Prevent parenting burn-out, step 2: Silence your inner critic.


how to raise respectful children

I’m not doing enough.

I forgot to do a devotion this morning.

I’m not teaching my kids enough about God and the Bible every day.

My 5-year-old doesn’t know how to read yet.

I don’t feed my kids a perfect rainbow of organic vegetables.

I cook healthy food, but my kids don’t eat it; their favorite food is macaroni and cheese—the fake-cheese, preservative-full kind.

Whenever I see all those cute art projects that look so great on Pinterest, all I can think is, ‘That’s adorable, and maybe it would be fun and educational, but . . . I don’t really feel like making that mess in my house. Or spending all that money on art supplies. And what in the WORLD would the baby do while the other kids are sculpting vegetables in the style of Michelangelo?’

If anyone found out about all this, they’d kick me out of parenthood. I’m the Worst Mom Ever.

Sound familiar? Sometimes we see things other moms post on social media, about how they did some cool art project with their kids, or fed them all these perfect whole-food meals, and we sit there and think, “I’m the worst mom. Everyone else is doing this so much better than I am. God should fire me.”

But when I start thinking those things, I have to remind myself: I’m the only mom these kids have. I’m not perfect. But you know what? We laughed a lot today. We danced crazy dances today. And I think my kids like me the way I am. I think my husband likes me the way I am. I think God likes me the way I am. I’m not saying I shouldn’t try to learn from other people’s gifts, or that I won’t work to grow in my areas of weakness, but there’s no such thing as a perfect parent, so maybe we should stop trying to be perfect. I don’t care nearly so much about my kids learning to read early, or eating no sugar ever, or being well-rounded . . . as I care about loving them the best I can, and inspiring them to love God and know that he loves them, and me, even in our imperfection . . . If I do THOSE things well, then I’m doing a darn good job. I’m showing them grace, and they’re showing it back to me. And somehow, that’s going to be enough.

So tell your inner critic to be quiet. Grow where you need to grow, break out the art supplies and the healthy food cookbooks when you’re up for it, but ENJOY raising your kids in your own messy, disorganized, chocolate-eating, loving way. Quit taking this kid thing so seriously all the time. Live. Laugh. Love.

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Wall-climbing for kidsIMG_0653


Prevent parenting burn-out, step 1: Carve out some “Me Time”


Finding time for yourself as a mom

One of the simplest things we have to do as parents is protect a little time for ourselves every day. (I can hear you howling with laughter out there in cyberspace: “I haven’t been to the BATHROOM by myself in three years! How in the world am I supposed to find any time alone?!” But see . . . my friend, you are talking and laughing all alone AT YOUR COMPUTER, which proves my point: If you don’t reserve a little time to yourself every now and again, you might go insane!)

Here are two strategies to try:

Me Time Strategy #1:

Deliberately teach your kids to give you a little break every day. Of course, nap time works great for this, but I also suggest having kids give you a short break at some other point in the day. When kids are really young, try setting a timer for 5-10 minutes and telling them that they can’t ask you for anything until the timer goes off. They will fail miserably at first, but by the time they are four or five, you should be able to claim a good half hour of semi-quiet for yourself every day.

I’m totally serious.

You can do this.

Your kids can do this.

And . . . TAKING THIS TIME FOR YOURSELF IS NOT SELFISH.

Giving yourself a few minutes to recharge—to have a quiet time with God, or read a book, or take a nap, or just sit and stare into space—will make you a better, happier, more patient parent. You will like yourself more, and like your children more, when this time is up. So really, your kids are doing themselves a favor by giving you this time.

It also teaches them several crucial life lessons: It teaches them not to be selfish, and it prepares them to have the self-control and patience they will need at school when it’s time to play quietly and work independently.

Me Time Strategy #2:

When our first baby settled into a nap routine . . . (Oh, the wondrous glory of predictable naps! If you can coax your baby into a routine, I highly recommend it. Your sanity will thank you.)

Let me start again:

When our first baby settled into a nap routine, my husband (whose work schedule is definitely more flexible than most) offered to babysit one day a week during her morning nap, plus a bonus hour or so afterwards, so I could . . . DO WHATEVER I WANTED. Surprise, surprise . . . I used it as writing time, and yes, Starbucks mochas were involved. This brief respite quickly became a highlight of my week. As much as I was enjoying my baby, I hadn’t realized how much I needed that little break. It was indescribably liberating to know that I would be able to leave the house ALL BY MYSELF once a week. It made the diaper explosions, sleepless nights, and laundry disasters all feel a little less overwhelming.

