Pay attention to your negative emotional responses to your kids. Think of the times you get the most frustrated with your child. More often than not, it’s not their behavior that’s causing your response—it’s that one of your idols is being threatened. Trace your feelings back to the source. What’s in jeopardy? Your picture of how your child should behave? Your reputation? Your comfort? The most profound parenting quote I’ve ever heard is from Dan Allender: “One of the biggest sources of conflict between you and your kids is when they refuse to bow down to your idols.”
I dare you to cross-stitch that and give it to a friend at her baby shower.
When I had my first child, I was determined to knock this parenting thing out of the park. I read all the books. “If you do these things,” they promised, “your child will be on a predictable schedule and will sleep through the night by the time you come home from the hospital.” Or something like that. Except my son wouldn’t cooperate. He cried endlessly. He had trouble feeding and wouldn’t nap for longer than 20 minutes.
Do you know what my predominant emotion was in the midst of all of this? Anger. At an infant. I threw pillows in the middle of the night and yelled at my husband and said not-so-kind words. To my infant. Now, I’m sure that hormones and sleep deprivation played a role in my response, but more than anything I was upset because I had faithfully followed A and B and I wasn’t getting C. I deserved a child who would cooperate. All the books told me he would if I did my part, and I did my part. I was worshiping at the altars of control, success, convenience, and let’s just say it—reputation. But my son refused to bow down. And I was furious.
He turned 1 and became an easier child. I parented out of pride: “We’re such amazing parents! If only people would follow our lead.” I continued to bow down to my idols: Control. Reputation. Success. Convenience.