Parenting is not for the weak in heart, at least effective parenting! I tell my daughter’ birth mother (single parent of 3) that it is her struggles to love, discipline and raise her children well that show she is doing something right. If she did not care about how her children turned out or how they were behaving, parenting could be easy. She would not need to worry about their hearts, behavior, or their future; she would just let them do what they wanted.
For me, my struggle to be patient and look past my almost 3 year old son’s irrational demands and into his heart is a daily challenge. When he is being strong-willed and not willing to compromise on the silliest of things my flesh wants to get mad and yell. This, however, is not what is needed. Though strict discipline is needed at times, more often than not there is something deeper that my son needs. On the surface it seems irrational that he insists that his dad helps him put his pants on not me, or that he opens the door not me, or that his little sister doesn’t touch his lego house.
In our church our adoptive families life group started a dvd series from the book and research on The Connected Child (http://www.child.tcu.edu/default.asp). Our first lesson was on trust-based parenting. Though I don’t think either of my children has any attachment related struggles I found many of the concepts helpful for all children. One of those thoughts was the truth that deep fears in children trigger need for control. So for the child that comes from a hard place (abuse, institutions, etc) the fear comes out as anger or rage. For my little guy, his need for control over the silliest of things, I believe, could be helped if I could look past the frustrating irrational behavior to the fear he might have. So, maybe it is the fear that his sister will not give him his legos back, or that he will not be able to rebuild his lego house if she ruins it. If I can address those fears than perhaps his acting out behavior will be more easily dealt with. When he persists in demanding that daddy do something for him that I am needing to do (like get him out of the bath, or put his pants on) instead of forcing my way on him, or letting him scream for 20 minutes for daddy to do, I could talk to him about how sometimes daddy does it and other times mommy helps and that we both loved to help him etc.
This is just a little bit of reflection, but I think the more I reflect on my actions and my desired actions in my parenting the better I am getting. As I tell my dear friend if parenting ever seems easy it might mean we are not doing a very effective job. The struggles are worth it as we consider we are shaping our societies future and the lives of some of the most important people in our lives!