I never thought I'd say this, but those toddler days were easier than this. Oh, the toddler days were more exhausting, and I definitely had to be on my toes constantly, but saying no was easier and turning behavior around wasn't as difficult.
These days, it feels like I'm constantly talking to one child or the other about her behavior. I'm nearly always providing wisdom to smooth out a situation or prompting my girls to remember how it is they are supposed to act. Some days, this character-molding stuff is a battle.
And some days, it feels like a battle I'm losing. When my daughter looks at me with frustration and anger in her eyes after I've talked with her about the same behavior we've been trying to get a handle on for months, I wonder if we'll ever conquer this particular mountain. When my other daughter bursts into tears, runs to her room and shuts the door after a conversation about how to treat our friends, I wonder if I was too harsh. And I wonder if I'm doing this right.
Character doesn't just happen. Our kids learn to be godly men and women from what we teach them. They learn right from wrong, how to think of others first and how to be a person of integrity from us. They need us to help them grow into the young men and women of character that God wants them to be.
But the getting there is tough. When they are toddlers and preschoolers, it's a matter of correcting and redirecting. When they get older, it's a matter of teaching them to make good choices and making sure they understand why it's important to make those choices. And that's not an easy job.
Some days, it seems like I say no way more than I ever did when I had a two-year-old. Some days, it seems like all I do is remind my kids of how they are supposed to act. Some days, it seems like all I talk about is treating others well. Because this character-molding this is a long, slow, uphill climb. We aren't wired to want to think of anyone but ourselves. We aren't wired to want to take the hard road instead of the easy one because it's the right thing to do. These are all learned behaviors. And the only way our kids can learn them is if we teach them.
I had to remind myself this week that character building takes time. It takes patience. It takes a lot of love. But our kids need all those things from us. They need us to not throw up our hands and walk away when we've corrected the same behavior for what seems like the 800th time. They need us to always have faith that they can get it right. And they need us to pray for them as much as we correct them. Because as much as we can require correct behavior, only God can ensure that that behavior comes from the heart.
If you and your child are in a season where it seems the character battle is one you fight daily, don't give up. Keep slogging up that mountain. Because when you reach the top, the view is beautiful.