We were talking about what a battle it can be raising kids and knowing when to say “yes” and when to “hold the line,” and I said, “I fear that my kids will resent me.”
Without skipping a beat, my friend said, “I don’t care if my kids resent me! I love them. I would die for them. But I’m going to follow the Lord and teach them to follow Him. This is who I am. If they don’t like it or if they resent me, they can take it up with God because He made me this way.”
And just like that, something in me that was bound up loosened.
What was it about her saying she didn’t care if her kids resented her that freed something in me?
A few weeks ago, I was struggling with whether or not to let my teen have a certain social media app. My gut said no, my brain said no, but her convincing arguments and the fact that all her friends had it made me question if I was being too strict. I told her I would pray and think about it and get back to her.
I agonized. My brain woke me up two days in a row at five a.m. with anxiety over it, and so I prayed and pleaded with God for what to do. Why was this decision so hard to make? I relayed my struggle to some friends, and they encouraged me to hold the line. They told me they told their kids, “We’ll revisit this when you’re in high school.”
Then my friend, who could see the forehead wrinkles in my head getting deeper with worry, gently said, “It sounds like maybe there’s some fear you have of your child and what they think of you.” I don’t remember the exact words, but I do know they were true.
I am a people-pleaser with my kids. It’s not overt. I do set rules and boundaries, but it’s there. And if I’m honest, I fear that my kids will resent me and turn away from God based on my parenting decisions. This is why I agonized. This is why I woke up with anxiety over a decision I knew the answer to but was afraid to give.
I question my parenting decisions far too often, instead of going forward in faith, knowing I’m doing my best and making the wisest decisions I know how to make at the time. And the thing is, I know I’m going to mess up and make some wrong decisions. I know I’m not going to get this parenting thing all right.
But what I do know is that God has made me my kids’ parent, and I do have authority over them to do what my husband and I believe is best, whether they agree with it or not. This is my job, one of the good works planned for me in advance by God — to parent my children, even when it’s hard or confusing or has me up at five a.m. begging God for help. This is my job, and it’s important.
Years ago, I wrote a blog post about how my daughter didn’t have to please me, meaning she was allowed to have her own opinions and it was okay if I didn’t share them. The thing I’m realizing now is that it’s okay if I don’t please her or my other kids either; my job isn’t to please them.
My job is to love them, care for them, listen to them, disciple them, respect and nurture who God has woven them to be with their unique gifts and talents, and to raise them up with wisdom and kindness in the training and instruction of the Lord. And in this world, that last bit — the training and instruction in the Lord — is going to have resistance. I should know this — of course, it will.
So when my friend said she didn’t care if her kids resented her, what was freed in me was the truth that it’s okay if one day my kids resent me if they resent me because I’m doing my best to parent them well before the Lord. My identity is in Christ, not in how my kids respond to me. (Whew, that’s hard.) So I will continue to do my best, mess up, ask for forgiveness, seek godly counsel, pray, and keep on.
God, help us all to stay faithful to You and Your Word and to persevere with our parenting even when it’s hard and confusing and feels like a lost battle. Help us keep our eyes on You and remind us daily that our identity is in Christ, which is secure. Thank You for Your wisdom and kindness and gentle leading. In the name of Jesus, I ask these things. Amen.
Love the your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:5-9 (NIV)
God, help us all to stay faithful to You and Your Word and to persevere with our parenting even when it's hard and confusing and feels like a lost battle. -@sarahmae: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
This post REALLY hits home. If there was one thing I would do differently in my parenting, it would have been to NOT try to be a friend to my kids. That might sound harsh, but we really aren’t meant to be our children’s best friend. If we are, then something is out of whack. Children need and even crave boundaries. It gives them a sense of security when we set limits. Sadly, I was in an abusive marriage and I did give in to my kids far too often…I think because they were all I had and my insecurity was at an all time high. Hindsight is 20/20, but if our kids think that everything and everyone revolves around them and that they can always get what they want, they can grow up to be very selfish and self-absorbed individuals. Believe me, I speak from experience. My advice? Hold the line. Make the tough calls. If they say “they hate you” then chances are you’re doing something right. It doesn’t matter what all their friends do or have. Our ultimate responsibility in raising our children is to be true to God’s commands. Any doubts, read over Proverbs a few times and you’ll get the gist. Excellent post!
Sarah Mae says
Bev, thank you. It is hard, but I keep learning, and being encouraged to keep on from women who have been down the road is so helpful.
Love to you.
