For When You Feel Like You Are Failing as a Parent

I don’t know what season of parenting you find yourself in right now. I do know that God walks us through all of them. And in the middle of each season, He gives us glimpses of what is to come. Yes, even in the winter season of parenting when we can feel like we are failing as parents. 

Where I live, God makes the seasons obvious. 

My family and I live in the foothills of the Appalachians. That’s where the Family Christian offices are located, too.  In our part of the world, it’s Fall. Like full-on. One more week of peak season.  Leaves are golden and orange and bright red. The smell of wood-burning fireplaces lingers in the evening air and it is finally cold-weather appropriate to drink that pumpkin spiced latte. 

People travel from miles and states away to experience fall here. They drive around looking at all the colors of the changing leaves. They take photos with pumpkins 100 times larger than the ones at their local grocery store. You can’t even wrap your arms around them. They pick apples from branches heavy with fruit and bite into the sweetness of warm-from-the-oven apple cider donuts.   

The fall harvest season is full of joyful moments and rest as we celebrate the Lord’s bounty and artistry on full display. 

After the harvest and the leaves fall and all the tourists go back home, the season quietly transitions into winter and the trees find rest, too. 

Nature NEEDS time to rest and retreat to its roots. During winter, we can’t see what God is doing to the trees like we can during Fall, but we’ve learned to trust that He is strengthening their roots and preparing them for spring.  Without that season of focusing on root growth, we would not be able to celebrate an abundant harvest. 

Trusting God Is at Work Beneath the Surface

We don’t need to see God working beneath the surface to know that He will bring the ground to flower in the spring. And the spring flowers on those apple trees give birth to apples in the fall. We remember from experience how winter makes way for spring. Every single year. 

We’ve learned to trust in the cycles of nature ordered by God. Winter Spring Summer Fall Winter Spring Summer Fall. Each season divinely created for a purpose. We recognize God’s glory in nature’s display of seasons. We can find His goodness and faithfulness in the cycle of it all. 

EXCEPT when it comes to our own lives, especially our life as a parent, as a mom. It’s so much easier to accept the cycles of root strengthening and blooming and growing and harvesting in the Lord’s creation of nature. Many of us struggle to see the application in His creation of us, in the creation of our children…especially in a season where nothing seems to be growing. And that happens a lot in parenting.  

Trusting God in the Winter Season of Parenting

I’m not talking about physically. Sometimes it’s hard to keep children in clothes because they seem to grow overnight. Those jeans you bought last week fit more like crop pants this week on your first grader.  No. What I’m talking about are the months when your child consistently and constantly tests boundaries that you’ve set. I’m talking about the months or years when your child struggles with expressing intense emotions in a healthy way. I’m talking about the times where you find yourself repeating the same words over and over again about sharing, speaking kindly to siblings, loving others well, honoring you and your spouse with their words and actions…obeying you, listening to you, respecting you, to stop slamming doors and talking back. 

I’m talking about all those times when it seems like your efforts to parent your child like God parents you aren’t making a difference at all. I’m talking about when you are wondering if you are making the right decisions in order to raise your child to be a person after God’s own heart. I’m talking about those times when parenting books sit stacked beside your bed and your prayers are simple: Lord, help me with my child! 

I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. Which by the way if it seems like you are repeating things over and over again, you ARE. Some research shows that it can take up to 2,000 times in context for a child to understand. That’s 2,000 times of hearing you say: Be nice to your sister – before it begins to sink in and they actually start doing it consistently without prompting. 2,000 times. 

I don’t know what parenting season you find yourself in right now. I do know that God walks us all through winter seasons at some time. The seasons of parenting where you don’t see the fruits of your labor…and parenting can be laborious. Those winter seasons of parenting can feel long and isolating, especially in the age of social media when it appears as if no one else struggles like you do. 

So much of the time our children spend being raised in our homes can be considered the winter season of parenting because this is the time you are focusing on their roots. Grounding them in His Word. Surrounding them with His love. Teaching them who Jesus is and what it means to be a follower of Him. And while we catch glimpses here and there of the fruit of our labor, it’s not the harvest season yet. It’s the winter. The time to focus on their roots. 

But the season will change. Nature shows us that. 

As a mom and woman in ministry, I’ve learned to take solace in Proverbs 22:6:

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.  

I’m sure you’ve heard that scripture before. In my experience though, most people focus on the first part: Direct your children onto the right path. That’s what you’re doing right now. Teaching them His way. The wise path. Some translations read: “TRAIN a child in the way he should go.” Training requires consistency over a long period of time. Remember that 2,000 times in context? That’s training. 

But the second part of that verse speaks directly to the heart of every mom in the winter season of parenting: And WHEN THEY ARE OLDER, they will not leave it.  

Scripture doesn’t say next week, next month, or when they’re 12 years old. It simply says: When they are older. 

Between now and then, God will most certainly give you glimpses of spring, summer, and fall seasons of parenting. Enjoy those glimpses. Thank Him for those moments that confirm in your heart that you ARE directing your child onto the right path. And when the season changes back to winter…which it most certainly will as your child continues to grow into the person God created them to be….remember that even though you can’t see God at work in your parenting You can trust that He is indeed working when you are grounding your child’s roots in His way. 

Mom. Let me encourage you. Keep focusing on your child’s roots. Ground your son or daughter in His Love and in His Way. Direct your children onto the right path, AND WHEN THEY ARE OLDER they will not leave it.  

God is at work whether you can see it or not. Look at the trees and imagine how much more glorious His plans are for you and your child in the harvest season. 

A Practical Tip for Moms in the Winter Season of Parenting

I’m going to pray for you, but before I do can I make a practical suggestion? At Family Christian, we are all about practical solutions to help you live out your faith in your everyday living. Memorize Proverbs 22:6. That’s it. Commit those words to memory and refer to them often. Use that verse to encourage yourself and other parents who find themselves in the winter season of parenting: Direct your children onto the right path, AND WHEN THEY ARE OLDER they will not leave it. 

Prayer 

Father, thank you for the harvest season. We love celebrating the fruits of our labor. Father I ask that you gently help us see Your goodness and faithfulness in the winter season of parenting. Breathe your peace into our hearts and minds as we learn to trust that you are at work in our child’s life even when we can’t see it. Thank You for your guidance and your perfect example of how to parent our children. We love you. 

Amen.

(This is an edited transcript of “Winter Season of Parenting,” Episode 7 of The Carpool Line Podcast. This podcast from Family Christian gives moms a few minutes to connect with God so they can better connect with their families. Here’s how to listen.

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