The hard way is not always the best way

I don’t know why I’m writing this because if you’re the type of person who does things the hard way (as I am) you probably have to learn from experience, not from blog posts. I am the type of person who looks at problems and shouts, “I’ll fight you with one hand tied behind my back!” rather than calmly assessing the easiest way to meet my objective and taking that road. I’m not sure why I’m like that, but for whatever reason, be it age or having three small kids or working through challenging circumstances, I find I’m mellowing a bit and learning that I don’t have to die on each and every hill I come across.

In parenting I think the tendency to do things the hard way manifests itself in staunch commitments to particular methods, whether or not those methods are working for your family, helpful to your child, or having the intended result. I can’t tell you how many of these things I’ve gone through and my oldest child only recently turned four. I remember when Hannah was a baby several older and wiser mothers tried gently to suggest that my difficulties stemmed from a method I was using – that perhaps if I relaxed my grip on this or that mantra I would have an easier time of it. I’m sorry to report I did not take their advice. Having three kids in three years certainly gave me my comeuppance as I was unable to continue with certain ideas in the face of the overwhelming evidence of how different my children are from one another. My children have been the means by which God has graciously pointed out my pride, selfishness and critical spirit, and shown me that not all methods work as well for every child. Certainly God wants us to do our best and take seriously the responsibility of raising our children, but I think He is less interested in our trendy methods of doing so and more interested in our humble reliance on His strength and wisdom.

Methods are useful when they help you achieve your greater goals for your family. They are harmful when you find yourself serving the method rather than your family, or relying on a method more than you rely on God. It takes humility to admit that you’re on the wrong course and make a change. For me, it usually takes a hard knock or two to reach that point.

I read a helpful article by Nancy Wilson some years ago that differentiated between a principle (such as: all babies must eat) and a method (such as: all babies must eat on a schedule). You may or may not agree with her methods, but I like her conclusion:

These things require wisdom. Wisdom is something that we must seek, pray for, and grow in. If we find a book that has everything mapped out for us with charts and graphs, we don’t need to seek wisdom because someone has already told us what to do. But parenting is way too complicated for such things. As Anne Bradstreet said, some children need salt, some need sugar. Every child is different. And lo and behold, just when you think you have it down pat, they pull some new thing. Then you are back on your knees asking God for wisdom again. But that is just where He wants us.

Right now I’m struggling with some mothering issues that are not working for whatever reason. They aren’t huge issues, but I’ve notice that they disrupt the peace and harmony of our household enough to warrant an evaluation. It’s tough to take a step back and consider the methods I’ve invested in, but I think I owe it to my family to do that once in a while.

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