Dear Discouraged  Parent,

You’re not alone. Parenting is difficult at times. In fact, if you’re really working at parenting, there’s rarely a season that isn’t filled with challenges.

After seeing too many parents struggle with discouragement, I felt like I needed to write this note.

Here’s the bottom line: I feel you.

None of us really feel like the most successful parent on earth. I don’t. You don’t.

Even though I have so much to be thankful for about my family, I still spend too many days wondering whether I’m missing something or not making enough progress.

There’s so much weight on your shoulders. You know what I mean:

  • Knowing you’re actually responsible for another human being
  • Navigating big challenges on less sleep than a human ever really should
  • Watching your kids go through relational challenges and not being able to fix them
  • Working so hard on one character issue only to see another one emerge instead
  • Losing your temper when you swore you’d never do it again
  • Being so focused on parenting well that your marriage suffers
  • Feeling like you’re always under a microscope
  • Not being where you thought you would be at this point in your family life
  • Uncertainty. Constant uncertainty.
  • Knowing your family isn’t perfect and wishing it would be but knowing it won’t ever be
  • Feeling let down by others
  • Letting yourself down
  • Believing other families have it easier than you do

And on and on and on it goes…

This is the side of parenting they never teach you in birthing classes.

So I want you to know something.  The discouragement you feel inside is real and coming from somewhere. Think about this and let this sink in for a while today:

“The happiest & healthiest people are those whose expectations meet reality.”

What do you do with that?

Here are four questions every discouraged parent would benefit from asking themselves:

1. What do I expect my family to give me? 

No family will ever give you ultimate peace, fulfillment, joy, purpose, or anything like that. Neither will a spouse.  If you are expecting that from being a parent or spouse, you won’t find it.

If you are constantly discouraged or frustrated about your family, it might be because you are hoping it will give you something only God can give you.

2. Who am I trying to please? 

You will never please any of your family members fully. It’s impossible because we are imperfect people & they are as well.

If you are trying to please other people every day, you will be miserable.  You can never keep up with anyone else’s expectations. And you’ll let yourself, your family and ultimately God down.

3. How honest am I being with myself & others? 

If you stuff your personal failures and missed expectations instead of dealing with them, you will either implode or explode one day. Discouragement often comes from stuffing things we should just admit and deal with.

If you have a problem with another person, be completely honest about it.  If you are mad at somebody, tell someone (if they’re an adult or old enough….tell them).

If somebody let you down, let them know.  If you have let yourself down, tell a friend.

Lying and pretending leads to misery.  Just say it. I have done this numerous times, and it’s terrible at first, but so freeing in the end. And you know what? Much of the time you end up saving the relationship.  I don’t know where my family would be if I hadn’t practiced this. 

4. What lie am I believing? 

Gurus make it seem so easy don’t they? Go to their conference or buy their book and all your problems disappear. Did you ever buy into that lie at some point?

Chances are you thought being a parent would be easier. Well, that’s just a lie.  If you identify the lie you are believing, you will crush some of the discouragement.  The lie that marketers sell you about family is really killing your spirit. Even if you look in the Bible, you’ll discover that relationships are rarely easy.

Your discouragement isn’t just discouragement.  It’s a symptom of something deeper going on.  If you want to create a healthy culture in your family, you can’t live mad all the time.  You can’t be frustrated 24/7.  Take a step today and answer these questions honestly.

I believe it will help you beat your discouragement and get back on the growth track.

So tell me, have you ever been discouraged as a parent or (or am I the only one?). 

How have you dealt with it, healthily or otherwise?

P.S. The problem of discouragement isn’t unique to parents. I’ve adapted this letter from a post my good friend Casey Graham wrote to discouraged business owners.  I also adapted a version to church leaders on my personal blog. Seems parents,  leaders, business owners might have a lot in common.