

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How Long?

Parenting.  When does it begin and when does it end?  Does it begin at birth?  Does it begin with conception?    Does it end at a specific age?   Is it the same age for all?

I think parenting begins as soon as you begin to make decisions based on the well-being of your unborn child.  A decision to abstain from smoking or alcohol for the health of your child is a parenting decision made months before birth.  Parenting involves much self-sacrifice.  These sacrifices may be as simple as choosing not to watch certain movies or shows in your child’s presence.  Or they may be as challenging as making the one thousand decisions per day regarding care, nurture, discipline, meals, snacks, nutrition, recreation, relationships, scheduling, health, education, babysitters, clothing, baby equipment and furniture, naps, . . . . .  this list never ends.

little-boy

The truth is, parenting is in a constant state of change.  The children are growing, aging, and gaining new skills and abilities all the time. Just as we figure out how to handle or resolve one issue, new issues arise.  Of course, we want, our children to grow and develop. Therefore our parenting must continually grow and develop.

Some day we may think, “Ah, they are all grown up.”   This does not mean our parenting is done.  This truly means we are entering a new phase of parenting.   It is called Parenting Adult Children.  It is very different from parenting babies, toddlers, school-age children or teenagers, and each of those is unique too.

The following quote is from an elderly man who recently has passed away.

“You are not done with your kids till you die.”    D.Curry

I liked his words as they express the idea that parenting does not end.   It does change.  Therefore we must change.  And it conveys the message that parenting is highly relational.  Parenting is not just an eighteen year commitment.  It is a life-long relationship.

Our adult children need us in new ways.  They need us to be supportive cheerleaders.  They may need us to be a listening ear and sometimes might even ask for advice.  They need us to be an unconditionally-loving friend.  They need us to be prayer warriors for them.  They need us to let them go and allow them to be independent.