Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Traumatic Threes

Parenting is tough. I'm certain no parent would dispute me on this fact.

Every stage of a child's life has it's challenges, but most often I hear people moan and groan about toddlerhood and adolescence being the worst. I'm not a parent of an adolescent yet, but I've certainly had some experience with the toddler and preschool years.

I've heard people describe a child's second year as the "Terrible Two's." True, the two's can certainly be terrible, but I think the three's can be just as bad or even worse. At three, a child has developed an even stronger sense of what what he wants, his cognitive abilities are stronger, and he has usually become really, REALLY good at talking.

Lately, well, this entire year in fact, I have felt like I've been embroiled in a seemingly constant battle of the will with my precious three-year-old daughter. One minute, we'll be having a grand time playing or reading a book, and the next minute a tug of war for control ensues. I ask Anna to do something that wasn't her idea and she balks. I respond, assuring her that I understand she might want to do said thing, but Mommy is the boss and God tells her she needs to obey.

Sometimes, she thrills my heart and agrees with a smile and a hearty, "Yes, Mommy," and our day can continue in peace. But other times, it's not so easy. She decides she doesn't want to obey. She doesn't want to listen. She wants to do what she wants to do, and she's going to get her way. So she argues and cries and screams, and everyone on our small compound (with houses in close proximity and windows that don't really close) gets the joy of hearing her tantrum.

I'm ashamed to say, that on many occasions, tired and wanting to avoid a possible tantrum, I've caved and have given Anna her way. Or I've bribed, offering her a treat or a privilege if she agrees to what I have asked. (I certainly bow my head in shame on this one. I am letting the girl with a wrong attitude win fair and square.)

Other times, I make the right choice and decide to go the distance. I stand my ground, and I fight the battle. I tell her that if she chooses to disobey, she'll be disciplined. Sadly, sometimes she still digs her heels in and chooses to disobey. And I hate that. I hate when she stubbornly chooses disobedience. But I know that even when I'm tired, I must engage. It's my duty as a parent, and it proves that I truly love her. Proverbs 13:24 tells me, "If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don't love them; if you love your children, you will be prompt to discipline them."

As parents, God has commanded Paul and me to teach our children to obey authority. They will answer to some sort of authority figure every day for the rest of their lives, so it is better they learn to obey now when they are small. We are also called to bring the wickedness of their hearts to their attention and point them toward their Savior. But some days it's HARD to do what's right. I'm tired from a day of functioning in another culture or dealing with the other stuff of life. Some days I'm LAZY. I just want to finish reading my book or cook a meal in peace.

Praise the Lord, as they grow, we're slowly seeing progress in Josiah and Anna's willingness to obey. Every day isn't a battle, but on days when their stubborn wills do surface, particularly Anna's, life can feel extremely challenging. I do remind myself often that Anna has gone through a great deal of change in the past year (we have lived in 5 different towns since June 2009, not to mention moving to a different continent), so it's no wonder she acts out every now and again.

God still has much to teach me as a parent, and I have a lot of room to grow. So when you think of me, pray that God will help me be consistent, patient, and loving with my kids. Pray that I won't take the easy way out when a battle of the will threatens. And pray that they will choose to obey and have sweet attitudes as well.

Parenting is tough, but even with all the struggles that come with it, the rewards are even greater!


  1. Ughhhhh! Since we're in the middle of the Terrible Twos, I just hate hearing that the threes are worse! And I really hate hearing that you are struggling with this stage. It sounds like you're hanging in there, but I will pray for your wisdom and stamina! :)

  2. Melissa, I love you so much. You are an amazing mother and have two amazing children. You're doing a great job, though I know it doesn't always feel like it. Praying for you. Can't wait to see you all at conference!