4 values moms need this school year

4 values moms need this school year

It’s time for my yearly back-to-school blog—the kind that gets you misty-eyed and nostalgic about where the time has gone.

Your baby is going to kindergarten. Your baby is going to middle school. Your baby is going to high school. Your baby is going to college.

Yep, that’s how we think. But at some point—or at least most of the time—we have to choose to think of our kids as the individuals God designed them to be.

Want to improve your mothering for this school year? Avoid some of the battles, some of the anxiety, some of the busyness? Here are four values you should focus on this year in your mothering:

Love with purpose—Of course, all mothers love their children. We all are overcome with love for our kids, especially when they’re sleeping, winning awards, playing nicely with their siblings, hugging us, and being sweet. I’m not talking about emotional love, although it is real and deep. I’m talking about choosing to love your kids when it’s hard, when you just don’t like them at all. (i.e. at homework time, errand time, chore time, bedtime, . . ). You might be faced with something that’s difficult for all moms: your child has a learning disability, your child is unpopular, your child is being bullied. Many times, loving is advocating, researching, and acting on behalf of children who are not mature enough to handle their own issues.

Loving children (whether preschoolers or adults) when they’re disrespectful, belligerent, rude, embarrassing, exasperating, and so forth requires us moms to dig deeper than our natural Mama Bear inclinations. We must all, at come point, access self-control and determination during the hard episodes in child-rearing, the ones your kids can handle themselves (they just don’t want to). My suggestion is to take the long look with everything. Building character is an endurance event, not a sprint. Love does the hard things, like setting limits, being consistent in discipline, choosing conflicts appropriately, standing firm with a calm and caring approach, and struggling through crises that seem unfair but will make your child a better person. Love takes the high ground and pulls people up to the expected standard of behavior without beating them down in the process.

Grace—This flows from perspective and wisdom. If we’re gracious, we realize that our children are imperfect, and we’re okay with that. Perfectionism should never be our goal, secret or otherwise. Grace means I don’t pretend to other people or myself that my kids are better than somebody else’s (this makes me a pleasant mom to be around, someone whom other moms don’t secretly hate). Naturally, my children are the best to me; I prefer them above all other children. But I don’t have to make sure the world agrees with me. When you start getting good at grace personally, it will naturally spread to other people. You will save yourself a lot of stress and your kids a lot of bad attitudes when you begin giving grace to teachers, coaches, and family members whose actions interfere or de-rail the plans you have for your children’s success. Grace is especially hard when your child faces persecution and unfairness. Actually, this is the point of grace. It’s for people who don’t deserve it.

Grace is willing to admit that everyone has flaws. When I get comfortable with the fact that my children are flawed, grace keeps me from berating or lecturing them for their mistakes (that doesn’t work anyway). Grace compels me to present truth in a kind and loving way and extend forgiveness whenever they mess up. I might give many chances, or I might cheer from the sideline while my child struggles through his mistakes (grace isn’t a free pass for irresponsibility or disobedience, regardless of repentance). It’s wise for mothers to beef up on grace because we secretly love sweeping into our kids’ lives like the hero; we know our kids will love and appreciate us more when we help them. While rescuing kids from the natural consequences of life might feel kind, it won’t teach kids appreciation, grace, or responsibility. They will come to expect that other people should do things for them that they can’t or don’t want to do. They will become entitled. Grace, by definition, responds to undeservedness, not laziness. As you give it way, you will give your child an unshakeable resiliency for life’s struggles; but when you panic, you teach your child that the world is frightening and you are a victim.

Thankfulness—This will get you through the worst of days. Some people are wired to see life positively, and some seem to always find the negative (we call it reality). Neither is bad, and both types of moms can still choose thankfulness. Look for the good in every day. Look for the Instagram moments—not because you’re trying to portray a perfect family, but because you want to capture moments you’ll never get back (you can do this many ways, not just with your phone camera). A smile of joy, an expression of wonder. Tenderness, sadness (who hasn’t taken a picture of their baby crying big alligator tears?—it’s too cute), fearlessness, accomplishment. Build a portfolio of thankful moments, not just moments of triumph. Childhood is not a resume for college. It’s a preparation for life. 

The added benefit of enjoying life’s simple moments is that you teach your children to stop and notice the world around them. Notice the neighbor struggling with groceries. Notice the rose petals dotted with dew. Notice the sunsets, storm clouds, wildlife. Notice a sibling, sitting alone in his room. If you find it difficult to notice things in every day life, start keeping a journal or a picture file. Every day document something that amazed you. When you’re feeling discouraged, go back through the journal or file and enjoy all the blessings that life has given you.

Hope—you must believe that you are making a difference. That you are building a child, and that this is the worthiest calling on your life. Even when things go wrong—when it seems that your children won’t turn out—you can be hopeful. Hope is the conviction that good triumphs in the end. Whether you believe in God’s promises or not, you probably believe that honesty and integrity triumph over deceitfulness and selfishness. You’ve told your kids What goes around, comes around. You believe in doing right, or you wouldn’t let them do whatever they wanted. Hope clings to the promises of God (even if you didn’t know God gave them) and believes the best about your child and for your child. This is an important weapon for a mother. The world, which seems so friendly in kindergarten, is often a place of cruelty and confusion. A mother’s job is to infuse her child with both self-confidence and self-awareness, so the child can navigate his own path and still feel comfortable asking for help.

We want our kids to recognize dangerous people and past-times and have the fortitude to stay clear of trouble. This takes a lot of trial-and-error and avoidance of the Bubble Mentality (protecting kids against everything and everyone). In order to keep from being consumed by fear, you must choose hope. Hope in God, hope in your faith, hope in your mothering, hope in your children. Hope is the hardest value to incorporate into mothering because its results are out of your control. Hope believes when there’s nothing else you can do.

Have a beautiful year, filled with love, grace, thankfulness, and hope. You’ll never get this one back, so make it a good one!

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