No one told me how hard parenting would be. Walking into it, I had ideals and high expectations for what family would look like. What I quickly learned is, parenting is a refinement process.
Becoming a mom is as much about refining us as it is about refining our kids. The good news is that through our own refinement, our kids also become refined.
Parenting is a Refinement Process
In Romans 8:28 we are assured “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
However, we also see in the Bible that following Jesus does not pave a way of ease. While he is working things together for good, it often comes through the pain and struggles.
For many, parenting is the most amazing, blissful experience. That is what I imagined my experience to be like as I entered into this journey. What I quickly realized is that I was going to be refined. Being made new isn’t always a comfortable experience but in the end it really is beautiful.
The Refinement Process
If you know anything about the refinement of fine metals, you learn that the process involves intense heat and pressure. What you may not know is that in the process, the refiner knows that the metal is hot enough when they can see their own reflection in it.
Like this, God is working in us. Our Maker works through the pressure until he can see His own face. God continues to use parenting to bring me into a better reflection of who He is. Don’t get me wrong, I love parenting. I love our kids. I cherish this parenting opportunity, but it is not easy.
Three Ways I’m Being Refined
There are more, but three things stood out in how God wanted to refine me personally. Maybe you can relate. Parenting is a refinement process, and he wants to refine me in humility, joy and patience.
Being Refined in Humility
I walked into parenting saying to myself, “I got this.” I had been a teacher, a camp counselor, and believed I was made to be a stay at home mom. Walking into this role, I thought if I just do ABC I will have kids doing XYZ.
Studying child psych and education, I knew the best procedures going in. I had learned that the most effective parents were not authoritarian nor were they permissive. Rather, they were parents that were authoritative, consistently offering both discipline and a high level of warmth and love.
The judgmental part of me saw kids that acted a certain way, and I was convinced it was the parent’s fault.
Humility came in the form of seeking parenting mentors, therapies, doctors and counseling. Most importantly, humility came on my knees asking God for the help I needed to do this job better.
God’s Word gives hope. In James 4:6 it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Who doesn’t need more grace in their lives, especially in parenting? I know I do.
As always, as we are refined, our children are also refined. Part of modeling humility is living out the gospel message with them over and over again. I need to go to my kids, in humility, confess that I didn’t handle situations well. They need to see my heart for apology, reconciliation, repentance and forgiveness. It is our responsibility, as parents, to allow our kids to see we too are imperfect beings in need of a Savior.
Being Refined in Joy
Where once I was the one jumping off the cliffs or waterskiing behind the boat, I was now the one nursing the baby, providing the meals, cleaning the house and adulting. Tears came more often. There has been a mourning for what I imagined parenting would be like in contrast to the reality I was experiencing.
While there were times of fun together, my spirit felt more serious. The laughter wasn’t coming as readily. I felt more grumpy and less willing to be a yes mom because of the extra work and mess that would come with saying yes to my kids. I was overwhelmed.
It has been said that discontentment is the thief of joy, and I found that to be true.
God’s joy is different. It is not born out of our of circumstance. It is rooted in who God is.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This verse contains the secret to joy. Did you catch it? The secret we can teach our kids and learn ourselves is thankfulness.
God created our minds and asks us to renew our minds, through His Spirit and His Word to literally re-wire our brains by creating whole new neural pathways. We do this just by claiming the truths of God’s word over and over and focusing on gratitude. Joy is a choice.
Do you know how many times I have raised my voice to say to my kids, “Have patience.”
One of the practical things I’ve learned as I’ve worked to be a better parent to my uniquely wired child is that there is a zone we should choose to live in to become a healthy, well-balanced individual.
It’s called the green zone. The green area is where we are calm and balanced, peaceful and patient. It is healthy to live between green and blue. If we live in the yellow, we fall into a state of apathy and depression.
Living in the red zone leads to anxiety. Living there consistently or going there often can cause all kinds of health problems and other mental health issues.
I have a child that jumps from green to red in zero to 60. Unfortunately, I can tend to follow suit, which only escalates things. I have had to learn a tremendous amount of patience. Trust me – God is still working on me in this area.
Practical Advice for Parenting High Voltage Kids
Beyond sharing this personal refinement with you, I want to provide some really practical advice in learning to deal with toddlers or older kids that tend to fly in impatience from green to red. These are also helpful thoughts for parents who tend to enter the red zone quickly themselves.
First, it’s good to know that when we or our kids jump from green to red the brain literally shuts down the ability to think logically.
The red zone is not a good place to parent from, nor is it a good place for a child to reside. Green provides safety, trust and security. So how do we get back to the green and how to we help our kids to get there too?
First, let the Lord work on developing patience in you. You get to de-escalate situations in your home by talking in a quieter voice, leaning away from you child and staying calm. This takes a lot of discipline.
One of the great ways God made the body is that we can literally control our body’s response through breathing. Teach them breathing techniques. You can actually change your heart rate and become more patient through controlled breath.
Developing empathy is also important and a leading indicator of social competency in humans, so identifying their feelings is important.
In the heat of the moment, you can say something like, “I see that you are really angry right now. I’m going to give you some time to get self-control, and then we can talk about it.” Have an assigned place in your home where they can get self-control.
Some parents give time outs with a time limit, but I have found it much more effective to let them use as much time as they need to become calm. It could take two minutes or 2 hours. It is really up to them.
Once they are able to communicate in a peaceful way, it is time for teaching, discipline and consequences.
Try and use few words as you teach. Ask good questions. I like asking: How did you respond? How could you have responded better?
I want my kids to take responsibility for their actions. Yes, that person may have done an injustice to you, but you are responsible for how YOU respond.
You can feel angry. Jesus felt angry. But in His anger, he did not sin. How can you do the same? Brainstorm with them solutions for when we feel hurt, angry, sad or disappointed.
God’s Purpose in Refinement
God wants to use parenting to refine us. Beyond humility, joy and patience, God wants to make me more selfless, kind, generous, thoughtful, self-controlled and most importantly, more full of sacrificial love.
This is not just about us either. Our world is aching and groaning, especially in these days. We, as Christians, need to model what it looks like to have humility, joy and patience even among the trials.
Entering in, I thought this would more a 50 yard dash, but this parenting thing is a marathon.
I don’t know why I thought I’d be able to shape my kids’ character within a few years. If God is still weeding out the sin in my own life, won’t it be a life long process for my kids also?
Be encouraged that, despite the hardships you will face in this life, some of which might come through parenting, God is doing a good work in you. He is refining you. He is refining your kids.
Identify and embrace the work He wants to do. As you continue to trust, he will use it all for good.
These are qualities we want in our kids also. Modeling character is going to be the most effective way to teach them. However, I do want to let you know about another resource on my site, Meaningful Mama.
I have a character building series that works on 52 different character traits, one for each week of the year. Each trait has at least 7 different lessons, so you could be working on character with your kids every day of the year with the lessons I’ve provided.