Today I am so happy to welcome back my sweet (and very wise) friends, Kathy Helgemo & Melinda Means, from Mothering from Scratch. Not only do they live right here in my same small town of Punta Gorda, Florida, they are bloggers and moms who love to share their insight, struggles and parenting wins in their book Mothering from Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family.
As moms it is so easy to doubt ourselves and assume that everyone else knows what they are doing, while we are just struggling to get by, but Kathy and Melinda, with honesty, humility, biblical truth, and even a little humor, offer the real encouragement that most of us are looking for. I was deeply touched by this book and especially loved that it didn’t feel AT ALL condescending, as so many parenting books tend to be, but instead offered practical solutions and a whole lot of grace. I highly recommend it!
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This is a guest post from Kathy Helgemo & Melinda Means of Mothering from Scratch
When you first hold your baby in your arms, it’s all joy. The future seems so full of promise. Your mind is spinning with all the possibilities: What will she become? Will he be tall like his dad? What kind of personality will she have?
Then it suddenly shifts.
That pure, blissful, hopeful delight can quickly become clouded with anxiety. You start asking different questions: Is she eating enough? Is he gaining weight fast enough? Is he gaining too much weight? Am I completely screwing this up?!
As they get older, our fears don’t go away. Whether it’s from our own bad experiences or ones that we don’t want our kids to have, fear and anxiety can paralyze us and make us unhappy and ineffective.
For our own well-being and our children’s, we have to stare down our fears and show them who’s boss. Let’s examine five common ones and some practical ways to conquer them:
Fear #1: Transitions will be hard
Starting a new school, potty training, getting rid of pacifiers — these are normal transitions in the life of a child. Our fear can make us believe they will be painful and difficult, which actually increases the likelihood that they will. Kids pick up on our fear, which can increase their own apprehension and anxiety.
(Kathy) “When my first son, at the age of three-and-a-half, FINALLY decided that he wanted to give all of his ‘binkies’ to a friend’s new baby, I had a complete, full-blown panic attack. It came complete with chest pain, hyperventilating, and overall anxiety. I was completely convinced that he would never take another nap or sleep. I tried to hide my fear, but it was obvious when I kept asking him over and over if he was “sure he wanted to give his binkies to the baby.” He was sure. I was the one that wasn’t going to sleep.
How to Conquer It
Asking ourselves why we are resisting change in our kids’ lives can be hard. Are we trying to “keep them little longer”? Is there a need that we are trying fulfill of our own by making ourselves more useful in their lives? Kids grow up. Quickly. Without giving two weeks notice. It’s our job to embrace their journey and be their encouragers during any transition.
Fear #2: Our Kids Won’t Like Us if We Stand Up to Them
Confrontation is part of the parental job description. From two-year-olds to teenagers, kids often don’t like being told what to do. (Melinda) I’m a nice girl. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been quite comfortable with the role of peacekeeper. My natural tendency is not to rock the boat. So in His infinite wisdom, what did God do? He gave me two incredibly strong-willed children.
Right from the beginning, they consistently placed me in confrontational situations. I hated that feeling in my gut. So I gave in — way too much. I just wanted the peace to return. What I didn’t realize was that each time I gave in, I was actually inviting more conflict. Kids smell weakness. They don’t retreat. They get bolder.
How to Conquer It
(Melinda) As I began to confront my conflict phobia, I asked God everyday for wisdom and courage to do what was right for my kids. It helps to ask myself these questions:
Is this about my comfort? Am I saying “yes” to my kids — or letting something slide — simply because I don’t want the confrontation. Is my decision in their best interest — or mine?
Will giving in bring my kids closer to being an adult that is responsible, giving and loving? I’ve had to train myself to take a long-term view in my decision-making. I’ve learned the hard way that the self-serving decisions I make today have a negative long-term effect on my kids.
Fear #3: My kids won’t have any friends (or the right friends)
(Kathy) I tried to control my kids’ relationships too much. I didn’t want them to get their feelings hurt or hang out with “the wrong kids.” They need friends and connection. The temptation is to shelter them from learning the difference between good and bad influences. When we cherry-pick all the interaction kids have with people, this can actually hamper them from understanding and identifying the characteristics of unwise influences.
How to Conquer It
Trust your gut, yes. But also get feedback from others about whether you’re overreacting. Have friends over to your house first before you encourage a play date at theirs. Exercising caution without hindering social development is a difficult balance. But it is possible.
Fear #4: My kids might fail
It hurts when our kids suffer disappointment and difficult consequences. (Melinda) As a recovering perfectionist, this is a tough one for me. This fear has motivated me to turn into Bill Nye the Science Guy to help my child with a school project. It’s what makes me cringe when my son is chosen to be the starting pitcher for a baseball game. It makes me want to shield them from social situations where they might be rejected.
Too much attention. Too much anxiety. It’s akin to keeping on the training wheels way too long because it’s easier than seeing scraped knees. It’s normal to stumble and fall.
How to Conquer It
Start with one. The next time we’re seized with anxiety and want to rescue a child, let’s just not. They will survive. In fact, they may just thrive. If they don’t, they will most likely learn something important.
Kids don’t gain character and self-esteem when we eliminate most opportunities for them to do so. They gain confidence by doing — even if that means failing a few times before they have some success.
(Melinda) It also helps me to remember that failure makes them more dependent. But not on me. I’ve watched my children’s struggles deepen their walk with Jesus. Their need, their problems — especially the ones I can do nothing about — prompt them to depend on Him for strength and guidance. Doesn’t it do the same in us, as adults?
Fear #5: My kids might get hurt!
Strangers, alcohol, mean people, strange places. Dirt, For Pete’s sake! Those problems are not going to leave the planet anytime soon.
(Kathy) I had an “all or nothing” attitude to some of them and it got out of control. When it comes to parenting, I’ve learned that we live in a very gray world. Everything is not good and safe. Everything is not evil and dangerous.
If we don’t model how to navigate it and teach our children the skills to tell the difference, we aren’t teaching — we’re just avoiding. I’ve done this with everything from having toy guns to alcohol use. I wish that we could just make all the bad stuff go away, but we can’t.
How To Conquer It
Gain some perspective from others who are more knowledgeable about the danger we fear. (Kathy) My immediate family has a horrific, genetic tendency toward alcoholism. Was I going to follow their advice toward how to approach drinking with my kids? No. I sought advice and observed the habits and attitudes of people who didn’t have dysfunctional habits.
I needed to understand what normal was since I hadn’t experienced it. It was difficult. Once I had a better view, I had more confidence on how to (or not to) expose my kids to situations where alcohol was present. I didn’t have to be so extreme.
Conquering our mom fears is really only possible when we understand what the opposite is: Love.
Putting our child’s ultimate good above our own fears can be hard. Staying in the place of fear, however, robs them of the security of knowing what real love is.
Between the two of them, Kathy Helgemo and Melinda Means have been mothering six kids for almost 40 years! They blog over at Mothering From Scratch where they encourage and support mothers in finding their unique mothering style. Their book Mothering From Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style that Works for You and Your Family is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Christian Book Distributors.
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