May 27

When Momma Feels Hopeless

2014 at 7:47 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

Church was over, but not Caly’s crying. She had been crying through most of the service, and despite all my efforts, she just wouldn’t stop. I snaked my way through the crowded church lobby with my emotional child, trying to look cheerful and composed.

I found my mom, handed her a crying Caly, and burst into tears.

Raising an emotional child is an emotional experience. I cried a lot in those early years of training Caly. It wasn’t just the lack of sleep or the long, exhausting days or the embarrassing situations, all of which took their toll—most of all it was the feeling of hopelessness that hung over me because all my efforts to teach Caly self-control seemed to be making little or no difference at all.

I was trying so hard to be faithful. Why didn’t there seem to be much progress? Shouldn’t it be working by now?

Caly did eventually learn self-control. But it took much longer than I expected. And then much longer after that.

My mom encouraged me to persevere. She reassured me that my efforts would yield results someday. I had to believe God’s Word that as I was faithful to parent, God would be faithful to bring the fruit.

J.C. Ryle comments on Proverbs 22:6, “Train up your child in the way he should go, and when he is old he shall not depart from it”:

“It speaks of a certain time when good training shall especially bear fruit,—‘when a child is old.’ Surely there is comfort in this…It is not God’s way to give everything at once. ‘Afterward’ is the time when he often chooses to work, both in the things of nature and in the things of grace…And ‘afterward’ is the time to which parents must look forward if they see not success at once,—you must sow in hope and plant in hope.”

Sow in hope. Plant in hope. Parent in hope that God will bring the harvest. This is the key to dealing with our fearful and hopeless feelings as moms

Fast-forward six years later to another Sunday morning. The service is over and I am pushing a double stroller with another emotional toddler through the crowded church lobby—my three-year-old son, Hudson. Only this time I have a one-year old in the front and two older girls beside me. It is Caly all over again, with three more children in tow.

Except, this time, I’m not on the verge of tears. In fact, I can almost manage a half-smile. Sure, I’m tired, exhausted in fact; and it is tough caring for another emotional child. This time around, though, I have more hope.

Caly is walking beside me, calm, obedient, and helpful. She is a reminder to me of the faithfulness of God. She is a reminder to me to persevere in teaching Hudson self-control, in hope.

And I have hope, that because of the abundant faithfulness of God, one day—even if it is one day far away—I might leave church and no one will be crying.

Related Posts:

Teaching Toddlers Emotional Self-Control: A Few Practical Thoughts

Godly Feelings Flourish Behind Walls of Self-Control

Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?

May 21

Teaching Toddlers Emotional Self-Control: A Few Practical Thoughts

2014 at 8:04 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood | Parenting Young Children

Teaching our little ones how to handle their feelings is some of the “grunt work” of mothering. It doesn’t feel fun, for us or for our kids, but it creates an environment in which we can experience wonderful, bonding, moments with our children. More importantly, we are tilling the ground for gospel seeds. Here are a few practical thoughts on teaching little ones self-control with their emotions.

Model Self-Control: Instead of panicking when they panic or getting angry when they scream, we demonstrate a self-controlled response to the situation. My husband and I often try to help our children by responding with affectionate amusement when they overreact. My husband tries to make them laugh when they cry over nothing; they feel his care and at the same time they learn how to exercise emotional self-control.

Practice Self-Control: Emotional self-control is easier when a child has learned self-control with their speech and actions. Consider: How can you make “practicing self-control” part of your daily life? Listening without interrupting at the dinner table, set times of sitting still and reading, staying on their bed at night, not grabbing toys, or holding your hand when outside—all of these practices will help your children learn the valuable virtue of self-control.

{Don’t Always} Discipline for Self-Control: We must be very careful to distinguish between childish exuberance or exhaustion and true disobedience. An over-tired or teething child who won’t stop crying is in need of a good night’s sleep. A child who is noisy or silly or gets on your nerves might need forbearance more than discipline. On the other hand, we as parents must be discerning and diligent to deal with defiant, repetitive, behaviors that reveal a concerning lack of self-control.

