4 Ways to Have Gratitude for Your Children's Bad Attitudes
From the moment our babies are placed in our arms, we know we’ve been blessed. First smiles, first steps, and lisped “I love you’s” bring joy to our hearts. We’re filled with pride as our kids learn to pedal a two-wheeler or climb onto the school bus for the first day of kindergarten.
At Thanksgiving, we celebrate the countless ways our children bless our lives. We celebrate the truth that “children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3).
Yet with all the gifts of parenthood, we can’t deny the challenges. The same little lips that kiss our cheek will shout “no!” to our face in the toddler years. The shining eyes that look up to Daddy will roll in frustration as he sets house rules and expectations.
The constant “Why, Mommy?” of our preschoolers gives way to kids questioning if God is real, loving, and good. When we feel disconnected or disrespected, it’s hard to hold on to a sense of joy and blessing in our parenting.
God knows the struggle and strain we face in raising our kids. He’s with us each hour we lie awake, waiting for our teen to pull into the driveway. He hears the back talk, slamming doors, and arguing by our strong-willed child.
As our kids face doubts, temptation, and fear, God knows we feel inadequate to help. How can we give thanks when we’re frustrated and helpless as moms and dads?
The Bible holds a powerful promise for each of us as we tackle the task of parenthood. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). God will not waste one moment of pain in parenting.
Our kids’ attitudes, choices, and struggles are used to grow our faith and make us more like Jesus. Here are 4 attitudes and the rewards we can be thankful for:
1. Resistance and Rebellion
Over the years, our kids let us know the chore chart was unreasonable. Our standards for modesty, ridiculous. Screen time limits are frustrating. They say “yuck” to healthy meals but “yes, please” to late curfews. It seems that our wishes and requests are met with pushback at every turn.
I remember how our little girl faced a tough battle with sensory processing disorder. Before she was diagnosed, this meant she faced a tough battle with me, too! I couldn’t understand why she would scream and fight for two hours before giving in and getting dressed in the morning.
Her resistance--and our other kids’ disobedience--exposed the painful truth that I was stubborn and unyielding. Rather than seeking to understand my daughter’s pain and distress, I demanded my way.
My pride wanted strict obedience from all my kids with no questions asked. Back then, I put more energy into proving my authority than trying to reach my kids’ hearts.
God used my kids’ resistance to show me my own. I, too, reject God’s goodness to pursue lesser things. I can chase my own goals while ignoring God’s “good, pleasing, and perfect will” for my life (Romans 12:2). Each time my kids struggle to trust and obey, it shines a light on the ways I fail to submit to my Father in heaven.
God uses parenting to humble my heart.
2. Fear and Anxiety
Monsters under the bed. Exams, performances, and competitions. Bullies and mean girls. Social media and appearances. The pressures on our kids are real, and anxiety has become an epidemic for our young people.
They fear humiliation or rejection from their classmates. Today’s success determines whether doors of opportunity will open tomorrow. The media’s violent images make it seem like danger lurks around every corner. Our kids feel scared or stressed every day.
My kids’ fear makes me examine my own reactions to my circumstances. Do I fret about interruptions to my plans? Does tension steal my patience or the smile from my face? Am I praising God for his goodness, or are my thoughts consumed with worry over all that might go wrong?
Am I more concerned with pleasing the people around me or the One who created me to be his own?
As my children struggle to find courage and confidence, I discover if I’m walking by faith or fear in my own life. God uses parenthood to remind me he’s “our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
3. Apathy or Obsession
Along the way, kids can stall on their journey of growing up. We wonder how their energy and motivation disappeared. Video games and devices consume their attention, so schoolwork suffers and family relationships grow apart.
No matter how much support or encouragement we offer, apathetic sons and daughters refuse to set goals or try new things. They lose sight of their value and potential, and they miss out on the good works God prepared in advance for them to do (Ephesians 2:10).
On the flip side, our kids can run themselves ragged as overachievers. Working and striving, they’re constantly overwhelmed and exhausted. Homework and practice schedules crowd out meaningful family or worship time.
They chase one reward after another without taking time to celebrate all they’ve accomplished. Refusing to rest, kids’ health and moods break down. They forget God loves them unconditionally, just as they are.
Whether my kids are stuck or striving, I know I face the same temptations. I can refuse to move forward with God because I’d rather play it safe. I grow passive toward those he calls me to love. Or, I’m so driven and task-focused I let my priorities tumble out of order. I become worn so thin, it takes all I’ve got to make it through the day.
God calls me to both a restful and purposeful life. He invites me to participate in the beautiful work of loving others and building his kingdom. Through it all, he draws me to rest in him so he can renew my strength. If I stay in step with the Spirit, I don’t lag behind or run ahead of God’s perfect plans.
4. Doubts and Questions
“My teacher said we evolved over millions of years.”
“Why pray? God already knows what’s going to happen, right?”
“If people love each other, shouldn’t they do what they want?”
“How do you know the Bible is true?”
“God might not want me after what I did.”
“How could a loving God let bad things happen?”
“Church is boring. What’s the point?”
As our kids grow up, their world grows more complicated. They wonder how the faith of their childhood fits with what they see and hear each day. They face criticism or rejection if they follow Jesus instead of the crowd.
God’s power can be veiled behind the injustice of this broken world. Seeking independence, they can try to break free from the family’s tradition of worship. Doubts and tough questions can derail them on their journey of faith in God.
My kids’ questions make me confront my own doubts and insecurities. I have to examine not just what I believe, but why I believe it. I’m driven to study and examine the Word with fresh eyes. I count the blessings of sharing life with God’s people in the church. I remember how God provided and answered prayers. My testimony of salvation and faith becomes more important than ever before.
God moves through my kids’ doubts to renew my assurance that I am his, and he is mine.
Nothing brings more happiness than watching our kids thrive and grow. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). When they struggle with attitudes and questions about life, my own attitudes are challenged. God wants to use my kids to shape my perspective. He transforms my heart and mind as I seek him.
The Spirit will give me patience and compassion when my kids rebel. He’ll show me how to encourage them in their fears. When they test and question the truth, I can hold fast to the Word. As my kids either hold back or run hard after their goals, God invites me to pray and point them to him.
I can’t control what my kids think, feel, or believe. They’ll make their own choices and decisions on the road to adulthood. Through prayer, I place them in God’s hands and trust he’ll give what they need.
What I know for certain is he uses their lives to impact my own. Through parenting, I know the love and faithfulness of my heavenly Father more than ever before.
Joanna Teigen and her husband Rob have shared over 25 years of marriage and life with five kids, plus a beautiful daughter-in-law. They’re a neat freak married to a mess, an explorer to a homebody, and an introvert to a ‘people person.’ But they agree their vows are for always, children are a gift, and prayer is powerful. Joanna is the co-author of Mr. and Mrs., 366 Devotions for Couples, A Mom’s Prayers for Her Son, and a variety of other resources for couples and parents. She looks forward to meeting you at www.GrowingHomeTogether.com.
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