Is Your Parenting Focused on the Wrong Things?

Is Your Parenting Focused on the Wrong Things? // jessconnell.com

Recently, I watched a video that appeared on my Facebook feed. Filling the comments section was a litany of moms who claimed they “couldn’t even watch the video because they were so distracted by the fact that none of the kids were buckled into their carseats correctly.”

It got me to pondering…

There are a whole lot of moms in our society who seem unable to:

  • manage their children in a simple grocery store run
  • train their children to consistently obey them
  • enjoy being around their children, because they’re constantly talking about the need to get away from them
  • raise children who know how to eat healthily, and in moderation
  • raise children who interact respectfully and appropriately with people around them
  • raise children who sleep in any dependable pattern (not talking about newborns here… I’m talking about *kids* who “won’t” nap, or who regularly wake all hours of the night for years on end)
  • train children to consistently do chores and help around the house

AND YET, our culture is filled with parents who practically have a phD in:

  • carseat installation, including up-to-the-minute changes in the law
  • which essential oils or homeopathic remedies to use, for which ailments
  • vaccines
  • circumcision
  • obscure parenting practices (like tandem nursing or infant potty training)
  • why soy, kale, or quinoa (or some other non-allergy ingredient/food) is good, bad, or ugly
  • the latest toy fads
  • backyard chickens
  • all varieties of babywearing wraps

And here’s the deal: I probably just offended some of you.

But… honestly, I wonder if sometimes we moms can get distracted by all these side issues because we fear we aren’t doing the main thing well.

Or we don’t know how. Or we feel inadequate/not strong enough to do the things we know we ought to do. Instead, by focusing on these side issues, we can feel a sense of accomplishment in some aspect of our mothering.

It’s not that vaccines or carseat installation or whether or not to circumcise aren’t important issues; they are. I’ve thought each of these things through too, as we’ve faced them in our family’s decision-making. (And we LOVED having backyard chickens, so please know that I’m not knocking anything on this list, per se.) I’ve thought these things through, too, so it’s not the TOPICS I’m altogether concerned about.

Rather, I fear that too many moms of our generation “major” on these controversial, blood-pressure-raising, attention-getting second- or third-tier issues, while missing the basics:

  • character development
  • obedience
  • the day-in-day-out business of RAISING ENJOYABLE, CHEERFUL, KIND CHILDREN who are growing in their understanding of God and the world He has made.

Moms who fall into this trap are focused on the side-issues but missing the major things.

So – what I want to ask you is this:

WHAT ARE YOU MAJORING IN?

Are you:

  • dialed into obscure culture-warrior parenting issues that raise your blood pressure?
  • regularly embittered by a Facebook post or article that opposes your strongly-held views on a second- or third-tier parenting issue?
  • tempted to use extreme, emotional words (“barbaric” “heartless” “reckless” “idiotic”) when describing parenting decisions that other rational, non-abusive parents regularly make? Or that, perhaps, nearly everyone did 40-100 years ago?
  • spending a lot of time researching and getting firmly-entrenched opinions about issues that aren’t biblically spelled out?
  • stressed about not only your own parenting decisions, but regularly stressed over other people’s parenting choices as well?

Or are you:

  • parenting your children in ways that are forming their character and body to be healthy in “big picture ways”?
  • seeing to it that your children obey you, not just in eating kale, but in life in general?
  • focused on doing the basic things, in your own home, well?
  • day by day, encounter by encounter, focused on your children’s spiritual development and growth in wisdom?
  • applying yourself to the purposeful discipline, maturation, and discipleship of the children God has given you?

You can’t do everything well.

You can’t be an expert in everything.

Your energy has limits.

Being angry about every other parent out there who chooses circumcision uses up energy that maybe ought to be used to help your son learn to take naps even when he doesn’t feel like it, to fight the hard battles with your son against his angry yelling fits, or to combat his tendency toward laziness and inattention to detail in his chores and schoolwork. 

Investing time in learning about and being riled up about one thing, by definition, reduces your ability to do other things with that same amount of mental time and energy.

