I sat across the table looking into the eyes of an exhausted mom. Trying her best, she struggled with the guilt and labels that come from parenting an “imperfect” child (otherwise known as “difficult”, “stubborn”, “strong-willed”, etc).
As I looked at this precious mom with tears welling in her eyes as she shared her struggles and feelings of failure, my heart swelled with compassion.
“I get it”, I said in response.
Recalling the days spent fighting my own stubborn child, I more than empathized.
Many days I felt like I was failing because my child wasn’t “text book”. Methods that worked for other children didn’t work for mine. I was doing everything I thought I was supposed to, but was still facing a battle (or war at times) nearly every day.
“There is hope” I finally said, “I know it doesn’t look like it now, but there is hope”
I recalled when the tide started to turn in my home…
when I learned that parenting my children had less to do with an overwhelming to-do list, and more to do with my heart’s perspective.
One evening, I had faced another grueling battle and was spent. I remember grabbing my journal and pouring out my frustrations and perceived failures all over the page. I cried out to God, begging for direction.
What God spoke to me was a game changer.
“What do you dream for her to become as an adult?” He asked me
Tears poured from my eyes - afraid that my hopes for my child would not come true…that somehow I would fail.
I spilled out every hope I had for her. Not in vocation or achievements, but for her as a person. The type of character she would have, the tenderness of her heart, the passionate love she would have for Jesus and the impact she would have on the world around her.
I was then reminded of a verse, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart…”
I was forced to identify where the desires for my daughter had originated from: no question, they were placed in my heart by God.
Through every battle, God had been stirring in my heart a vision for who He had created her to be: a vision that offered hope and served as a guide from which to steer her.
“Parent that picture of her”, I heard Him say
“But how Lord?!” I asked
“Look at her as if she already is that person”
And that is when it changed.
I knew deep down inside that she truly was that person. And for the first time I was ready to fight for her instead of against her. Instead of parenting her “behavior”, I chose to speak to the God-designed person I knew she was created to be.
When I would catch her in a lie, instead of responding with something like, “Why are you ALWAYS lying?! It’s so hard to trust you!”
I would instead respond like this: “Why are you lying? You are not a liar! God created you to be honest. Someone who people can trust. THAT is who you are”
Through many nights in prayer declaring who she WAS and in speaking this truth to her every chance I had, she began to change. I saw her rise to the person I was calling her up to be.
If you are struggling with your child, all hope is not lost! Ask God to show you who they really are…
Life and death are in the power of the tongue… (Prov18:21)
Anna McCarthy is the founder of Voice of One Ministries, author of Forgiveness Is Not an Option and creator of The Forgiveness Project. Alongside her work as a speaker and author, she resides in Kansas with her husband, Zac and three daughters.