Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Family / Motherhood

Have Courage and Be Kind: Thoughts on Parenting

Like many others have done in the past week, I took my girls to see the new live-action Cinderella movie. I am generally not much of a movie person, and I could personally take or leave the whole princess thing, but my husband suggested I take the girls (probably so he didn’t have to suffer through it himself…love you babe) so to the theater we went.

I didn’t have high any expectations, but by the end I had cried a number of times, and I found myself genuinely grateful for a movie that shared a beautiful message amidst all the fairytale fluff.

Have courage and be kind.

Do Not Copy

Birthday week! One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 11/52

It is a simple slogan, for sure, but one with a ring that resonates in the heart of this mama.

This line describes the style of parenting I’ve come to own as I’ve matured as a parent. Before I expand on that, let me tell you a little bit about my early days as a mother.

I have always loved my children. As soon as I learned of my first pregnancy, I wanted to be a mother, even though prior to that, I might have shared different feelings about the prospect. I was young (age 23 at her birth) and as eager as anyone to try my hand at this parenting thing. When she arrived, I was completely blindsided by how challenging it is to care for a newborn. When she started walking and her little brother arrived, I was still up to my ears in the learning curve of both parenting and of general out-of-college-adulthood. When my third-born arrived, I was full swing into the, “You-have-to-be-kidding-me-this-is-so-hard” dance.

I had very little confidence in myself or my parenting choices, so I spent a fair amount of time anxiously second-guessing myself or totally ignoring things I could have been tending to that might have made life a little more peaceful. I was also easily irritated by my children (hello, lack of sleep and the impossible juggling act of 3 kids under 4 years old), and I had not yet realized that my feeble attempts to orchestrate any kind of peace in our home were not working at all.

If I’m honest, I felt a lot of shame during those years. I was ashamed of how disastrous my house was on a daily basis. I was ashamed of how impatient I was with my toddlers and their very normal needs. I was overwhelmed, and lots of days, I was anything but kind to my kids and my husband. Our lives were out of order on many levels, and I tried to duck and hide from having to openly acknowledge my role in that reality. Avoiding the truth made it easier to avoid the terribly humbling realization that, as a mother, I have a tremendous amount of influence over the health and atmosphere of my home.

The arrival of my fourth child is somewhat of a sweet bend in the road of my motherhood journey. Her middle name is Grace, and it is truly in that season that I learned in a very personal way that God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).  It is in that season that I started being more honest with myself about what I could do humble myself and serve my family without complaining about it…and that has ushered us into a sweet and beautiful season that I would not trade for anything.

Do Not Copy

So how does one have courage as a parent?

It might be different for you, but I’ll share a little list of what that looks like for me:

Having courage looks like taking responsibility for my own attitude and how it affects my family. The days that my head is in the game and I have a cheerful disposition about my role are the smoothest days.

Having courage looks like intentionally seeking to connect with each of my children and grow the trust between us by listening, spending time together, and communicating honestly.

Having courage looks like setting healthy boundaries for all of us. This has meant simplifying our lives in every way I am able to — reducing our commitments, reducing the amount of stuff that we own, clearly laying out (and following through on enforcing) expectations for behavior, and talking together about being content with what we have.

Having courage looks like seeking wise counsel when I need help. It is humbling to ask for help, but every single time I’ve reached out to someone I trust for advice on a particular issue, I walk away with valuable perspective, and usually, a lighter burden.

How does one be a kind parent? Again, you could take this a number of different directions.

I try to speak with my children, not at them. I’ve learned that my tone and delivery make all the difference. I can show kindness by simply choosing kind words, even with a saucy preschooler or a moody nearly pre-teen. This is not always easy for me.

I try to follow through on what I’ve said I will do, whether that’s a promise to do a certain activity, or following through with a consequence I’ve put forward in a disciplinary situation. Consistency grows trust between us, and helps my children know what the ‘rules’ are in our relationship. If the rules are always changing, or I don’t follow through with what I’ve said, they learn that it is only sometimes important to listen to my words, which causes lots of problems…from experience.

I try to encourage more than I correct. This is actually the hardest one for me, because it really takes a lot of effort to not spiral down a negative slope while correcting behaviors and attitudes that I have been repeatedly correcting. All day. Correction must happen, but I’ve learned that my children are much more responsive to correction when they do not feel defeated. In every situation, I want them to know what is expected of them, and I want them to know they are capable, intelligent, and worthy of respect regardless of the choices they have made that day. A child who feels loved and valued will naturally put more effort into whatever is asked of them.

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If you find yourself struggling in a season of parenting, I think its ok to take a few steps back and think about it might look like to Have Courage and Be Kind at your house. If you are in need of a friend to journey with you in that pursuit, I’m glad to be here for you. Feel free to send me a note!

Linking up with Mama Moments Monday.

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Update on goals for week 11:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 11 ~ 12 Run/Walk miles traveled, 117.5 cumulative in 2015 2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 11 ~ estimated 3,000 words completed, 39,200 cumulative in 2015

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“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

656. amazing message about the power of weakness, 657. “coffee” with a sweet friend, 658. birthday week and homemade doughnuts, 659. great anticipation, 660. generous birthday gifts and warm wishes, 661. slight updates to the blog, 662. a husband who helps in so many ways, 663. meeting new and interesting people, 664. cherry blossoms, 665. truth that heals

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