And I get it! Mothering is:

  • HARD WORK
  • daily
  • non-stop, 24/7, without end
  • consistency-requiring
  • wisdom-of-Solomon-demanding
  • selfishness-reducing
  • sometimes humiliating
  • not, culturally, a well-respected place where you get awards, medals of honor, and raises in pay.

Plus, we all want to feel validated in the choices we’ve made.

Believe, me– I get it. Mothering is not a cakewalk, and we all want to do our best.

But, can I prod you to ask yourself:

Are the controversial side-issues taking up so much brain space, passion, and energy that you’re missing the main things of motherhood?

What is it you’re zeroing in on? Is it eternal? Is it beneficial? Is it edifying? Is it worth it? Is it really what God has given you to do, today? Is it something that’s clearly spelled out in Scripture?

Or is it stealing time and energy from the basic, central things you really ought to be honing in on each day?

What say you, Mama?

  • Are the little things eclipsing the big things in your home?
  • Is your parenting inordinately focused on the side-issues?

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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17 Responses

  1. Kaitlin says:

    THANK YOU! lol!! This is so true and nice to know, I’m not alone! I sit amongst other moms and listen to them argue and banter which topic and it’s solution is ‘best’, while they are neglecting moments of character building and child enjoyment with the very little people right in front of them! I thought maybe I was too lax on these issues (which, yes, all of which we have considered through as a family….just wish OUR chickens would start laying again! 😉 hahaha!) But I just felt like these other, well meaning, moms seemed to be missing the point! I loved what you wrote here:

    “What is it you’re zeroing in on? Is it eternal? Is it beneficial? Is it edifying? Is it worth it? Is it really what God has given you to do, today? Is it something that’s clearly spelled out in Scripture?

    Or is it stealing time and energy from the basic, central things you really ought to be honing in on each day?”

    And even with these other ‘hot’ topics – if you are in the word and as a family make a choice that you feels honours God, then be content with that! It’s only His approval we need to be after!

    Great post and I’ll remember, still, to check in on where my focus is – for we can all lose sight now and again!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Great observation!

      Yeah, I do think moms that get sidetracked by these things ARE well-meaning; it’s just that there have become SO MANY side issues that it ends up drowning out the basic things.

  2. Holly says:

    At the beginning of the year I deactivated my Facebook. I haven’t looked back. I wasted too much time focusing attention to what people posted, wondering if I was “measuring up.” God convicted me and I realized it is far more more important as a mom to cling to God’s Word and to remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit as He is the Helper of all helpers. Facebook news feeds can definitely have helpful and encouraging information, but I found more often than not it was simply a distraction from where my focus should be. It is hard to be attentive to the Holy Spirit when one is always caught up in the cyber world of others’ thoughts and opinions. Great post, thanks for sharing!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Good point. I’ve had a number of friends who have determined that Facebook is (for them) an unfruitful thing to participate in. Whatever we do, it is so important to zero in on Christ as our center, rather than Facebook. He sits at the right hand of the Father, ever lives to intercede for us, and sent the Helper here for us. Great reminders, Holly!

    • Candice says:

      I at times feel a little ‘left out’ when I don’t hear the announcements right away or get to see all the photos that friends talk about, but getting off of FB years ago has been a very good decision for me! I have more mental ‘space’ to focus on my family and making home for them vs. fighting yet another (for me) huge distraction. You aren’t alone!

  3. “Rather, I fear that too many moms of our generation “major” on these controversial, blood-pressure-raising, attention-getting second- or third-tier issues, while missing the basics.” Great point, Jess. As a coach and practicing family therapist, I also focus on the basics to build strong families – encouragement, self-awareness, compassion, patience. Once we have the basics covered, the other things seem to fall into place more naturally.

    Great article!

    Thomas Gagliano
    The Problem Was Me

  4. Julie says:

    Honestly, I think you nailed this. If we feel like we’re failing or out of control, we NEED something we can control, like deciding to only use locally sourced organic cotton reusable wipes or whatnot.
    So my question is…what happens when I honestly want to learn how to make my 2- and 4-year-olds obey? How do I know what’s realistic…when every book and every parents gives opposite, yet “biblical” advice on the subject? What happens when I’m at the end of my rope over tantrums from the younger one like I never faced with the older, and an independent streak that I didn’t expect for another ten years from the older? When nothing I’ve tried has worked, and I can’t remember what I haven’t tried?
    I asked Jesus that the other night when my hubby was away and I couldn’t sleep. And He very tenderly said, “Give them your eyes. Give them your smile. I don’t ‘make you’ obey me. I foster love within you so that you’ll want to.” I wept, but it was a happy kind of weeping.

