Winning the War! The Best Mom Ever ~ part 3

warTo win the war for your child’s heart, you’ll fight three forces. But first, you must recognize you’re in a war!

Winning the war requires you to focus on your child’s heart!

Read the part 1 here and part two here in the Best Mom Ever series, teaching you to–

1.    Prepare!

2.    Recognize you’re in a war.

3.   Assume your role as a benevolent dictator.

4.   Yield to God.

This post calls you to fight once you recognize you are in a war, a war you must win, God willing. . .and he is willing.

3 Battle Forces!

In this battle, you face three strong forces:

First, your child’s natural, selfish nature.

Second, a spiritual undertow.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

And third, our increasingly wacked-out, confusing, chaotic culture.

Our culture says the best kids are happy and successful kids. This is a lie. The best kids are not the ones who seem happy and successful, who look good on the outside. Rather, the best kids are GOD-honoring KIDS.

Ground Zero: The Heart

As I’ve mentioned, your Number One goal is to shepherd your child’s heart. Scripture teaches that the heart is the control center for life. A person’s life is a reflection of the heart.

Proverbs 4:23 puts it this way:

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

From the heart flows your behavior.  What you say and do and think expresses your heart. That goes for your child, too.

So when your child misbehaves, he is revealing his selfish nature, his battle-weary soul, or his bent toward a sin-city culture.


You may be thinking, “No, not my little Ethan, not my little Emma.” The truth is, every child is selfish and foolish.

The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

Even kids who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ miss the mark, as do their parents.

We all mess up. Our intentions may be good but, well, our own desire to please our little darlings can get the best of us. Here’s one of my many “what-were-we-thinking?” stories.

What Were We Thinking?

Laura was about 2.

And sneaky.

She knew my weak spot.

At bedtime after I laid her in her crib with five — yes, five —  pacifiers — I said a sweet good night, gave her an equally sweet kiss on her chubby cheek, and tip-toed out the door.

By the time I made it down the stairs, I heard:


Three pluggies down. Two to go.


Yes, my sweet, sweet Laura had a good arm. She had whipped her pluggies at the door, knowing I’d come back. She was barely 2 and she was telling us who was in charge. And what was I thinking? Doesn’t scripture say kids must obey their parents? Yes, it’s right there in black and white.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Ephesians 6:1

Winning Your Child’s Heart

We were in a war. And so are you, Mom. The only way to win: Look past my child’s behavior and see what was going on in her heart. To win the battle for her heart, my husband and I needed to show that, with God’s help, we were in charge.

God gave us the job of effecting godly attitudes, behavior, and character in our adorable child. In the next post, we’ll look at assuming your role as a benevolent dictator. 🙂

Let’s Talk

  1. What behavior problems do you see in your child?
  2. What have you done about them? 
  3. How does focusing on the heart help your child glorfy God?

Be sure to read the next post on assuming the rightful role as the mom. To make sure you get it in your email, subscribe to blog. The subscription box is below.

Counseling heart to hope (and heal!)



9 Parenting Pressures to Let Go Now!

pressuresParenting today is a pressure cooker. In and out of the church, you can count at least 9 parenting pressures. By guest blogger Sarah Walton, a stay at home mom with four kids under the age of 8, whose article appeared first on Unlocking the Bible and is used with permission. –Ed.

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Pressures of 21st Century Parenting

From the first time I became a parent eight-and-a-half years ago, with three more little ones to follow, one thing has remained the same: There is immense pressure to keep up with the unrealistic and often unhealthy expectations that we, as parents, put on ourselves and feel from others.

Some of these pressures have always been a part of the parenting journey, but there continues to be more and more pressure bombarding parents today.

Nine Parenting Pressures

Here are a few of the pressures I have seen in my own parenting experience, as well as those that I have observed:

Structured Activities

1. My child must be in structured activities, early childhood education, and sports by the earliest age possible if they are going to be successful and able to keep up with other kids their age.


2. My child must be entertained at all times, especially if I need them to be quiet or want them to be happy. Entertainment might include going to the toddler movie and popcorn time at the movie theater, needing creative crafts and activities at their immediate disposal, having the latest gadget that all the kids are talking about, and being technologically savvy and entertained by the computer, TV, iPad, phone, and video games.


3. My child must be well-mannered, self-controlled, and obedient at all times in public (especially in church), or I must be doing something wrong as a parent.


4. My child must excel at something to keep up with all the other baby geniuses. Otherwise, I might just have an “average” child.

5. If my child isn’t reading by the age of four, I must have done something wrong (I didn’t play them music in the womb, show them Baby Einstein videos through infancy, or provide an intellectually stimulating environment for them).

6. My child must begin a sport or cultural arts activity by the earliest age possible or they won’t be able to compete with their peers. He or she needs to play on a traveling team, even if requires all of our time, energy, and money, in order that we provide the best opportunities for them.


7. My child will be disadvantaged if my husband and I both don’t work, in order to provide the best for them.

8. If I have no choice but to work, I am not as good of a mom as those who stay home. Or, if I have the blessing of staying home with my children, I am not contributing or helping the family and am wasting my gifts and talents.

9. My child must be ________: homeschooled, in private education, or in the public school system; vaccinated or not vaccinated; fed organic food or not; the list goes on.

I think it’s safe to say that many parents today can relate to many, if not all, of these pressures. Of course, not all of these are bad within themselves (a little TV time, a library story time, a sports camp, crafts to do at home, etc.), but they can subtly plant lies in our heads and create overwhelming expectations that are not in line with what God desires for us as parents. Unfortunately, these pressures can suck the joy, contentment, simplicity, and sweetness out of raising the children we have been blessed to raise.