Teach Self-Control: There is a lot to teach your children about handling emotions, but self-control is the place to begin. In age-appropriate ways we can teach our children what God’s Word says about the importance of self-control.

~Memorize Bible verses (Prov. 25:28, 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Gal. 5:22-24, 1 Tim. 2:9, 2 Tim. 1:7, 2 Pet. 1:5-8).

~Make learning fun for the whole family by acting out a right and wrong way to respond.

~Sing songs about self-control. To Be Like Jesus and Seeds of Character include songs and Scriptures set to music that talk about self-control.

~Tell and/or read stories that show the blessings of self-control. Saturate their hearts and minds with narratives that highlight the blessings of self-control.

~ Have self-control sticker charts or contests among the kids. Encourage them to notice and encourage self-control in each other.

Helping our children build a wall of self-control is a lengthy, unglamorous, process, but the end goal is beautiful, fulfilling, and God-glorifying for our families. Don’t lose sight of it!

Related Posts:

Godly Feelings Flourish Behind Walls of Self-Control

Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?

May 15

Godly Feelings Flourish Behind Walls of Self-Control

2014 at 8:53 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

Editor’s Note: We’re going to approach this “feelings” series chronologically, starting with very young children. Today Janelle kicks us off by talking about how we can help our toddlers begin to learn how to handle their emotions.

My oldest daughter, Caly, was emotional from day one. If I didn’t want her to cry I had to hold her or turn the vacuum cleaner on outside her room. Those were my only two options. She cried in the car, she cried in her crib, she cried all the time.

This was certainly a sign of things to come. As a toddler and preschooler, Caly was the most emotional little girl I have ever met. We’re talking meltdowns over her dollhouse being moved to a different room, freak-outs from watching Baby Einstein, inconsolable weeping long after her cousin returned the toy she grabbed, every day, all day long.

Caly was the first girl of all the cousins. Up until she was born, my sisters had only boys. And even though my sisters and I were plenty emotional growing up, none of us had ever encountered a girl quite as emotional as my Caly.

Emotional Caly made for extra-emotional Mommy. Oftentimes I cried right along with her, and some days I wanted to scream with her, too. Besides being my shoulder to cry on, my mom also helped me keep my eyes on a single mothering goal: teach Caly self-control.

As soon as she was old enough, Mike and I began to train Caly to control her emotions. Whenever she would start to overreact (read all day long!) we would calmly instruct her to place her hand on her mouth and quiet down. This simple, specific action helped her regain her composure and made self-control an obedience issue. Then we would explain what self-control should look like and instruct her to remove her hand and respond in a self-controlled manner (e.g. ask kindly, play cheerfully, stop crying, etc.).

We didn’t ask her much about what she was feeling. We didn’t have long conversations exploring her emotions. We didn’t try to reason with her. We didn’t plead or manipulate, cajole or bribe. We didn’t even talk a whole lot about how emotions are a gift from God or about their God-given purpose. We were not angry or harsh. We were deliberately calm and tender in how we spoke to her. But we were firm and united in teaching this little girl one simple truth: God wanted Caly to learn to control her emotions.

It may seem like we were stifling a young girl’s budding emotions, but our goal was quite the opposite. We wanted to teach Caly how to control and handle her feelings so that she would be able to experience and express her emotions in the way God intended—as a gift from him for his glory.

The first step was to help her build a wall: “A man [or a little girl] without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov. 25:28).

Caly was a living illustration of this verse, her little soul an exposed and ransacked city, completely overrun by her barbarian emotions because she had no solid, protective, wall of self-control.

Emotional walls are usually thought of negatively these days. We think of them as barriers erected by emotional insecure or hurting people who try to block themselves off from others or from feeling anything at all. Walls=bad. So goes the conventional wisdom, and in many cases this is probably true.

But a wall of self-control is not like the Berlin Wall, erected to entrap and exclude. It is a wall like that of an ancient city or of a beautiful estate that needs protection in order for the inhabitants to dwell in peace.

