Painful Parenting

Sometimes being a parent is pure pleasure.

Holding a newborn baby and marveling at the life in your hand; the picture of the love between you and your spouse. Watching your toddler discover the world; to learn to take those first wobbly steps. Seeing your child master a skill; to ride a bike; to play the piano; to knock a baseball clear out of the park. Or witnessing them develop good character; raking leaves for the neighborhood widow; returning to a store after they discover they were given too much change.

Such discoveries make a mother’s heart proud.

But other times, being a parent is pure pain.

Those times when you watch your child make a wrong move; choose a wrong path or hold a wrong view. How much easier it is when they are young and you can simply make them “do the right thing”. How painful it is when they are older, to let them begin to make their own mistakes and then, learn the painful lessons that those choices often bring.

A friend just asked me last week what is the best parenting advice I’d been given. I answered,

“To pray that God will allow your kids to experience whatever they need to (mistakes and all) in order to become totally and completely sold out and living for Him. And that they will know that we love them unconditionally no matter what.”

Frightening prayer.

We moms would rather control, shelter, make decision for our kids. And there is a place for that sometime when they are young.

Todd and my greatest fear as parents has not been having a wild child, but having one who is playing “good church kid” and obedient on the outside, but who does not have a real relationship with Christ and later, chucks all things Christian as a young adult (seen it happen DOZENS of times)!!

I’d rather have one who is honest, wrestles with real faith and then, in God’s perfect timing, makes it their own. Of course we train them in the ways of the Lord. We let them experience His work in our lives. We take every opportunity to point them to God. But we remember that how we finish is more important than how we start. But we moms are fearful and freak out because we equate a “perfect-yes-ma’am-no-sir-quiet-outwardly-obedient-envy-of-the-moms-at-church” child with success as a parent.

One who is a pistol means we are a “bad mom”; However… forward many years. Sometimes (of course not always) the “perfect” ones are living life on the wild and sinful side and the “pistols”?  Well..they are totally sold out to Jesus.

Don’t try to shove your child in the perfect box. They don’t always fit. And some kick the box open and run for the unholy hills.

Oh yes….along with this prayer…ask for patience too!!! :-)

Yes, sometimes parenting is painful. But seeing a child make a wrong choice and then, when confronted, exhibit honest remorse, a real change in behaviour and a renewed committment to Christ…..well… a strange way, that can be a pure pleasure too.

Hang in there moms. Parenting is always a mixture of pain and pleasure.


Karen Ehman,

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  1. Lora C says

    I really needed this today!! My daughter is 19, a sophomore in college, and one of my greatest blessings. Two weeks ago I found out that her boyfriend is living with her. She told me that it makes her happy. I was devastated! We have always been close, but now she doesn’t even respond to my text messages. I knew things didn’t seem right, but I didn’t expect that she was living with her boyfriend. I simply want the best for her and I know that this lifestyle and this young man are not God’s best for her. It is so painful to have to sit back and watch this since she doesn’t have to listen to me anymore. I always knew that a man could break your heart, but I never knew that children could break your heart. This is so hard. On top of this, a few days ago I found out that my son was told that his deployment to Afghanistan was going to be more dangerous than we ever imagined. His group is going in to bring others home. He was told that his chances of being hurt are doubled. I cried myself to sleep that day. I was a single parent and struggled to raise my children alone so I don’t have their father to walk through all of this with. Please pray for us and thank you for this message.

    • A Mama says

      I was there just 4 short years ago…it was the HARDEST time in my lifetime, and this life hasn’t been easy. It took me completely letting go and following the patient, quiet example of the father of the Prodigal son. And it took a year of face-down begging of God to bring her back to us…and He did. He performed a miracle. A year to the very day. Our lives and hearts have never been the same, but this mama learned some hard lessons about true unconditional love.

      Sending you hugs through understanding tears.

  2. says

    Thank you for sharing this. i know God wanted me to read this. I am going through this with my youngest. She is 15 and is wanting freedom. She is listening to music I don’t approve of and believing the lies of the world , it is hard to not want to shrink them back to little and start again. I will pray for patience.

    • brenda says

      well, we pray for patience and then we have “stuff” show up that is helping us with the patience thing.

  3. Gayle Haddock says

    Oh, thank you, Karen! Just what I needed to hear today! My son is beginning to ask some tough questions about God and why prayers don’t immediately come true, and your post just confirmed what a blessing that is.
    Recently, his curiosity about unanswered prayers (like why the Lego set he wants hasn’t magically appeared) has given me an opportunity to help him pray for bigger things. He is an only child and really wants someone to play with since our neighborhood is lacking kids, so that’s what we started praying for. We were talking about it just yesterday afternoon (when Mama needed a break from Lightsaber sword fighting). On a whim, we decided to go grab dinner out and opted to dine in instead of doing the drive through. As we walked up to the counter to order our food, we ran into a woman I just met in my Sunday School class. It was a “Divine Appointment” as I like to call them. She has a son one year younger than mine, and the four of us ended up having dinner together! By the end of it, our boys were fast friends and making plans for a play date! As we came home, I told my son, “Look at God! Isn’t it neat that we’ve been praying for a new friend, and you made one tonight?” What a perfect, tangible example for him to see how God hears our prayers, and for me to be blessed by his questions about God. If he hadn’t asked the painful question, we would never have experienced the joy from God’s answer.