    Now if I can just get Facebook to send me the archive link so I can shut that puppy down!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Well, when talking about what’s “biblical” then we need to go back to the source. So, first– look to what was expected all the way through… from the OT, and affirmed in the NT– that children “obey.” Also, I would consider, until they are saved, your children are NEVER going to “want to” obey, because none are righteous, no not one. And if they do, it will be because they are learning to please man rather than to please God, which is not an attitude we want to promote in our children. Additionally, your children may NEVER get saved, or not get saved until adulthood. Do you think, then, that God’s command for them to obey does not count, or that we only should wait for them to want to?

      I’d urge you to really get clear on this.

      Here’s what I think: We are not waiting for our kids to “want to” obey. When they start to run into the street, they need us to see to it that they don’t, even if they really really “want to.” They need us to make them obey us. And it is not only cars that can kill. Corrupted character can kill. A stubborn heart that refuses to yield to authority can kill. Our children DO need us to “make them” obey. I think this kind of thinking is not from Scripture, but from a confused culture that has infected Christian thinking, and I’d urge you and others who are thinking this way to reject this thinking and consider that God told Israelite children to obey– even without Christ in their hearts. The Apostle Paul repeated these instructions, though he certainly knew that it’s not guaranteed that Christian parents will have only Christian children. It is God who saves, and so it’s not the Christianness of our children that obedience depends upon, but upon us to teach them right from wrong. It is our Christianness that propels us to see the commands of Scripture and enforce them in our homes, seeing to it that our children– Christian or no– learn to honor their father and mother, obey their father and mother “in all things, for this pleases the Lord,” etc.

      Next, I’d look to godly families you know whose middle & older children are pleasant to be around. Start asking how they did it. Look to parents who have kids 5-10 and 10-15 years ahead of yours.

      Here’s an article I wrote to help sort these things out.
      4 QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU EVALUATE PARENTING ADVICE

      And then, have you snagged my free book, ONE THING: Top Tip (From a Mom of 6)? You’ll want to do that, I think– it gets right to the heart of the question you’re asking.

      Here’s my advice about tantrums: HOW TO HANDLE TANTRUMS

      Based on what you’re asking, I would bet that your first child was relatively compliant, and your second one is giving you a run for your money. What you need is to tell yourself to outlast. You only have to stick it out one time longer than your tantrumming child. Right now it feels like forever, but you have a choice to make– outlast your child and be more stubborn than they are, or prepare yourself for years of misery and an ever-increasing strength of will that will believe you can be worn down on any and every decision from here until they’re out of your home (and beyond).

      It sounds to me like your 4-year-old has made the common 4-year-old transition from the toddler/preschool phase into a more independent/thinking phase. Don’t let him/her suddenly be wise in their own eyes and master of their own domain. Your 4 year old is still only 4. I know it seems like they are SOOOOOOO old and mature but I promise promise promise you will look back on these pictures one day and think he/she was still nearly a BABY. It’s always this way with the first one; it was for me, and I see it in virtually every parent around… we all think our oldest is SO much older than they really are. So I would say, tow the line, insist on obedience. Project that independent streak and attitudes forward into teenage years, marriage, work life with their boss, etc.

      With both the tantrums and the attitude, take the same attitude you’re seeing that is undesirable and project it forward 10, 15, 25 years… and you should have sufficient motivation to deal with them rightly.

      These are important questions you’re asking; I’d be DELIGHTED to dialogue more with you about it, here or via e-mail. Keep pressing in and don’t just throw your hands up and give up. There are biblical, peace-giving solutions to the questions you’re asking.