Michele Morin says
By the grace of God, you will see the day when your kids thank you for all the ways you have protected them and been fierce on their behalf!
Sarah Mae says
Oh Michele, I hope so!
Yes…I agree with Bev. And my story is similar to hers. I was in a bad relationship with my husband and we also had a second son who is autistic and mentally
delayed. I was beaten down and just trying to exist. Unfortunately, I didnt have the energy for my firstborn son, who was doing well (I thought). I am now divorced and remarried to a wonderful man, my kids are in their 30’s. Even though my first son is married with a great career, my daily prayer is for him is to return to the Lord. That’s what I cry about….why didnt I hold the line when he was growing up? Why didnt I teach him about the Lord by setting a good example? We aren’t real close now…he’s a busy guy and we get along well, but theres a ‘distance’. So, I totally understand what you are going through. I would encourage you to hold your line, teach about Christ, take the time for them. Dont put yourself in a position of regret at what you didnt do!
When accused of not being fair I think it is sometimes important to verbally agree it might not be fair (ie when everyone is called to clean up a mess or tidy the house) but it is what we are going to do and that we all need to get used to life not being fair because it never is. I am afraid that we are not helping children to be resilient in the face of adversity because we want their lives to be “good,” “easy,” or want them to be happy. Life is hard, requires perseverance the ability to weather storms and meet challenges head on and 21 is too late to start learning that, but it is a great time to finally be your child’s friend. Thank you Sara for sharing your struggle with the warring emotions of wanting the best for your child and not agreeing with what they think is best. Wise words.
yes ! the last year I have struggled with this. we are a strong faithfilled family but I struggle with your exact message ..what if I make a mistake and they resent me ? I caved in on 2 occasions and said yes ( after my gut said no no no), but my mind said you’re too strict they will hate you later. both times it turned out to be a disaster. I prayed and told God how sorry I was for not listening to his direction and told the kids this will never happen again. God has put us as the parents in this role for a reason not to be undermined or nagged by kids to cave in.
surprisingly the kids agreed !
I’m blessed they know we are the parents ….alot of parents struggle with this. in the end we do our best / always holding onto our faith and showing love for our families. the world’s views may try to seep in but our faith is stronger.
Dear Sarah Mae,
I’m a 63 year old momma, who if granted one wish, would be a do over in child rearing. I am a degreed educator from a christian college no less and lover of my Lord who should have known better. I, like Bev was in a dysfunctional marriage and relied too much on the love and acceptance of my son. Ouch! He no longer has anything to do with both my husband and me. Years of counseling has helped our marriage. The merciful Lord knows this aching mommas heart. You were given Godly counsel. Stand your ground Sarah Mae.
May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you!
Thank You for such a good, upright reminder! I have an adult child, who at the moment, does resent me and their father for some of the decisions we made when they were growing up. But, I know I followed our Heavenly Father’s direction and guidance. And although I do not regret the decisions we made, sometimes it still hurts to have your child think of you in that way. I can only pray in time that our Heavenly Father will work this out as well.
I wish someone had said this to me when I was raising my grown children. I will be sure to pass this onto my grown children and grown grandchildren and anyone else I know who is raising children.
Thank you for sharing. God Bless you.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
I have no kids. I see where you all are coming from as parents. You want to the best by your kids. You want too love your kids you don’t want the ever to grow up hating you. You want to displain them right in the ways of the Lord. Especially for this big world. When some of it can be bad and scary too them. Keep them safe. Especially on their Mobiles. On the internet. On their Play stations. Not feel like the Mum too them you never let me have that long on my mobile internet or playstaton. Plus when you have kids coming to you wanting also the latest mobiles or playstaton games. Because their friends have them. You as Mum feel the pressure too give into them. But at times you have to say no. The mobile you have will do you. Sometimes say we will see when it is your Birthday we might get it then. Plus as a parent you at time have to limited there internet time. Plus the playstaton games and the time they spend playing them. Things like this can start rows. But you have to say I am the parent you are the child. I am doing this for your good. What they do on the internet or their mobile etc. You as parent have to guide them. Say I am doing it for your own good. Think too yourself if they are teenagers. Would God allow me to let them spend all their time on mobile or the internet or playstaton. Yes a certain time. We might look like bad parent’s but your not. We have to tell them we love them show them there is things once the homework is done if still at school. That can be done outside looking at screens. Mobiles playstatons the internet. Teach them about the beauty of God lovely world. Yes let them have them for a while. But not to long. Let them always know they are loved and beautiful. That God loves them even if they don’t want to hear it. At the dinner table say grace for all meals. Pray for your kids. Especially when with their friends. If not saved don’t want to know about Jesus. Pray for their salvation. I know this even though got no kids as pray this way for my sisters kids. Who are not saved. Remember you are a good parent. Some day are hard. But you are doing a great Job. I was a registered Childminder for 19 years. I prayed for the kids Iooked after and I still do I said grace at meal times with them. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little
I would deeply appreciate some devotionals regarding step parenting. As a step mama of one year I struggle greatly with fear of what they will think of me. I am not their mama and my husband is the primary parent in our household when we have them. And yet I have a part to play in their lives. I feel like I am stumbling in the dark. Despite helpful conversations with my husband (and God) my insecurities and fears persist.
