A Mother's Insecurities When Parenting a Challenging Child

Parenting is the most challenging thing I have done in my life. I knew it would be difficult and demanding, but I seriously had no idea how much heartache and anguish can accompany it. Of course there is also exceedingly joyful moments also, and always, ALWAYS my heart is overflowing with gratitude and a deep, deep unconditional love. Which is probably why the hard times are so difficult.

And we have been having hard times lately. Hard, hard times. Times where I have frequently been a blubbering mess. Times where I can’t sleep for fear that my child will not learn the important life lessons I am trying to teach. Because I know that if he does not learn these lessons, it will inhibit his ability to get the most out of life.

You may or may not have noticed that I have been a bit slow at blogging in the last few months. I want to blog more. I’m constantly composing blogs in my head. I’m always taking photos for the blog, and yet they so often get filed away and never used. The truth is that blogging is second place to motherhood and parenting is just sapping all the energy out of me. I have wanted to share this on the blog, because I believe that sharing our challenges is empowering for ourselves, and for others, particularly those who need to know there are others out there struggling with similar issues.

Yet, I haven’t. It’s just such a raw issue for me. This parenting business. Parenting my strong willed children. It is a phrase I have heard since childhood, my parents read James Dobson’s The Strong Willed Child. Yet, until you are a parent and have the responsibility of raising one (or more) of these strong willed children, it never hits you. The weight of the responsibility and the knowledge that you cannot make that child do anything. You can only present the best possible alternatives and scenarios and pray like mad that the child chooses the correct road, and when they don’t, you can only stand by, continue to love them, administer appropriate consequences and hope they learn from their mistakes. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t.

The first time I just couldn’t face the blog because I was just feeling to emotionally exhausted was back in July. I was looking at Google Analytics today and could see a slight decline in readership since then. I don’t apologise for the lack of blog entries. My commitment should rightly always be to my family before my blog. However, seeing those statistics made me finally write this entry. Because sometimes, if I just had more self discipline, I truly could reach past my exhaustion and still write. Because writing, even when it is initially a chore, actually does re-fuel me. But most importantly, while the emotions are raw, it is often, not always, but often, the time when it can make the most impact. So, thank you readers for your patience, and I’d just like to say, please continue to be patient with me, and in return, I will try harder to not spend so much time trawling facebook haphazardly and flicking through Pinterest pinning things I rarely actually do, and I will pull out my inner reserves and write more – for both our sakes.

To be specific, let me show you where most of my heartache is.

This precious child. One of my greatest joys in life can also makes me heart ache the most.This little guy is an incredible human being. He is animated, talkative, caring and an all around cool little bloke. But he has a terrible temper. He throws things when he is mad. He breaks things in defiance. He hates to be corrected and sometimes I will start talking and he will go blindly running up the driveway in his (successful) refusal to listen. When he does remain for a confrontation, he can be nasty and will say things specifically to hurt you. (And he does that successfully too.)

We had been having a lot of temper outbursts from him back in July. After his birthday party he had a complete melt-down. It involved lots of yelling, crying, he broke a present by throwing it at the roof, (quite a feat when the ceiling is about 5m) and at one point he threw his presents in the bin. Which he instantly regretted because he was doing it for show, but I then took them and put them away in my cupboard, which then escalated his temper to a whole new level.

That night, after he went to bed, (and maybe a few times before), I cried and cried. I was a complete basket case. I was ultra tired from staying up late to make his birthday party a special occasion. And afterwards it all seemed so futile.

I am a mixture of emotions of late.  I am feeling vunerable. I feel like I am the one making the mistakes just as much as he is. I am very aware of my flaws (such as my own temper) and am terrified that the mistakes I make as I parent are going to be costly to my son’s life. My husband keeps reminding me that, Jonty has been created as an autonomous being. He has been created to make his own decisions about his life. We encourage him to make the wise decisions, but when we have done our job as loving parents, we are not responsible for his decisions in the end. They are his to make and his to claim ownership of. Yet, there is always that seed of doubt, because as parents it is necessary for us to guide our child, to teach and train them. I don’t want my lacks to result in him not heading in the right direction. Because after all, the world is full of people who have been injured by bad parenting.

I feel judged. Which is ridiculous, because when I stop and think about all my friends, my true friends would never do this. And they are the opinions I care about most. Yet, there is always doubt, that people are watching me and thinking, “If she only did this, this and this, she wouldn’t be having those problems.” Because, let’s be truthful, there are some people who are thinking this. Or I look at other families, with children who are not as strong willed as mine. I know that they have their own set of challenges, but I feel insecure that those parents do not know that I have tried many of the strategies that have worked for them, yet for my children, the response was minimal. I want to launch into self defence. I want them to know parenting is not a formula. And sometimes I do. But it is unnecessary. I do not need to defend myself. And I do not need to concern myself with their thought processes. Because God knows, I’m trying my best.

