A couple of month ago, my hubby and I went to a parenting conference together. I’d signed us up for it months earlier, but by the time it arrived our attendance felt pretty dire. I was really worn out and feeling exhausted on parenting. The daily tantrums were wearing on me, and I was at a loss on to handle them without raised voices and tears from all parties involved.
I had lost my joy.
The theme of the conference we attended was “Intentional Parenting.” While there were a great many takeaways, there was one idea that really stuck with me – an idea that I’ve come to refer to a “Big Scheme Parenting.”
On the first night of the conference, we talked about our values and the things that are important to us when it comes to raising children. Once you know what those values are, we learned, they can help you develop your goals for parenting. Your goals are kind of like your parenting endgame; it’s what all of the exhausting discipline and teachable moments will hopefully lead up to one day – the “big scheme” of things, if you will.
These goals will look different for everybody, but ours are to teach our kids an essential love of God and love of others. Needless to say, there are other things we would also love our kids to come away from their childhood with, but if they can understand how to be loving and kind people, my spouse and I will be more than happy.
In learning this, I realized I had been feeling so overwhelmed and dragged down as a mom because I was focusing on the surface behaviors. I was getting so caught up in wanting my daughter to “just do the right thing” that I didn’t realize when I was turning into a bit of a dictator and just expecting her to mindlessly follow my orders.
I was doling out pointless timeouts and discipline for things that, in retrospect, were a bit silly. Now that I know what my parenting goals are, I can reference them when I’m dealing with challenging parenting situations.
I can ask myself this one single question: is this behavior really a big deal?
And I can come to the answer by asking myself …
Is it something I want to change simply because I feel like I should – because it’s something other parents are correcting?
Is this just my kid being a kid?
Can I let this go, or is it something I need to discipline for in order to point my child toward the end goal?
Sometimes the answer is to just let it go.
Kids aren’t miniature adults, and it’s kind of ridiculous to expect them to be. But that’s exactly what I was doing without even meaning to. Sometimes after asking myself these questions, I come to realize that I do need to follow through with discipline, because it will matter in the big scheme of things.
Looking at my parenting choices in this light has really helped me to have a lot more grace when needed, but also encouraged me to follow through when the days are tough and I just feel like giving in to my children because I am tired.
Parenting young children is exhausting work, and there are so many days when it’s hard to see the big picture. We are deep in the trenches, doing battle, and we can’t see what’s on the other side of the hill. It’s easy to be short-sighted, but looking at parenting in the big scheme of things has not only made me a happier parent, but a better one as well.
I’m able to look beyond the back-breaking work that is sowing the seeds in the little garden of my children’s hearts and look ahead toward the fruit that will one day bloom. It will take a lot of work and care, but when I think of branches heavy with ripe fruit one day – children that are loving, kind people – it makes my heart smile and gives me the energy I need to push through.