I have four children, the oldest of which is almost nine years old. For the last eight and half years I have put a lot of stress on my self. I always thought that kids should be perfect. If they weren't perfect then the parents must be doing something wrong. They must be inconsistent in their discipline, lacking character themselves, or just plain lazy.
Every time one of my kids would disobey, especially around other people, I would feel this horrendous guilt, inadequacy; it made me really dislike my children and dislike being around other people because I just "knew" that everyone was looking down on me. I thought that they thought I was being a horrible parent when my kids would disobey or do something foolish.
It were as if every time I left my house I felt like we were on stage performing a play and everyone had to do everything just right, act perfectly, and always say the right thing.
Then this year I was studying the book of Ephesians when I realized something so academic, so basic. I am a sinner AND so are my kids. I was saved years ago, and had the realization that I was a sinner, but I had in word said my kids were sinners too. I knew that, but I sure didn't act like it. I expected perfection from them. When I realized that my kids were sinners and that is WHY they are not perfect all of the time it suddenly made sense and lifted a burden off my shoulders that should not have been there in the first place.
"For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. "
Yes, we should all train our children and teach them to obey the rules, teach them what "no" means, and what "stop" means, but kids are sinners, and on top of that they are kids. Kids are not mature, they don't know how to react correctly in all situations, they don't always share, they don't always have good manners, they like to run and play and make noise. That is part of being a kid.
When I stopped expecting my kids to be "perfect" all the time and allowed for some grace and forgiveness in my life things really changed for me. I enjoy being with my kids and being around other people. I still struggle with having the right reaction when my child does something they shouldn't and other people are watching. I fight the thoughts "What are they thinking?" or "What do they think I should do right now?" I struggle deeply with what people think of me, and that is wrong. I should be doing what God wants, what the Bible says, and what my husband thinks is right. We must all remember not to put other people's expectations, real or imagined, in front of what God expects from us.
I have one of "those" kids. You know, the one that always finds something to break, the one that likes to test the limits, is stubborn to no end, and likes to take things from other kids, and whack someone when he doesn't get his way. I think there is probably at least one in every family. He is the one in a family that you roll your eyes at, behind the back of course, when he comes in to your house or when you spot him on the play ground. He is the one the mother struggles with the most--thoughts of failure, confusion, always questioning how they are parenting him, doubt. I know, because I have one. Not a week goes by that I don't question everything I know in parenting.
Part of the hard part is other people's reaction to that kid. Even though you think you secretly despise this kid when you see him, he probably knows it and so does the mom or dad. It is very discouraging. I beg you to fight those feelings. Smile widely when they walk in the door, greet them, and talk specifically to the child. Pray and ask God to help you love them even when they are unlovely. They too are sinners and are in need of you to show them God's grace through your actions. The mom and dad need your encouragement to keep trucking on and not to quit. They don't need advice, unless they ask for it specifically. They need your prayers and love. They need to feel like when they visit you that you enjoy them being there and not just looking forward to them leaving.
I have a few people like this in my life and I enjoy being with them soooo much. When I leave I feel refreshed and ready to face the next obstacles in front of me. It is like a water hole in the desert. If you find yourself on either end of this--I have been on both sides--the parent of the stubborn child or the friend of the parent of the stubborn child, remember that we are all in need of some grace in our lives. We are ALL sinners, and no one is perfect. Try to be THAT family that loves everyone no matter what they are going through, be that watering hole for the tired parents, be the parents that remember their kids are sinners--don't expect perfection, but slowly work towards your realistic expectations.