      Best wishes to you,
      Jess

  5. Britney says:

    As a young mom, 24 with three kids 3 and under, I can attest that my first few years of parenting were taken up very much with researching and learning about all these things. I formed strong opinions and I thought it mattered so much. I sincerely thought that was how to be good mom. So, we need to share about this important issue without belittling moms who really are trying their very best to make the right choices for their children. I can honestly say that, while I agree 100% with your article now, it would have crushed me a couple years ago. God has also allowed me to put all that research to good use. I’m able to help other moms in these “insignificant” areas, and that opens the door to sharing about the big stuff, like how we’re parenting and how we’re living out our faith in front of our children. It’s definitely not an either/or kind of thing. We shouldn’t neglect the proper training of our children for anything, not even Bible study or ministering to others, which are both certainly worthy of our time. So, just a few of my thoughts!

  6. Kondwani says:

    Thanks Jess – it is refreshing. The lists near the top really put it in perspective. I was talking to my husband about some of this yesterday – that our society thinks so hard about these small things which are supposed to be so much better, and yet I am not seeing a generation of amazing, incredible, motivated, obedient, healthy, spiritually minded (or whatever positive terms you might think of) coming out. There simply is not fruit in these things. Whereas focussing on the much harder, but more important issues might well bear fruit (my understanding of the Bible suggests that to be so).

    I don’t think your post was harsh, but perhaps more of a ‘wake up call’ to some who might read it.

    • Jess Connell says:

      I appreciate your feedback there at the end of your comment; that’s exactly how I intended it: straightforward, but not harsh. I realize it may *feel* harsh to the one who has committed herself to pursuing these things, but it makes me think of the Proverb– the reason “the wounds of a friend” can be precious to us is because the wounds come from being told the truth for our long-term good. That is absolutely what I intended– for this to be a “wake-up call” for younger Christian mothers who may not even realize what a transformed landscape it is right now, from when I began mothering 13 years ago… SOOOOOOOOO much pressure to do all organic, insist on foods no one had heard of (quinoa, “green smoothies”), etc., and yet, the basics of parenting are more ethereal and confusing than they’ve ever been before.

      Our society is chasing after the easy “candy” of parenting and eschewing the basic “meat and potatoes” hard work of raising pleasant, obedient children.

      Thanks for adding your perspective, K. I was wondering if I’d crossed a line, vs. being very direct and plain (which is what I *did* intend). Thanks!

      • Kondwani says:

        Seriously, I think this whole diet thing is quite peculiar. I suppose I have lived in countries where people don’t have the luxury of choice. Also, my understanding from Genesis is that God has made us to be able to eat and enjoy the plants and animals He created – so I almost feel that we have to be careful of any motives to be vegetarian (but I also note that most people in the world eat a small amount of meat for special, not daily). People raise eyebrows at me because we eat wheat, dairy and occasional things with sugar in them. I make most from scratch just for pleasure and the educational value in doing so, but I have no problem baking cakes and puddings with as much sugar as the recipe suggests. Even though I am quite confident, there have been times when odd comments or sideways looks have made me feel wobbly. So posts like this which remind us of what actually matters are very helpful.

        • Jess Connell says:

          LOL Isn’t it absurd that “we eat wheat, dairy, and occasional things with sugar in them” is becoming fringe and apology-worthy?

          I’m with you. We eat those things too. Thanks for the comments.

  7. Stephanie says:

    Yes! I so appreciate this. It’s so easy for a young mom to think she is going to ruin her kids because of what she feeds them, their nap or lack of nap schedule, what textbooks or lack of textbooks she uses, etc. I had an older mom have me in tears before because I use textbooks for school and I thought I was ruining my kids. Fortunately, another lady was able to encourage me. I often tell other moms who ask for advice on non Biblical topics, “this is what has worked for us”, rather than “you should do this”.

  8. Myrielle says:

    I really enjoyed this one! I’ve been struggling with tantrums, independent attitude, not wanting to nap, disobedience in my older son (now 4 years old) all this past year. It’s now way better, mostly because I realized I was not focusing on the right things like being present to him, listening to him but not letting him do everything that crossed his mind! My younger one (almost 2) is more affirmative but it’s easier for me to deal with it… Maybe because I now know it’s worth it to stick with what I first decide whatever he’s doing (and we all know that often mean rolling on floor while shouting the roof off the house lol). Thanks for your reminders, I’ll try to remember those questions when things seems to get out of hands.

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