Self-control is the wall behind which godly emotions flourish.

We have watched this happen in our little girl’s life. Caly is eight now, and she has learned how to handle her emotions. Not that she doesn’t still struggle at times, but she is a different girl than she used to be.

She is not a repressed or unemotional child, but happy and expressive. She feels things strongly and deeply, and is especially sensitive to the things of God. She prays often, has an insatiable hunger to read her Bible, confesses her sin frequently, grieves over her own sin and the sin of others, gets excited about sharing and loving others and encouraging her siblings and cousins to do the same.

I believe her emotions toward God are so strong because, by the grace of God, they have been able to flourish behind a strong wall of self-control. Behind that solid wall—which was arduous to build, and maybe not so attractive to look at—a garden of godly feelings has grown up in sweet safety and protection.

How grateful this weak and desperate mom is for the wisdom from God’s Word that teaches us how to help our little ones earn to handle their emotions.

Related Posts:

Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?

May 13

Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?

2014 at 8:23 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

Q: My friends and I were wondering if you’ve ever done a series on how we as Christian mums can be helping our children, girls particularly, in dealing with their emotions. It can be such a roller coaster ride and our girls are only 5! I’d love to help them grow in godliness in this area (even as little ones) and how my friends and I can help (ourselves &) our daughters understand their emotions. ~Jodie

A. Great question, Jodie! As a mom of three daughters, I’m a repeat rider on that roller coaster that is a girl’s emotions. Not to mention my daughters have six girls between them now so this is an issue we talk about a lot.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones once observed that “one the greatest problems in our life is the right handling of our feelings and emotions.” I would add that this can be one of the greatest problems in our mothering, too!

Moms are professional problem solvers, but sometimes a young girl’s emotions can be overwhelming: Our teenage daughter’s mood swings come and go like dark clouds over our home or our preschooler dissolves into tears over a hang nail and gets scared by reading Winnie-the-Pooh.

That’s why it can help—in those moments when little girl’s tears or teenage girl’s mood swings put a damper on the entire household—to first remember that emotions are a gift from God.

God made us emotional beings. He created that one-minute-squealing-with-delight-next-minute-inconsolably-crying-five-year-old and that hormone-riding-girl-come-woman to feel and express emotion.

He did this on purpose, and not as a cruel joke to exasperate mothers. God made us emotional beings so that we might enjoy and glorify him.

Emotions are from God and emotions are for God. Emotions have a purpose. They are to assist and aid us in directing our whole being and our whole lives to the worship of our glorious Savior!

But like everything else about us, our feelings have been corrupted by the fall, and if not “rightly handled” they cause all kinds of problems. If we are inclined to coddle our child’s emotions (giving them too much attention or credibility) or if we try to ignore our child’s emotions, either way they (and we!) will experience the consequences.

As Martyn Lloyd-Jones laments: “Oh the havoc that is wrought, and the tragedy, the misery and the wretchedness that are to be found in the world simply because people do not know how to handle their own feelings!”

Havoc. Misery. Wretchedness. Yep, to any mother with a teenage girl, this sounds about right. Which is why we must teach our children how to rightly handle their emotions. We must help our kids, at every stage of their development, to understand that their emotions are a gift from God to be rightly directed for his glory.

But God doesn’t simply say to us as moms: “Sorry, I know it’s tricky, but just do your best, OK?!” He gives us biblical strategies for teaching our children how to handle their emotions. So we’re going to take a couple of short posts to consider how God’s Word helps us to help our children rightly handle their emotions.

May 12

“You are as much serving God…”

2014 at 8:28 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Motherhood

“You are as much serving God in looking after your own children, and training them up in God’s fear, and minding the house, and making your household a church for God, as you would be if you had been called to lead an army to battle for the Lord of hosts.” ~C.H. Spurgeon

May 6

Is Motherhood the End of Beauty?

2014 at 8:03 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty | Motherhood

For a bunch of college girls, it was a shocking sight. Our friend, and the mother of twins, showed us her stretch marks and we, rather impolitely, stared back in dismay. Did pregnancy really carve such strange designs into a woman’s body?

