I have really awesome kids. Like super awesome. I know every mom thinks her kids are the best ever, and that’s cool. But I’m right. Also, my awesome children can be a handful. I have one who frequently gets into trouble for not listening/breaking rules/requiring new rules to be made because of truly brilliantly innovative mischief.

Last night, I got a text from a friend who happens to be in charge of her for a while each week.

“…she doesn’t listen to instruction given in any context.”

Yeah. I’d say that about sums it up.

Y’all. What?!? What do I even do with the truth of this? How do I fix it if “listening to instruction” is the problem?

I’m sure there are plenty who would chalk this up to a parenting failure. Maybe they’re right. But I can assure you it’s not a lack of care or trying. I’m not a veteran mama—I’ve not been at this even seven years yet. I’ve picked up a handful of tricks, though, and they’re all failing. Consistency. Consequences, positive or negative (a wide variety of each). Keeping her close to me.

I know this one’s going to be powerful. (She already is.) Whether she uses this power to for good or ill remains to be seen. Her dad was the same type of kid, and he turned out to be my favorite human ever, so I have high hopes for my little.

For now, she keeps getting suspended from stuff because she completely ignores directions. (And it’s not like sending her home with me changes this—it’s just a different grownup to ignore.) 

So what now???

I don’t know.

I beg for wisdom.

James says God gives wisdom for the asking, and that’s what I’ve been doing. Constantly. For years. I wish He’d give me some divine download of answers so I’d know what to do in every situation, but He seems to give it on a moment-to-moment basis. I’m pretty sure that this is yet another way He draws me into relationship… if He gave me all the answers at once, I wouldn’t need to ask all the time and I’d probably start thinking it was my own idea, anyway.

He knows my kid. He knows what she needs and how to reach her heart and  her mind, so it makes sense to ask.

I love my babies.

I mean, duh. I want what’s best for each of them, which eventually means learning to pay attention to people with more wisdom than they have, so they don’t have to learn everything the hard way.

I don’t just love her; I really like her. She’s delightful, though she pushes me hard.

I do my best.

Sometimes (often) my best is insufficient. My attention is fractured. My margin is low. But I’m giving it all I’ve got. And I’m praying I know God will fill in the gaps. I can’t raise her (or any of the others) perfectly. and that’s a good thing, because if I raised them perfectly to be perfectly adjusted and perfectly wise and have perfect character, how would they see they need Jesus?

You guys, there’s so much frustration and confusion and shame here. I don’t know what I’m doing. And it’s going to be okay. (Right? Right. We’re going with that.) 

This post is part of a 31-day series called “Grace in Failure.” Other posts from the series can be found here.

31days of grace in failure 4-3

Published by robininalaska

Robin Chapman is a part-time writer, editor, and birth photographer and a full-time imperfect mama, wife, Jesus follower, and normalizer of failure. She’s trying hard to learn how to do this motherhood thing in a way that doesn’t land the whole family in intensive therapy. She has a heart for helping other mamas buried in the little years with hope, humor, and solidarity. You can find her hiding out in the bathroom with an iced dirty chai, writing and editing and making spreadsheets for KindredMom.com where she is a cheerleader for mamas, or online looking for grace in her mundane and weird life. She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with her four delightful (crazy) kids—some homeschooled, some public schooled, some too young for school at all—and her ridiculously good looking husband, Andrew.

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  1. Hang in there!!! As a mom of another challenging child, just keep it up whatever it is that works or doesn’t.. you will figure it out what works even if it’s only in hindsight. My challenge is becoming more of an amazing human, who asks amazing questions, who helps when no one is looking and wanders off just cause they saw a need for someone. Challenging yes, but each child is a blessing some just take a little longer to see.


  2. Oh how I wish there was a perfect parenting formula. It is hard when you don’t see results. For many years I have asked God to “even use my mistakes for good in my children’s lives”. Keep on keeping on. Keep praying and pursuing and asking for wisdom. Continue being a good student of your child, your family, yourself, and constantly checking in with God, making adjustments, and doing it all over again. All the things your are doing are “working”– they are working in you, your family, your child, and you will be able to look back, from a distance, and see it. Hard to see in the details, in the short-term. You are present in your children’s lives, they know without a doubt that you love them, God is faithful, and it won’t be perfect, but it WILL be okay. Love you.


      1. My wise friend Dawn says, “we are not raising children, we are raising adults”. There’s some fruit you may not see for many years to come. But don’t let that discourage you, it just means that it’s OK that you don’t see all the results now.


  3. It’s TOTALLY OKAY to not know what you’re doing. Mine are 21, 17, 15 and 2, and they all find new ways to challenge me. Just keep loving on them, and never stop trying new things. Something will eventually stick.

    And, FWIW, I was one of those super-challenging kids, too. She could grow up to be JUST LIKE ME.

    I am pretty sure that’s not helping. 😉


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