Mercy When I Set My Kids Up to Fail

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Mercy when I set my kids up to fail

Isaiah 40:11 says, “He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.”

Even when I set them up to fail

I’m so thankful for the Lord’s mercy and patience with me as a mother. He’s gentle with me as I guide my lambs. I guess I’m learning this the hard way. We will have a few days in a row when I get good attitudes from my children. I think to myself, “They’ve been so good, they deserve a treat.” So what is my next thought? CANDY! ICE CREAM! COOKIES! Okay, so that is three thoughts, but I usually think them all and then have an inner battle on which one that I really want for myself. I have a sweet tooth. Is that even a real thing, or a myth? If it is a myth, I live most of my life in dream world because my sweet tooth aches about every other hour of the day without fail. Oh wait, this was supposed to be a treat for the kids. Right.

So I get them sugared up because they’ve been so good and I want them to be happy and have fun. Being good is hard work for a 7 and 4 year old. And I have high standards for their behavior. Living up to my standards is a tough job. They deserve a sweet reward from time to time.

What comes after the sugar high? The crash…and for my kids, it’s the crash and BURN! Suddenly I’m the most horrible parent who expects too much and they are too tired to do anything I ask. He rolls his eyes; she whines and fusses about putting one foot in front of the other. The simplest request is impossible to manage. As I’m surrounded by dramatic choruses of “woe is me” from the choir of childhood, I ask myself, “Wasn’t this supposed to be fun?”

Unfortunately I’ve lived through this scenario several times in the last two weeks. It’s the same every time too. They act well, I reward with sweet things, and then everything falls apart. When will I learn this isn’t healthy for my children or me? I think I’m beginning to see and grab hold of the truth. And once again I sense the Good Shepherd herding me on toward still waters, gently, with my young along my side.

I love my children and want what’s best for them

Sometimes it takes mistakes for me to learn what that “best” looks like. Unfortunately, my kids are the guinea pigs. With this particular issue of too much sugar, because I’m such a sweet junkie, rewarding them is selfishly motivated. It’s sad but true. I tell myself they’ve earned it but I neglect to be completely truthful in what the best reward should be. If I’m really serious about admitting what this “reward” does to them, it could be argued that I’m causing more harm than good and in essence, I’m punishing them. Oh Lord, how I need Your gentle mercy!

Take today, for instance: we were invited to my daughter’s preK class for Donuts with Dad. My husband could not go, so I went in his place. Because I homeschool, my son was with me. So he was allowed to participate, receiving a glazed donut and a cup of orange juice. After the little treat with sister, my son and I went upstairs to a bake sale being held by the preschool. I bought him a dollar’s worth of candy and he chose to eat a Tootsie Roll pop right away. I said it was fine and reminded him that he needed to show self-control when the sugar kicked in. I know, I know…is that setting him up to fail or what? Hey son, I’m going to let you have all these grams of sugar all at once and then I expect you to maintain a certain level of self-control as the sugar overtakes your little body. Not my brightest moment, I’ll admit. After the bake sale we went to a department store. He was doing great, still sucking on his pop. After the ten-minute ride home, I told him to go upstairs and get started on his schoolwork. With his reaction, you would have thought I’d asked him to go clean the toilet with his own toothbrush. “Mommy, I’m too tired to do this and you didn’t give me any time to do anything after we got home. I’m so tired. I can’t do school work now.” On and on for ten minutes. Crocodile tears, I tell you. Crash. Burn.

Thankfully, by God’s grace, I had the presence of mind to not punish him for the misery I enabled. I calmed him down and told him to go to his room until he could pull himself together. After a few more minutes, I went in to talk to him about it. Guess what he was doing. School work. With a good attitude.

Now this is just one example of several episodes over the past couple of weeks. Am I getting it? Have I learned it?

Mercy when I set my kids up to fail

I’m getting there. Mercy. My Good Shepherd extends His mercy to me by graciously tending to me and my children even when I don’t deserve it. I must show mercy to my children by keeping them from things that harm them. It means I have to say no to some things that I might even want for myself. It means I have to choose better ways of recognizing good behavior. It means I have to be intentional and set my children up to succeed. Just as my son lost control and needs my mercy; I need my Savior’s mercy each day of this mothering journey.

Thank you, Lord, for leading me gently and for your sweet mercy.

About Hope Wingate

My name is Hope Wingate. I live in Hoschton, GA with my brilliant husband, Jonathan and two incredible children: Aaron who is 7 and Adaira who is 4. I am a very enthusiastic stay-at-home mom and homeschooler. My heart beats for encouraging young mothers and I enjoy lead teaching classes for my local homeschool co-op. In my spare time I enjoy: sewing, rubber stamping, reading and watching BBC shows on Netflix.

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  1. Darlene Hann says:

    A great reminder about “rewards” that can backfire. Well-written and real. Great truths for the parent with high behavior expectations. Learning to temper demands with mercy is a hard lesson for some of us. Thanks, Hope!

  2. Rachel Gates says:

    This is me!!!!! Oh wow, you were so honest and encouraging. We are not alone and He will guide us with His love. Thanks for your thoughtful, real writing.