“You will all look like this some day,” she warned, laughing at our expressions. “Of course, mine are worse, because I had twins, but if you get pregnant, you will get stretch marks.”

I’m glad I didn’t know then that in addition to stretch marks I would also have a c-section scar, plus two more long scars from emergency surgery following the delivery of my first child. My stomach now looks like a crudely drawn road map.

Pregnancy wreaks havoc on a woman’s body. Stretch marks and fat deposits, c-section scars and varicose veins…the list goes on. Then there is motherhood. Sleep deprivation digs dark pits underneath our eyes, bottle washing dries out our hands, our clothes don’t fit anymore and are dotted with spit-up. Our joints are stiff from hours of carpool and our muscles sore from carrying children and baby bags and pack and plays (and don’t forget the stroller!).

Whatever beauty we thought we had before we had children feels like a thing of the past. We worry about whether our husband will still find us attractive. We feel self-conscious and insecure about how we look to others.

But motherhood is not the end of beauty, it is an opportunity to become more beautiful. Moms may not get much time at the spa, but we have the chance to apply the godly woman’s beauty regimen every day, all day long.

What is this beauty regimen? Scripture says that the woman who applies trust in God (“a gentle and quiet spirit” 1 Pet. 3:3-5) with good works (1 Tim. 2:9-10) will not fail to become genuinely beautiful. And who, I ask you, has more opportunities to apply this beauty treatment, than a mother with young children?

Every day she must trust God with the physical safety, the emotional wellbeing, and the state of her children’s souls. Every day she must do endless, repetitive acts of service on behalf of her husband and for the sake of children. And every day, as moms, we have countless opportunities to take our eyes off of ourselves, to serve others, and to look to God for strength and help. This makes us truly beautiful.

So think of it this way: you can make yourself beautiful all day long! Not only when you shower and style your hair, but also when you clean up vomit and wipe dirty bottoms, when you encourage your husband and serve your family with gladness. You are trusting God and doing good works. This will make you beautiful in the eyes of your husband and your children, and precious in the sight of God.

Motherhood is not the end of beauty; instead it can be the beginning of a deeper, more profound beauty, that transforms us from the inside out. So instead of mourning the loss of a smooth, flat, stomach this Mother’s Day, let’s give thanks for the opportunity to pursue a beauty that will never fade (1 Pet. 3:3-5).

Apr 30

Q&A: How Can Moms Deal with the Distractions of Social Media?

2014 at 6:23 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Motherhood

Question: How do you deal with the distractions of social media as a mom with young kids?

Answer: Recently, I heard a report about children “acting out” in order to get the attention of parents glued to social media. Whenever we hear a study like this, we moms feel guilty about our social media consumption. We probably take in too much Instagram or Twitter each day, but how do we set limits?

We all want help. More than that, we want compelling reasons that motivate us to change our habits. Thankfully, God’s Word tells us why it matters how many times we check Facebook each day. He gives us a vision of motherhood and social media that is bigger than the size of our smartphone.

God has given us—among other things—the challenging and glorious task of raising little listeners. And in order to teach our children how to listen well, we must be good listeners. Here are three reasons to consider limiting social media so we can listen to our children:

1. Listen to show your children you love them.

Love is not…rude (1 Cor. 13:4-5) and so listening is one of the primary ways we show love to our children.

When we look up from our laptop and look them in the eye the first time they say our name…

When we listen without glancing at our Facebook feed, for as long as it takes for them to finish their story…

When we refuse to be distracted by the “like” notification on our phone, even as they stammer and stutter their way to the point of their question…

…we are telling our children: “I love you more than I want others to love me.”

Let this question guide our social media consumption: Will our children remember us as someone who was always stealing a glance at their smartphone while they were talking, or as a woman who loved to listen, as a mother who loved them enough to listen?

