How to Handle 3 of the Biggest Parenting Challenges that Stress a Marriage
We have four children between the ages of 9 and 4: three rambunctious boys and a strong-willed girl. We love them more than even our own hearts can comprehend. But… as I so often say…
Parenting is flipping HARD.
A lot of days it feels like a continuous game of whack-a-mole: putting out fires of sibling rivalry, fighting, and mini destructions of property. Other days it’s a whirlwind of running from one appointment, playdate, or sporting event to the next. Most days, it’s a combination of the two; shall we call it “Whack-a-mole-whirlwind”?
Amidst the chaos are sweet moments: morning snuggles and bedtime stories, family prayers and devotionals, the child who acts/speaks in line with what we’ve been trying to teach from God’s Word (Wow… he WAS paying attention!) But still…
Parenting is flipping HARD.
When it comes to making sure we train our children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), where do we begin?
What is the most important thing in Godly parenting?
Believe it or not, Godly parenting starts with a healthy marriage. Kids are the first witnesses to the way our marriage glorifies God… or doesn’t. How they see us demonstrate love for each other, love for them, and love for others has a profound impact on shaping their view of Father God.
Feel the pressure? I sure do.
When being a parent feels overwhelming, the first question to ask is: How is my marriage fairing? Does it reflect God’s love for us as His children?
The Lord tells us in Genesis 2:24 that in a marriage, we are to draw near to God and thus nearer to our spouse; to become one flesh. There’s such a correlation between the two. Find out more by listening to I Am My Beloved's Part 1 and Part 2.
When we aren’t united on the same parenting page, divided we fail.
And our kids suffer the most.
Many parents (and thus their marriages) are failing because of unbelief that God’s way not only works but is the best way. Our culture says being a parent is the MOST important thing, but this idea devalues God’s design for marriage.
The question you must ask yourself is: Have I made my relationship with my kids MORE important than my marriage relationship? (i.e., My kids are number one… my spouse can take care of themselves.)
This never ends well. It quickly turns husband and wife into roommates, functioning in survival mode, counting each day ending with everyone still alive a success.
But, in our spouse, God gave us an ALLY in this life! How gracious is He?!
To bring lasting, positive change into their child’s life, both parents must be on the same Godly mission. A mission for unity in their marriage.
When two become one flesh, two whole and separate people are united into a new, God-designed, and God-purposed life. Then, as a unified pair, they are prepared for the “flipping hard” task of parenting.
Yes, there are many difficult questions and circumstances that arise in parenting. We don’t have to face them alone, but with our spouse alongside us as we seek God’s will.
(*Side-note: Perhaps you feel alone in your marriage mission. Maybe your spouse says they don’t have time for or aren’t interested in God-honoring parenting. Maybe they don’t have a relationship with the Lord? TAKE HEART, change IS possible even when only one person is trying. For encouragement in these lonely spaces, check out… )
The good news is even if our spouse isn’t completely on board, God’s Word provides all we need to answer those questions and face whatever situations come our way.
So, what are 3 of the biggest parenting topics that can put stress on a marriage?
1. We just don’t agree on certain things; we have different parenting styles
What do you and your spouse disagree on when it comes to parenting?
Are there certain things about which you think YOU should get a bigger say?
What things do you wish your spouse did differently? Ask your spouse the same question about you.
When our kids see that we differ on our expectations of them, it creates confusion. They’ll start to “cozy up” to whomever has the rules they like and complain about the one whose rules they think are unfair.
We must be united- one flesh- in our parenting expectations; divided we fail.
But HOW? When two people feel so strongly about their way of doing something, how can we possibly see eye-to-eye?
We must open God’s Word, find what HE says on the topic, and allow our strong opinion to be shaped by HIS WAY. Our rules are only temporary, and so many parents fight about the letter of their own laws instead of the intent of GOD’S.
Our primary role as parents should be to prepare our children to make God-honoring decisions in life outside of our home; a day when our opinion as their parent no longer matters.
That’s why it is so important that we’re careful not to make little pharisees out of our kids (good rule followers). Successful parenting is not just having kids who obey and follow our every word…
Successful parenting is raising kids with the freedom to choose, seeing the fruit that comes from obedience to God’s Word, and CHOOSING IT FOR THEMSELVES.
As I mentioned earlier, we have four kids. One child is an extremely picky eater. One day he’ll only eat the “square” chicken nuggets, the next- “I HATE square chicken nuggets! I want the dino ones.”
Can you imagine what would happen if we tried to make a meal that would please every single child AND ourselves? We would have to prepare six different dishes at every meal.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
While my husband and I are united in the “What we serve is what you eat” expectation, if I’m honest, we fall short in showing our kids why it is our expectation. When we set expectations for our kids, but don’t back them up with God’s Word, we are playing God to our kids. They need to learn and understand that when they obey us, they are also obeying God, because HE asks them to do so (Ephesians 6:1-3).