  4. Andee says

    Amen, Sister! Thanks for saying what needs to be said. From a reader of LET.IT. GO. and fellow believer that God is in control if we would just let Him be. Blessed to be mom to 20yr old, 18yr old, and 9yr old and finding joy in knowing that God has a plan for each one of His children.

  5. AMY BLACK says

    loved this as i have a 15 and 17 year olds , both boys, and im in the dead center of painful parenting, smart mouths, vulgar words, and raging hormones.. UGH!!!!!! what is a christian mom to do… i am learning to pray BEFORE i freak out at the latest teenage crisis.. instead of using it as a last resort… great… gooo stuff,,, love you karen….and as i learned in your new book,,,LET.IT.GO. AND WALK IN FAITH…

  6. Heidi says

    Thank you for your post today. Your prayer advice is comforting. We have a 19 yr old (pregnant, then married) daughter, 11 yr old daughter and 3 yr old son (all planned, all same father….yes, people ask). When our daughter told us she was pregnant, it so wasn’t how she was raised. I have to say I have been beating myself up for her (and his) decision to plan for a baby before marriage. I wanted her to want God first. Now, I feel like I have to “stop” my other children from making decisions “like their sister” without pointing the finger to her and talking poorly about her….who wants that comparison? My husband and I both want to instill deeper meaning to their relationships with Christ and somehow “do better” parenting with the littles so as not to have to go through this again. Your post was pointed and loved the statement, “Don’t try to shove your child in the perfect box. They don’t always fit.
    And some kick the box open and run for the unholy hills.” I know I would try to do this….and have. Asking for patience? Not so good at that! And, just completed the Let.It.Go. Bible study….wish I could infuse all the info into my head from the Bible, to the studies, to words of wisdom from great Christian people. Thank you for your posts and ministry.

  7. says

    Hi ladies– Needing to read my own post today too! Praying for us all that we will make the hard choices to love and raise our kids well. Hugs to you all!

  8. Barb Spencer says

    Thanks so much for this, Karen. I think that parenting our older children can be so challenging and it’s a lesson in self-control to remain silent as they sometimes make some not-so-great decisions. But how wonderful God knows all this and can intervene in a way that we cannot. Blessings, Barb

  9. says

    Oh yes, a word in due season. With all grown kids now, I just have no choice but to let go. I’ve done what I can…loved them, prayed for them, taught them, trained them. They are not all walking the way I wish. I am so encouraged and agree with your thinking on this, however, I pray their faith will be real and personal. Trusting they will finish well!

  10. says

    Parenting is tough stuff. Definitely not for the faint of heart. And this post was an encouragement to hang in there and allow my children to make the mistakes they are supposed to make. I really was touched by that piece of advice you were given (and passed on to us here). So often, I want to wrangle my wild one, and worry less about my quieter one. That provides some food for my parenting thoughts!

  11. Donna says

    Thank you so much. I do not have ‘in-the-box’ children and I thought that I had to ‘shove’ them in the box to get them to love God. Sad I know. I love your prayer and as scary as that is, I will pray that for our 6 children. I could never squish our children in the box and called myself a very bad mum. I guess the thing is I have to learn to ‘let go’ the criticism of others. You are amazing. Thank you so much – for being you!! Bless you.

  12. Georgia Mom says

    Reading this post has meant more than you will ever know. I grew up in church a pastor’s grandchild, following the rules and didn’t really know God for who he is. It took years of struggles through early adulthood and many painful choices but it was through those that I have come to know God- to truly know God and that he had me in his hands the entire time. The most amazing thing that I have realized is that God knew exactly what it would take to drive me to him, and it is such a beautiful place to be. Things are not always easy but I know I have an amazing Savior that walks through every moment with me. Thank you so much for this inspiring post.

  13. marie says

    I so needed this encouragement right now. My always obedient (still is) college-aged son is really questioning faith right now. He struggles to prove the existence of God and this is about ready to send me over the edge. But our God is big enough to find him and help him with these questions right? I want his faith to be authentic but I would rather he just believed! Please pray

  14. Dee says

    I know I am a couple months late. I can see many others on this forum are dealing with the same kind of issues I have. My son, right from the start, has known how to test my limits. Meanwhile, his older sister was a breeze. She has always been caring and seemed to put God first in her life. We would see others around us give in to non-Scriptural choices and we would discuss the detrimental path they were heading down. We both seemed to be in full agreement. Then, she went off to college. She met a guy who is not a believer and began dating him within a few months. It was such a quick and total transformation (changed her looks, her hobbies, and even her food choices) that I can hardly believe she is the same daughter I was once so close to. After the second summer of college life, she never came home (to live). She does visit occasionally, but our relationship is more of a host/guest than mother/daughter. She will be marrying the guy this summer. Meanwhile, my son, although far from spiritual, is much more kind and loving. Waiting on God’s perfect timing for the future and meanwhile praying for all of us. I wish I would have had your wisdom and foresight.

  15. HurtMom says

    Thank you for this. I really needed this today. I have always known what you say to be true but couldn’t pinpoint why I felt so much like a failure because my kid’s morale compass isn’t always facing north. This has helped me change my self talk. Thank you!


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