2. Listen to show your children how to love others.

Listening is a lost art these days. Rarely do you meet a genuinely good listener anymore—someone who looks you in the eye and concentrates on what you are saying for more than thirty seconds without glancing at her phone or interrupting or turning away all together. We are all guilty, and yet we all wish we knew more people who were eager to listen to us. Listening is a meaningful, loving, thing to do.

As moms we can raise a new generation of loving listeners by setting a godly example. When we listen attentively to our children, we teach them how to listen to others, we model what it looks like to take an interest in others, and to prefer others before ourselves (Phil. 2:3). We teach them to love others by listening.

3. Listen to show your children how to listen to God.

Most importantly, we resist the pull of social media and listen to our children so that we can teach them to listen to God.

We are not training our children merely to be good listeners but to be God listeners.

We want our children to learn how to put aside distractions, how to quiet their hearts, how to pay close attention, so that they might listen to the voice of God.

Only God can save our children; only he can remove the barrier of sin and satisfy his just wrath against their sin through the cross of Jesus Christ.

But as mothers we are called to train our children in such a way that they will be ready to hear his voice, and like young Samuel, say “Speak Lord, for your servant hears (1 Sam. 3:9).”

When we as mothers resist the distractions of social media and quiet our hearts before the Lord and when we listen attentively to our children, we will raise little listeners (and obeyers!) like Samuel.

And that, my friends, is one very good reason to turn off our smartphone.

Mar 13

When Your Child Gets Left Out

2014 at 8:13 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Motherhood

My neighbor and I stood in our cul-de-sac, watching our kids ride bikes and try to fly kites without a breeze. “My son is having a hard time making friends at his new school,” she told me. “When I went to pick him up the other day he was standing all by himself. It was so hard to see him be left out.” Her mother’s heart was breaking for her child.

Few things hurt like watching your child get rejected. I’ve been surprised at the strong emotions that well up inside me at those times. I hurt when my kids hurt and often I hurt even more than they do.

With all those strong, mama-bear emotions we can lose sight of a biblical perspective. We forget to view the situation through the lens of God’s Word. But if we are going to help our child navigate these moments, we must think about them biblically, and we must help them to think that way too.

When your child gets left out, it is an opportunity for God’s grace to come in.

This relatively small trial brings with it big gospel opportunities for parenting our children. In fact, you could argue that there are more blessings than pain to be had, when we view being left out in light of biblical truth.

(Disclaimer: Although some of what I say may apply, this post is not about bullying or deliberate unkindness which requires appropriate parental action and protection for our children.)

1. An opportunity to develop character.

Often, being slighted or rejected is one of the first trials that our children experience, and as much as we hate to watch them hurt we need to maintain a biblical perspective. “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character,” it says in Romans 5:3-4. Suffering, even in small ways, helps to strip away the sin that “clings so closely” (Heb. 12:1), and it forges godly character you can’t get any other way. So while we will feel sad that our children must know pain, we can also rejoice in the good that pain will produce. Before he joined our family, my son, Jude, experienced the harsh realities of poverty as a very small boy. I often wish I could reach back and rescue him from those difficult experiences. But I also see how those early trials made him into the remarkably mature young man he is today. I’m not happy he had to go through those difficulties, but I delight in the thoughtful, strong, wise, and responsible boy that suffering has produced. In age-appropriate ways, we as parents can begin to help our children see some of the purposes of God in suffering: to produce endurance, which produces character, which produces hope in God. And hope in God does not (like people so often do) disappoint (Rom. 5:3-5).

2. An opportunity to become others-focused.

It may be the first time your child has been left out, but it almost certainly won’t be the last. We all, at one time or another, know what it is like to be rejected, uninvited, or lonely. These are unpleasant experiences in an unkind world. But they are also blessings in disguise. As parents we can turn these experiences into valuable teaching opportunities to help our children peel their eyes off themselves and live to serve God and others. Let’s help our children use the experience of being left out to look out for others instead. Feeling rejected can, with help from Dad and Mom, make them more sensitive to others who are lonely. They can learn how to reach out to the loner and show compassion to the outcast. The question is not, “will I be included today?” but “who can I include for God’s glory today?” Being left out is an opportunity to experience the blessings of serving others (Is. 58:10, Pr. 11:25).