Sarah Mae says
Melissa, I don’t know if this is what you’re looking for, but I found this: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/single-blended-family-parenting/blended-families/smart-stepparenting
In the footnotes are a bunch of books on step-parenting.
Coming from a step-family, and of course, I can’t speak for everyone, but just love them, be kind, deal with your own lies and sin and identity stuff, and keep communication open and honest.
Hang in there, friend.
I also would check out familylifeblended.com – a ministry fully devoted to helping and encouraging stepfamilies. I was also raised in a stepfamiliy and I feel that the resources from this ministry so so helpful and hit right at the heart. They understand it’s hard!
Donna Stanley says
A good word for mothers and grandmothers alike. So many women battle this, especially those who have no support connections. Too often, well meaning family and friends come in and contradict your decisions, making it all the more difficult. We all need to follow God’s word and He will make a way. Thank you for sharing. It is a challenge for so many.
Becky Keife says
“So I will continue to do my best, mess up, ask for forgiveness, seek godly counsel, pray, and keep on.” So good, Sarah. So good. I needed this reminder too.
Kellie Johnson says
Sarah, thanks for being transparent. I wish I had read this 10 or 15 years ago! I’m in a good marriage and found myself, after our oldest strong-willed child forced me daily to tow the line with him, softening on my second born child. It wasn’t until her middle school years that I realized I needed to stop. My first born was mad at us every other day and in hindsight, I wanted at least one of our children to enjoy having us as parents. This can happen to anyone and we need to talk about it more. Your post will help other young moms stand firm, I’m sure of it. Our job isn’t to get our children to like us, but to help prepare them for leaving home as young adults. The good news is, it’s never too late to get with the program. His mercies are new every morning. Thanks again 🙂
Thanks so much for this today! It’s just what I needed to read! I’m already struggling with this, and my son is only 3…(he’s very strong-willed). Love so much of your writings as well!
This is me…..like you the relationship with my mom was very traumatic, I didn’t have a dad growing up either. So I really didn’t know how to parent and I just wanted my kids to like me. I’ve been in therapy almost 2 years now and wish i would have started sooner and adopted the advice you gave in this article. Here is to trying and keeping on even when it’s hard!
I am in the same struggle. My almost 13 yr old is moving up to youth in our church. In our church that means the youth (7th-12th grade) sit together during morning service in the front of the church. I don’t know why it is like this. Some say ‘because it’s always been that way’, one said it was to build a community among the youth. We have made it a point, even though it has been hard at times, to have our children in church with us rather than in the nursery or children’s church. And this fall our church is dissolving Children’s church (kindergarten through 4th) so the kids can sit in service with the families. But the youth still sit seperate. We already had to talk to our children about why they couldn’t go to children’s church with their friends (we strongly feel lead to worship together) and now I am going to have to answer the question again with a teen who wants to sit with her friends. I am feeling anxiety over the inevitable conversation because I don’t want her to resent me but I feel 100% in my heart that we should be together. I’m afraid that there is too much of an emphasis on building up youth group instead of building up families.
Beth Williams says
God made you & hubby the “guardians”/parents of your children till they become adults. That means having to make tough decisions. Ones they may not like, but in the end they will come back to thank you. Parenting in this world is much harder than it used to be. We have social media, apps, cell phones & computers. So many distractions & harmful things out there. They aren’t wise enough now to realize the dangers of all that stuff. Tow the line & go with your gut. If you really think now isn’t the time for something then tell your daughter you will revisit it at a later time. Don’t fall for the everyone else is doing it trap. That didn’t work for my parents. They would say ok “everyone is jumping off a bridge so go do ti”. I got the point quickly. Praying for you in this tough parenting season. Stand firm & be the parent not the friend.