One of my biggest challenges as a parent is sorting out the interplay between development and character.
For example, when my oldest was two and refused to try to sit on the potty, I described him as stubborn.
When my second, third and fourth children all went through a similar phase, I wised up and realized, “Ah! Developmental stage.”
No, this is not a crazy adolescent. This is the crazy mother of a ‘tween.
Conversely, when one of my children lies on the floor and cries that s/he can’t do his/her math because it’s too hard, I ask myself, “Is this because we are increasing the difficulty of the math?” or, “Is this child in the habit of throwing tantrums whenever I ask him/her to stretch beyond what is comfortable?”
I’ve been a parent now for 12 years, and I still find this interplay difficult. We are heading into some hormonal, pre-teenage mood swings with my oldest. We haven’t hit any big challenges yet, but I know they will come.
As a physician, I recognize the capacity of testosterone and cortisol (normal adrenergic hormones) to cause the physical symptoms of stress and anger. As a mom, I know that puberty is a normal developmental stage. As a person of faith, I want to help my son mature into a person who has self-control.
The same holds true of a spirit of self-pity: that feeling of isolation so common to adolescents often coincides with hormonal swings and is a normal phase of development, but I believe it can be used by the Enemy keep us isolated.
Do I have any idea how to sort out the dynamic interplay between the physiology, normal development, and character?
Nope. And my poor oldest always catches the brunt of my ignorance.
What can I do?
1) It’s a time of reading for me. Looking to others who are older, wiser, and more experienced than I. For example, I found this post of Like Mother, Like Daughter, to be particularly helpful.
2) I can pray. James 1:5 promises me that if I ask for wisdom, I will receive it. Amen! Likewise, I can pray for my children.
3) I can trust. I hold tight to that promise in Philippians 1:6, that He who began a good work in you [or in my son] will carry it on to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.
4) I can love. I know the child of God whom God entrusted to us to raise. I know the beauty and courage and compassion God put in him, and I choose to continue to see these traits, even on the hard days. I trust that God looks at me in a similar way, and He will help me in this task when the road is bumpy.
5) I can choose humor, forgiveness and hope instead of anger and despair.
I don’t share these ideas out of a place of frustration, but as a reminder to myself. A manifesto, perhaps, as I look to the road ahead.
Do you have a parenting manifesto? Please share in the comments!