3. An opportunity to escape the fool.

Every Christian parent wants his or her child to grow up to be a godly young man or woman. But sometimes we secretly (or not so secretly) want them to be popular too. If we learn anything from Scripture and experience, however, it is that popularity and godliness don’t often mix too well. Few adults can handle the headiness of popularity and fame, much less so children. It is a test of prosperity few can pass with flying colors. Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to raise popular children or commended for wanting to do so. Instead, we are told to raise wise children who stay far away from the fool (Prov. 14:7). If the companion of fools comes to harm, then being rejected or left out by said fools spares your child (and you) all kinds of grief and consequences (Prov. 13:20). If our children are left out, we have to ask ourselves: do we really want them to fit in with that group in the first place? Far better that our children have no friends at all than have foolish friends. In other words, rebellion is worse than rejection. Of course we aren’t trying to raise loners. Godly friendship is a gift and we want to cultivate and encourage wise and helpful friendships for our children. But it is our job as parents to guide them toward friends who will point them to Christ. Any distance we can put between our children and the fool is a blessing from God.

4. An opportunity to draw closer to God and family.

So often, God uses loss in our lives to draw us to himself. The same is true for our children. When our children are well liked and comfortable and have all their hearts’ desire, they don’t often have a hunger for God’s Word or his presence. It is when those things are taken away that they often (by the Spirit of God) are drawn to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Ps. 119:67). As parents, we must point the way. We must tell our children that God is using this trial to call them to himself and encourage them to seek his face. Also, seize the opportunity to strengthen family relationships. I’m so grateful for the way my parents insisted that my siblings and I always look out for each other. “Friends will come and go” they said, “but you will always have your family.” You may not have that relationship with your own parents or siblings but you have an opportunity, by the grace of God, to create a family where that is the case. Fill the empty social calendar with more family time. Eat meals together and make memories and have fun together. Teach your children to rally around and support each other. This doesn’t make all the pain go away, but it does make your home a haven from the pain.

5. An opportunity to learn courage.

More and more each day we realize that we are parenting our children through great cultural changes. The world they are growing up in is far different than it was ten or twenty years ago, and we must prepare our children to engage a hostile world with the gospel in a way that is loving and winsome but also bold and wise. Our goal is to raise, as John Ensor once put it, “non-conformists”: children who do not conform to this world but who are transformed by the renewal of their minds (Rom. 12:2). Being left out teaches our children how to stand alone. It teaches them what it means to live without the affirmation of others but solely on the truth of God’s Word. We have a tremendous gospel opportunity when our kids get left out. In fact, we should want them to get left out if the ticket to “fit in” is disobedience to God’s Word.

To seize these gospel opportunities we must be sympathetic and understanding toward our children. We must enter into our children’s pain before we can lead them to see the gracious opportunities it provides. “Those kids may have meant evil against you,” we can tell them, “but God meant it for good” (Gen 50:20).

Feb 27

Raising Cookie Eaters

2014 at 3:13 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Homemaking | Motherhood

In this insightful conversation between Rachel Jankovic (author of Fit to Burst) and her father, Douglas Wilson, Rachel explains where she wants her children to “grow up as cookie eaters instead of in the house with a cookie maker.”

Good stuff here about how to avoid falling into the ditch of resenting excellence in the home or the other ditch of pursuing excellence in the home for your own glory:

“Making cookies I’m all in favor of, but if you are making them about yourself and then trying to force them down everybody else’s throats “because I’m so good at this,” it doesn’t feed your children. But if you are making them because you want your children to be the kind of people who grew up eating cookies [and because] I want my children to have lived in a home that is ordered and pleasant to be in…if you are doing it that direction, I think it will feed your children.”

In the six minutes it takes for you to bake a batch of cookies you can watch this helpful video. Worth your time.

Motherhood & Work: Cleaning House and Cleaning Hearts, with Rachel Jankovic from Canon Wired on Vimeo.