Most of all I am scared. I’ve often explained to my friends that I am scared because the stakes are high. And they are. With most other areas in my life, if I identify there is a problem, I will work hard to rectify the situation. I will change my behaviour, I will become more dedicated and persistant, I will conquer the problem. It’s not like that in parenting. You can identify an issue and work on it, but at the end of the day, it is a heart response I am after from all my children. And the thing is, despite my best efforts, I cannot be the one to make that heart response. I can’t make anything happen. That lies with my children. I can do nothing more than be the best wife and mother I can be and pray, pray, pray. Which is quite possibly the most important thing I do as a Mum.

I know that not everyone who reads this is a Christian. I respect that we all have free will to choose our belief systems. My faith is so woven into my life that my beliefs do help guide my parenting. I do not wish to force my children to believe in God. They will grow up learning about God though. Because my belief in God is the most influential area of my life. How can I not teach them something that means so much to me? People who believe in fit

ness as a way of life teach their children to be fit. People who have strong ideas about what foods to eat teach their beliefs to their children. Teaching spirituality to children should not be viewed differently. It is another dimension of life. However, what is important is that children know that spirituality is a choice. I share with my children what I believe, but I also teach them that ultimately their faith is their own. Of course I hope my child chooses Christianity. How could I not when everything I have examined tells me it is truth? But that doesn’t mean I will force my child to believe. For then it is not an authentic faith, and above all I want my children’s spirituality to be a guiding force in their lives.

I just wanted to make that little sidenote and ask for your understanding, not judgement if you do not agree with the facets of Christianity. (Because I have been attacked on this blog before for my Christian parenting.) I hope that you can still read this and know that if you are parenting a difficult child, you are not alone! There are others who share your struggles and your pain. Blogs are all about being authentic, and the real me relies on Jesus to help me through my pain, and he does. If you don’t believe this is a valid belief system, that’s OK. If you haven’t combined spirituality and parenting and the idea intrigues you, feel free to email me (address in the bar on the right) I would be happy to answer questions, or just even pray for your individual circumstance with you.

I’m sharing my insecurities with you to encourage others. Your insecurities are just that. They are areas where your own personal lack of confidence makes you nervous or feeling discouraged. Don’t allow your feelings to be any more then feelings. Acknowledge this the way you feel, but hang in there! It is not a bad thing to have these fears – to a certain extent. Because in reality, a lot of the things I have mentioned above are points I need to remember because if I am complacent in my parenting, then I am not helpful to my son. If I absolve myself of all blame, I leave him on his own, when I should be doing everything I can to help him. But at the end of the day, I need to know that it is not my power that Jonty or the other children need. I am only human. I pray that they will connect with a Higher Power – God – and allow the Holy Spirit to assist them to becoming the people they are designed to be.

People with strong wills are designed to accomplish much. They have a tenacity to tackle problems and fight for the outcome to be achieved. That is a terrific characteristic to possess. Here’s to guiding our children into maturity and cheering them on from the sidelines as we watch them to develop into amazing people who make a powerful difference in the world.

Do you have a child who you find challenging? Do you have insecurities that buzz around inside your head? 
On Thursday, I will share some practical tips that have assisted me with parenting because it’s always good to have some ideas in your toolbox! I know there are some days I’m so hungry for a new strategy, because sometimes you just need a fresh perspective because your own toolkit just isn’t adequate.

Following up this post I have shared some strategies to parenting Strong Willed Children. See Part One and Part Two

I am linking up with Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesday

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  1. The most challenging thing for me as a parent is when my son is reduced to tears over something so trivial. Lately he’s been throwing tantrums, but thankfully they don’t last long and he is easily distracted. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for you with your gorgeous boy. As parents we love our kids unconditionally and it is really hard to see them act out or in a way that we believe we haven’t brought them up to behave. Have you talked to anyone about it? Is there maybe a counselor in your church or someone who you could talk to? Sometimes it’s helpful to get outsider insight, maybe some ideas/ways to manage these difficult times that you haven’t thought of? Sending you lots of love (and patience). -Aroha (for #teamIBOT)

    1. Yes, Aroha, we get instant tears when things aren’t going his way too! I’m seriously hoping that he gets over it soon, it’s been seven years! I’ve talked to plenty of people about this, including a counsellor. We’ve also participated in as many parenting courses as we can. I’m sure he will grow up to be a fantastic young man, in the meantime, raising him to be this is a marathon, not a sprint!

  2. Hi Caitlin,

    Thanks so much for opening up in thist post. You’ve raised some interesting issues and made me think about things from a different perspective.

    I originally came to your blog through IBOT and found it resonnated as I was struggling with infertility issues at the time. It was so helpful to read about someone who had also struggled and had found a happy ending. I now have you on my my feed reader so when you blog I see it. I too have been struggling with posting recently but when that happens I remind myself that my blog is mostly for me. I love to look back and watch my relationship with my husband and family grow. People like me take comfort and solace from your blog but ultimately you blog for you.

