My husband and I are raising the last 2 of our 5 kids. We have immensely enjoyed raising them. That doesn’t mean that it has always been easy, in fact, most of the time it hasn’t been. Our second son presented some unique challenges with his creative mind, but we don’t choose to look at hard as equal to bad or something not enjoyable.
One of our particular challenges in raising our second son was his wildly creative mind. While my husband and I have windows of creativity that open and close….more often closed than open, The Lord blessed us with this incredibly gifted son who challenged our parenting in a way our first hadn’t.
My husband and I had acquired a little more experience and knowledge during the 6 1/2 years between our first 2 boys. As this second one grew, we began the process of training him so he would know exactly what we expected of him. He was a perfect little baby; such a happy little one, and obeyed wonderfully. Never once did he attempt to throw a fit or stomp his feet or fight our parenting……until about 3 years old. And even then it wasn’t in defiance. He was even super easy to potty train. (We used this method that we liked so much, we used it for our 4 youngest with great success each time!)
At about 3 years old his imagination became very vivid and his creative mind took so much of his mind space that he had a real challenge at remembering to obey. He obeyed when we told him ‘no’, he was respectful, not defiant, but would go back 5 minutes later and repeat that same thing we had just told him no about. It wasn’t in things he had already learned like, no whining; eat at the table; no jumping on the couch, his issues had to do with interacting socially. Remembering not to slap his nursery friend upside the head the first moment he entered the nursery, not to head butt or clothesline his one year old brother, or not to punch his older brother in the nose and make it bleed were a real challenge for him….and us. It was all in play, but it was difficult to know what to do as a parent. When he was a little older, I read this book that gave a lot of insight and helped us to understand a bit more how to help him with his social issues.
The things we had struggled with in his older brother were not even remote problems, but with this whole new set of challenges we felt like we were first time parents again. Things I never thought I would need to teach a child I had to teach over and over and over. We disciplined him consistently, but it was useless. His creative mind was developing, but his conscience was not yet developed; in fact, his conscience didn’t really develop until he was about 7 years old.
So what does conscience have to do with it? Without it, he didn’t connect what he did with how someone else felt as a result. How others felt about what he would do, usually hitting or saying something hurtful had no effect on him (It might have been true, but not necessarily his place to tell someone; like telling the lady at the grocery store that she was ugly, or the guy with hairs coming out his nose that he didn’t like the guy’s nose etc.); disciplining him for doing or saying those things only lasted moments.
There were many times from ages 3-11 that I cried out to the Lord for an owner’s manual for this boy and his creative mind. As we had more children, he, by far, took more energy to parent than the other 4 put together. I gleaned much experience and information while raising our second one and even wrote a booklet about parenting ages 4-9 that included some of my experiences with him, as well as other practical tips.
I remember pulling up into the driveway one evening after I had gotten a break and being convicted that I was not being thankful. I recommitted myself to being thankful for this challenge and sought how I could best teach this bundle of energy that took so much of mine. I wanted what we did with him, in trying to teach him acceptable ways of relating to others, to not feel like we were headed down a dead end road with a big brick wall at the end. I wanted to know that we were headed down the right road and what we were doing was going to help him.
I remember feeling like I had a special needs child only it wasn’t obvious to anyone else because they only saw or heard the things he did. But I knew my son. I knew he wasn’t rebellious, I knew he wasn’t a bully, I knew he wanted to obey, to relate well to others. There were incredible indicators of the huge heart and love he had for people. But how could we move towards that part of him and his heart being what came out the most rather than this other indefinable thing that seemed to scream louder than the good we saw in him?
What I Did That Was Helpful
Looking back, I believe the two things that helped the most were, first, helping him to identify anxiety, or emotion, and to put it into words. When he was 18-24 months he would get excited when we took him to the nursery and he would see his friend. The only thing is, he would walk up to his friend and slap him in the head. His friend would cry and our son was labeled a bully. I studied that and figured out what was going on. He was inviting his friend to play. We taught him how to ask, “Do you want to play?” instead of the way that came naturally to him. He felt so much but had a difficult time turning what he felt into words, so he acted it out. The Way They Learn is a book that gave us insight as he got older and we began to home schooling him.
The second most helpful thing we did was to involve him in drama at church, in our ministry, and in a youth drama club. This is where he thrived. He had an outlet for his creativity and humor, and a way to express himself that was natural. He truly is a creative mind in every wonderful sense of that expression. He has brightened our lives, kept us on our toes, made us laugh, and helped us grow as parents and people. I am blessed to have the privilege of being his mom and I am excited about how the Lord will direct his paths.
What about you, mama? Are you thankful for the challenges in parenting that God has gifted you with? I truly understand both the challenge that it is, and the blessing. You are not alone. Sometimes our children do not follow any sort of written material that says how we should raise them, disciple them, or train them. We search through various resources, take what helps, leave what doesn’t, but mostly we have to depend upon the Lord to help us find what works best for the child and do that. But we can’t be lazy or discouraged. It takes a lot of work and dependence on Him for strength. Be encouraged! You keep plugging into them, creating a strong relationship with them, investing into their lives and leave the results to the Lord.
If you’re needing a few laughs, this creative mind child of mine might just be able to provide some. Check out his instagram here.
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