A Young Mom Asked for Advice

Keep the Heart Podcast Bonus Episode 1

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A YOUNG MOM ASKED FOR ADVICE

There’s a quote that says this: “Unsolicited advice is the junk mail of life.” That’s why this episode has the title, “A Young Mom Asked for Advice.” I didn’t want anyone to think that I just drove up and parked the car and hung out a shingle that said, “Step right up and I’ll tell you how to train your children.

I remember how many times I was given unsolicited advice. In fact, I can vividly recall the time a stranger stopped me in the parking lot at Target with a look of concern on her total stranger face.

I had just finished shopping at Target the way I least liked to shop: with all three children joining me. This turned shopping into a much longer adventure, not to mention making it anything but relaxing. But this trip to Target was educational for me. I learned from our children that Dad always bought them popcorn when he took them to Target.

Here’s where things started to crumble. The oldest two understood not to challenge me when I said, “We’re not getting popcorn this time.” They had learned to read the countenance and knew that when their Mom’s face took on that “don’t cross me” look, it was best just to obey. The youngest hadn’t reached the age of facial reading yet, so he started the common tactic seen is stores around the world: loud crying.

But Daddy get CAWCORN and I want CAWCORN and Daddy get CAWCORN and I want CAWCORNNNNN. Our third-born had a habit of repeating himself, especially when he was crying about something. It didn’t sway me, but it did make me wish I had waited until the Dad got home from work so that I could have strolled the aisles of Target alone. I sighed as we headed to the car.

That’s when I met Miss Unsolicited. She followed us to the car and as I was placing child #3 into his car seat she asked, “Are you having a problem here today?”

What did that even mean? Our son wailed his lungs out all the way to the car. I would say that was problematic, but we were going to fix the problem soon. I resisted the urge to say, “Who called you?” Instead, I politely said through clenched teeth, “We’re fine. Someone is unhappy about not getting popcorn.”

“Oh, I see,” she said and then came the offer: “Would you like to attend a parenting class offered by the district?”

My “no thank you” came out as one word.

I shared that story to prove that I get it when it comes to unsolicited advice. Even if the advice has value, people need to be asked to give it. Today’s episode is coming directly from a text sent to me by a young mama named Angelina, so this is solicited advice. Angelina asked two questions:
1. “What would you tell a young mom not to stress too much about?”
2. What did you used to think was important and now looking back, you see that it actually wasn’t?

Let’s take these in order:
1. “What would you tell a young mom not to stress too much about?”

First, I would say that I’m answering this from a personal perspective, so these are not hard and fast rules. These are observations from a mom with a bit more wear on her tires. Here’s my short list of three things that I wouldn’t stress about:

One: Don’t stress about where your children are developmentally in comparison to others. We had three different rates of academic, social, and spiritual development going on at the same time. It reminded me of gardening with different varieties of the same plant. I grew three types of basil once, and they definitely had different characteristics. One was large and a fast grower. The other was beautiful and very flavorful but prone to disease. The third one was colorful and dramatic but unreliable.

Children are like plants in the garden. Tend to them as individuals, not as age numbers or little humans in some Olympic competition. What is a more important focus? Godliness with contentment, both for parents and children.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

Let your children see you living a god-honoring consistent Christian life with enthusiasm and sincere joy.

Two: Don’t stress about what others may think of your parenting style. This is another side effect of the comparison trap. Aim to raise your children in a way that would make God smile.

Stay very checked in with your husband about the parenting process, but leave others out of it. The training of your children and the methods you use are between you, your husband, and God.

Three: Don’t internalize every critical comment about your child. So, you picked up little Bruiser from the church nursery and heard that he had gotten in trouble for bopping another child in a toy fight. Correct the behavior, instruct your child carefully, pray with them and try, try again. Misbehavior is often due to learning how to practice temperance. Teach it. Model it, and help your children to learn how to behave in various situations by role-playing at home. We used role playing for a everything from how to meet and greet people to how to have restaurant manners.

And when all else fails, carry a Q-Tip in your purse to remind you of the acronym, Quit Taking it Personally. Someone criticized your child’s behavior, and that’s normally not personal. Take it as an opportunity to improve a training area.

Instead of stressing over child training, make spiritual goals for your children and help them to learn how to walk in truth. In fact, here’s a prayer request that you could teach your children:

“Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Behavior is tied to the spiritual condition at any age. Spiritual goals matter for the parents as well as for the children. One of the greatest ways to transfer the concept of walking in truth is to model it. For children, observing their parents is like watching a video on how to live the Christian life.

2. What did you used to think was important and now looking back, you see that it actually wasn’t?
I felt the peer pressure to have our children participate in and attend many things that really didn’t have to be inserted into our family calendar. I’ll admit, the annual camping trip that took the children away for four day was a peaceful week for us, but only one of our three actually liked going to camp. That meant the other two were drafted.

Children don’t need more activities. They need time with their own family, and it’s balanced for everyone to have some what space on the calendar. Home life routines were interrupted while trying to keep up with the weekly events that were planned by people who meant well. It’s not the responsibility of the church or school to provide weekly events for our children. Hectic lives are breeding grounds for short tempers and resentment.

We decided that for the sanity of our family, we would limit how many things our children did outside the home. This taught them to carefully consider before asking if they could add something to the calendar, because they had a limit of one major sport or commitment per semester. This also taught the importance of balance and time management, which helps them now as young adults.

And finally, we realized later in the parenting process that it’s not as important for our children to fit in as it is for them to learn who they are in Christ: fearfully and wonderfully made. Our kiddos couldn’t change the color of their skin, so fitting in was a ready-made challenge. Comments about their hair were particularly common (one person asked me if I sheared the boys’ hair like sheep), and while this didn’t bother the boys, it was not easy for our daughter. She had a gloriously thick mane of coiled hair, but she would endure teasing about it. So, we straightened her hair to make it less of a topic. This sent an unintended message. Straight hair is the only acceptable hair. This was an error on our part.

What’s a better option? Talk to your children about the differences in people, and remind them not to make fun of people. Give them a biblical reason:

“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” (Luke 6:31)

Or to rephrase it, let’s not do things to others that we hate having done to ourselves. This is also a great opportunity to be honest about the fact that sometimes people are mean. Don’t defend people who are blatantly wrong in their behavior. Call it wrong, and point your child back to how to respond biblically.
Parenting is not like a vending machine where you put in your dollar and a perfect person pops out after 18 years. Imperfect people reproduce after their own kind, and that should be an inspiration for us to be godly, and to teach our children to copy Christ. Take the role of parenthood seriously, praying all the way and trusting God for the outcome.

“Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”

Enjoy your rewards and never take them lightly.

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Keyword: Mom Advice

Topic: A Young Mom Asked for Advice

Keep The Heart Podcast: Bonus Episode 1

© Francie Taylor

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