    When my own friends are struggling with issues with their kids I know that I’m probably too pushy with advice.
    If my friends bring it up I feel like they are doing it because they want to workshop the issue. But maybe they are just doing it because they want to unload their worries. I try so hard to offer advice without being judgemental and to say my piece and then leave it alone. I hope I’m achieving that balance of helpful and understanding.

    It sounds like you’re doing a great job with your son. I’m sure you’ll look back in the future and these strong willed characteristics which your son is learning to control will be a strength in life and the workplace. So difficult to not worry about it though when you’re on the frontline. Keep up the good work!

    Sorry this comment is just a dump of thoughts rather than a cohesive message. Just wanted to let you know that I’m here and reading and enjoying / learning from / understanding your posts.

    1. Thank you so much Jess. It’s always an honour to hear of people who regularly read my blog. Personally, I’m always open to hearing advice, particularly if it’s given in the right spirit. I’m normally just desperate to get through the next day – few hours sometimes!

  3. I have a very strong willed little girl. She has gotten easier with time but I remember enviously looking at other parents well behaved toddlers whilst mine could scream for hours non stop. You are right, sometimes someones elses perspective is the one that works for you!

    1. I love hearing others ideas. It’s also a balance of not feeling condemned when some of those ideas don’t work for you. It’s always a balance finding the strategies that work for our own unique children and families.

  4. Oh Caitlin… This is beautiful. So honest, so raw and so real. I admire you so much.

    J man is blessed beyond measure to have you as his mum. We have a challenging poppet here too… breaks my heart to see that lessons need to be learned the hard way.

    We need to drink more tea together…. XX

    1. I’m all in for more tea with B! We can sob into our teacups together! Look forward to the day in their future where we spend a tea party bragging about the amazing difference they are contributing to our society. xxx

  5. All I have to say is that you are an amazing mom! Sometimes were lose sight of how special and talented and creative the child is, when they are displaying so much anger and are having temper tantrums. He will grow and be a great young man in society because you mom, cared enough to help him get through this crazy thing we call life! Prayers up!

  6. I love you Cait! (And while my head is bombarded with things I could say, I think all I will do is say what I did and trust that you will feel the big hug behind it—I Love you my faraway friend!!!)

  7. Thank you for being honest and sharing this Caitlin.
    I can totally understand having a “spirited” 3 year old! I have endured lectures, head shakes and stares from those with “model” children. I hate to admit this, but sometimes wish his childhood away hoping he will magically be older and I won’t have to deal with his behaviour.
    Exhaustion and tears get the better of me most days, but I keep telling myself it is a season and this too shall pass.
    Here’s to hoping, praying and finding the energy both physically and emotionally to do the best we can do as mums.
    Sending hugs your way xo
    Mary K

    1. Absolutely! It really is a season. I do imagine the days when I can look at all Jonty is accomplishing and be oh so proud. At the same time, I know that those days won’t happen unless we do the hard work now. Hang in there and praying that there will be so many special moments to cherish in his childhood, even if it is in between the meltdowns!

  8. It is the toughest gig! You are doing a great job. And as parents I believe we can only do our absolute best and know that nothing will ever be perfect, we will make mistakes along the way, and constantly go through a journey of finding out answers. xx

    1. It really is a tough gig! Thank goodness our mistakes do not have to determine their future. And thank goodness there are answers and we can learn and grow from the errors! (Both parent and child!)

  9. Oh Caitlin, I think some children just test us more than others and from the sounds of it you are doing everything as anyone in your situation would. I’m sure people aren’t judging you, if they are, they are not friends and quite frankly have no business to judge anyone’s parenting skills. Not all kids want to live my society’s rules, not all can because they are all wired differently, it’s about embracing their differences and working out what they need to be happy. It’s a tough one. I have a crier, at EVERYTHING, and a screamer, but he’s 2 so that’s expected. Hang in there and be kind to yourself x

  10. Caitlin I’ve got two strong willed kids, and two more compliant ones, and without a doubt I would say that when parenting with a kingdom mentality, the strong willed ones are easier. Yes they will push you and argue you with and tear your heart out, but once they have got the truth in their heart, they will hold on to it tightly, and you will know. They will choose to follow because it’s their choice, and nothing someone else has forced on them.
    The other kids, I’m always second guessing. They are so quick to please and follow, I sometimes wonder if the truth has got through to their heart, or if it’s just what they do.
    Do not despair. Keep praying, keep setting firm boundaries, keep being consistent and persistent, and keeping filling his little heart with God’s word and you will see the harvest that comes. You’re doing such a good job. xxxx

  11. For me, covering everything is grace, from the ultimate Father. I am not to strive, but rest in his love and adoration of me. I am the right and ‘perfect’ mother for the kids he gave me. This revelation brought me to a place of peace about myself and both of my kids futures and releases freedom into my parenting life like never before.

  12. My little girl is showing that she has a strong willed, independent side to her personality, and there are times when all I can do is pray.
    Where would we be in our parenting without the Holy Spirit?!
    Thank you for being so open and honest in the post. I’m going to spend some time exploring your blog…

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