We could support our “What we serve is what you eat” expectation with a few passages pertaining to being content and not complaining. We could also teach him what God says about selfish ambition in Philippians 2:3-4.
2. The kids are wearing me down; I’m completely, 100% BURNED OUT
Oooh, child. I HEAR you. Down to the marrow of my bones… I HEAR YOU.
A few things to consider: We understand our Heavenly Father’s love for us better when we understand our own role in our child’s life. Please, take time to marinate in that just a bit.
Do you understand your own role in your child’s life?
It’s easy to read all the parenting books, listen to all the parenting podcasts, join all the mom groups, get advice from friends and family about the frustrations we have with our children… but do we really understand our role as parents?
I am a HUGE fan of KISS (the band is alright, the verb is… ooo-la-la, but the acronym is what I’m referencing here):
Simply put, I believe our role as parenting can be summed up by asking the following questions:
How is my relationship with God? Have I made it my TOP priority?
How is my marriage? After God, is it the relationship in which I invest the most?
How are my children? Am I loving them as I would love myself? Am I putting their needs before my own? Am I training them up in the truth of God’s Word, so that they can enter the world with a heart for God and love for others?
Am I discipling them with God’s Word to help them either know God as their Savior or grow in their own relationships with Christ OR am I using my anger as discipline to try and make my life easier?
I’ve found that when my priorities shift, when the above order gets rearranged and I put my kids, marriage, or anything else before God, it never ends well. I end up toiling under a yoke that God does not want for me, and I shut down.
I cannot take another step, I think.
Trying to fulfill a role alone that God designed for us to do with HIS help and the help of our spouse will always lead to exhaustion and burn out.
3. This terrible marriage is affecting our kids; maybe it’s better for everyone if we just end it.
“All our kids see is us fighting!”
“I’m not a good parent. I just can’t handle my kids anymore.”
“WE would be happier apart than together, our KIDS would be happier if we’re happier, so it’s best to separate.”
Have you believed the lie that your family would be better off without you?
Do you feel the stress is just too much to bear?
Do you want out?
Do you feel your spouse is being a jerk and you need to protect your kids from him/her?
Do you want to clean up the “mess” in which your kids are living by moving out and moving on?
TAKE HEART and be reminded: GOD LOVES YOU AND HE LOVES YOUR KIDS!!!
Rarely is it better to remain two broken people who separate to fix the problem.
Many people will say their whole spiritual understanding was upended when their parents divorced. We must do better for our kids.
When the red flags start showing, take assessment of what is and is NOT working. It’s not time to end it, it’s time to CHANGE it.
Because hope comes with change. When we’re broken, we need love, discipline, and discipleship, not an easy way out.
How do we change to make this marriage- and family- work?
Realize that raising children successfully is a superhuman task. It requires supernatural wisdom and strength. We must…
Examine God’s covenant (not contract) relationship with us, learn how HE functions as a parent, and learn from Him
Decide: Will we follow Him, or follow our flesh (Galatians 5)?
When we learn what kind of parent God is and follow Him as our example, (whether our spouse does or not), our children see a living lesson of the kind of faith we have and the awesome God He is.
What does the Bible say about GOD as a parent?
There are many passages mentioning God as our parent. Read the following and take note of any attributes of God.
Psalm 103:13 says, As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him.
Proverbs 3:12 explains why the Lord disciplines: …for the Lord reproves him whom He loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
In Matthew 7:11, Jesus explains that God gives us good gifts: If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
The point is, GOD is the MODEL for how we should parent.
What did we learn from these passages about how we should parent? We should:
Discipline (give reproof) out of love for our children
Delight in our children
Always point out the good gifts given by our Lord; teach them that every good and perfect thing comes from above.
Meet their needs in ways that are most God-honoring
We will only parent right when we do it God’s way. And the training we give our children must first be learned and lived out in our own life. It can’t be faked. Recognizing our own need for change gives us credibility to help our children change, too.
Vow to change: an encouraging call to action
A person’s image of God is often patterned after his/her own parents. This week, how have you represented God to your kids? In the next few days, what attributes of God would you like to show them? Write a prayer asking God to help you model His character.
It’s not about being perfect, it’s about having a heart that’s willing to apply Biblical wisdom to become a Godly parent
Do not accept labels or label yourself (deadbeat dad, terrible mother). Take courage and choose to believe that God can (and does) use broken people for His glory and kingdom work.
Take some time this week to look up passages/verses in God’s Word that pertain to parenting: God as our Father and you as a parent. (Ask your spouse to do the same.)
Share these verses/passages with each other. Take time to apply God’s Word to specific situations with your children.
Pray for unity in every parenting issue; that your marriage would be strengthened through parenting together, not divided in disagreement.
For more information and encouragement, read Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp
Check it out
To learn more about effective, Godly parenting, and to get a deeper understanding of how to discipline in love, read God Says to Train Up a Child His Way... But How?
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