We all love our babies, but—as you know—those baby days can wear you out and leave you feeling a bit nostalgic for the Free Woman you used to be. If you can find a way to arrange a time for yourself—maybe once a week, even once every other week or every few weeks, depending on your schedule—you will feel like a new woman.

I GET THAT THIS IS HARD TO DO.

Really, I do.

It takes creativity and commitment.

This suggestion isn’t meant to be a source of pressure or guilt—it’s just an idea, something that might help your life, if you can pull it off. If you can work something out with a spouse, a neighbor, a mother/mother-in-law, a babysitter—even if you can trade off babies/toddlers with a friend so you BOTH take turns getting breaks—you won’t believe the difference this will make in your happiness. Giving yourself a set Me Time that you can look forward to on a consistent basis will make you One Happy Mama.

Four kids later, Kevin still gives me breaks like this—and I still need them . . . four times more than I used to, ha! But four kids later, I still like being a mom. I still like each one of my kids. I still like having babies in the house (but no, there will not be any more after this one!). And thanks in no small part to his generous babysitting, I still like my husband of 15 years. I wish the same for you!


Putting Others First


Two-Minute Devotions:

What’s a two-minute devotion, you ask? We all want to awaken some spiritual thoughts in our kids’ brains before they head out to face the world at school, but if your house is anything like mine, mornings can be a total whirlwind. And so . . . enter the two-minute devotion! It’s a brief Bible-based discussion designed for school-aged kids, and you can talk about it in two to five minutes around the breakfast table before school. (And hey—there’s no law against doing these devotions later in the day, if your kids aren’t morning people!) 

Putting Others First: Philippians 2:3–4

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3–4)

What does it mean to be selfish? Have you ever seen someone be selfish on the playground, or at lunch, or in class? It’s not much fun to be around people when they act that way, is it? Have you ever been selfish before? It doesn’t feel very good, does it?

Now, what does it mean to consider someone better than yourself? An important part of following Jesus means that you think about ways you can make other people happy, even before you think about making yourself happy. That’s called being unselfish. And you know what? Being unselfish actually makes YOU happy!

Today, look for ways that you can help other kids or your teachers to have a great day. Think about what other people need—and I bet you’ll come home really happy yourself!


Guess Who Thinks You’re Awesome?


Two-Minute Devotions:

What’s a two-minute devotion, you ask? We all want to awaken some spiritual thoughts in our kids’ brains before they head out to face the world at school, but if your house is anything like mine, mornings can be a total whirlwind. And so . . . enter the two-minute devotion! It’s a brief Bible-based discussion designed for school-aged kids, and you can talk about it in two to five minutes around the breakfast table before school. (And hey—there’s no law against doing these devotions later in the day, if your kids aren’t morning people!) 

Guess Who Thinks You’re Awesome? (Psalm 71:5)

“You have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth” (Psalm 71:5).

Do you ever worry about what other kids think about you? Do you ever feel like you’re not as smart or pretty or fast or funny as other kids? Everyone feels that way sometimes—it’s called feeling insecure. Usually we get insecure when we start thinking about ourselves and comparing ourselves to other people. But guess what? Because you love God, you can be confident! God made you exactly the way he wanted you to be. He loves you and he likes you, and because of that, you can always feel confident. Even when other kids say or do mean things, God is there for you. You can walk around the school feeling great, knowing that the God who made the sky, the mountains and the oceans is watching over you and cheering you on.


Caffeine from the Creator


Two-Minute Devotions:

What’s a two-minute devotion, you ask? We all want to awaken some spiritual thoughts in our kids’ brains before they head out to face the world at school, but if your house is anything like mine, mornings can be a total whirlwind. And so . . . enter the two-minute devotion! It’s a brief Bible-based discussion designed for school-aged kids, and you can talk about it in two to five minutes around the breakfast table before school. (And hey—there’s no law against doing these devotions later in the day, if your kids aren’t morning people!) 

Caffeine from the Creator (Isaiah 40:28–31)

Today’s two-minute devotional is in honor of the fact that this week, my kids have been sooooo tired. I can’t get them to sleep past 6:15 in the summer, but now that school has started, they want to sleep till 7:00. Go figure.

“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary . . . He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:28-31).

Are you feeling tired this morning? Here’s one of the coolest things about God: Did you know that he can give you strength to help you through the day? You can pray to him and ask him to help you have energy. He can strengthen you—not just to help you make it through the day, but to do what’s right and serve him as you go. And you know what’s really amazing about God? He never, ever gets tired, and he never falls asleep. That means he’s always watching us, and he’s always there to help us out.

(P.S. This promise holds for weary parents too.)