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Friends, do you need help with parenting issues, including kids who are angry or depressed, or have doubts about God? Schedule a counseling appointment. Skype or in the office in Chicagoland. Feel free to contact me with your questions.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,


Prodigal Daughter? Hope and Help for Moms!

daughterDaughter. Is your daugher a prodigal? Then chances are, you are upset, hurt, sad, and a wet pile of other emotions. So what’s a mom to do? Where can she find help and hope? In this guest article that appeared first here, Suzanne Holland, listed in Heart2Heart Counselor Directory, gives you encouragement and a biblical plan of action. Reprinted with permission. 

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We get many calls to our counseling center from distraught moms who are seeking counseling for their teen or young adult daughters. Many have been dealing with the drama and heartache of a rebellious child for years before they call us, and they are at the end of their rope. They have done everything they know of to love and teach this child, but she is rebellious, worldly, and not interested in changing.

The roller coaster of emotions has got them frazzled and exhausted, and they want help for their daughter. These prodigals are rarely ready to sit down with a biblical counselor to talk about their sin and their need for repentance. If they are forced to come in, they are usually sullen and barely responsive, with crossed arms and an angry countenance.

In these cases, the best thing a mom can do for her wayward daughter is to get counseling for herself. She needs to understand that she cannot change her daughter, and she shouldn’t try. She needs to understand the truth about the situation and her part in it. Today, I’d like to share with you three things for a mom to remember when her teen or young adult daughter is in open rebellion.

1. Remember Who God Is

One of the temptations for a mom who is dealing with a rebellious adult child is to doubt the character of God. She might be tempted to ask, “If God is good, then why is he allowing this to happen? If God is loving, then why is He putting me through this? If God is all-powerful, then how can he allow my daughter to sin against me and our family in these ways?”

These questions are common and understandable, but they reveal a fatal flaw in the theology of the one who asks them. They show that the asker is basing her view of God on her circumstances, and not on the Bible.

If I base my view of God on my circumstances, then that means that the character of God is ever-changing. If things are going well for me, then God is good and He loves me. If things are going badly, then God must be evil or unloving or some other characteristic that is far from describing the God of the Bible.

But Malachi 3:6; Psalm 102:27; 1 Samuel 15:29; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17 and many other Scriptures inform us that God does not change. So, as your daughter goes up and down on her roller coaster of emotions, behaviors, and disruptions, you can rest assured that your God has not joined her in that. Don’t you join her, either. Rest and put your hope in the one and only God of the Universe who doesn’t change like shifting shadows.

2: Remember Who Your Daughter Is

Like all of us, your daughter is a sinner who needs a savior. Perhaps she made a profession of faith—even seemed to be bearing fruit earlier in her life–but now you’re just not sure whether she is truly saved. Maybe she firmly insists that she is saved. However, her attitudes and behaviors do not bear witness of the Holy Spirit working in her life. Even if she is regenerate, she is still being saved, in the sense of sanctification, so she still needs a savior.

Your daughter is an image bearer of God, created by Him for His glory. His deepest desire for her life is that she would bring glory to His name.

So, as you struggle with her behavior, attitudes, and actions, you must remember that you also were created for the glory of God. You can manage your own emotional response, by confronting yourself like this: “You were created to glorify God. How are you doing right now?”

Your answer to that question will inform your next step. If your response is biblical and God-glorifying, bravo! Keep it up! But if it is not, repent and ask the Lord to change your heart so that you can respond biblically.

3: Remember What Brings Glory to God

As believing moms, we do long to glorify God in our parenting. But when a child is rebellious, disrespectful, and mired in unrepentant sin, it is hard to know  the God-glorifying response. So let’s just take it down to three responses that we know for sure are always glorifying to God.

Three Awesome Responses! 

Worship God

Psalm 86:9, 12; Psalm 29:1-2; Isaiah 24:14-15, and countless other verses teach us that the worship and praise of God bring Him glory. When you feel angry, sad, rejected, and hurt by your daughter, let that be a reminder to you to worship the One who is able to change her heart. Pour out your heart in lament to Him.

Christian song writer Michael Card says,

Lament…encompasses pain, hurt, confusion, anger, betrayal, despair, and injustice. It goes beyond your personal relationships to consider how all creation groans to be restored to God. Jesus understood that lament was the only true response of faith to the brokenness and fallenness of the world. It provides the only trustworthy bridge to God across the deep seismic quaking of our lives.”

Worship God as you travel that bridge to seek His face in your deepest heartache.

Obey God

Regardless of what your daughter is doing, you are accountable to God for your response to it. If you are sinning in your response to her sin, all you are doing is multiplying sin! How does that bring glory to God?

The best thing you can do is to seek the Lord, walk in obedience to Him, and trust that He will strengthen you to do so. What does obedience look like in this case? For the answer to that question, we must look to Jesus.

He walked among a rebellious people while he was here on the earth. He loved them, taught them by both word and example, and welcomed but never forced them to follow Him. He never tolerated sin, but lovingly and firmly rebuked and corrected it. And, when they would not listen, he let them go their way.

Pray to God

This one doesn’t need too much explanation, other than to say that, if you don’t want to pray or think it’s a waste of time, then you yourself are in serious rebellion against God.

Have you given up praying for your child because you “tried that and it didn’t work?” Are you angry about the way your child seems to have turned out? Are you disappointed in God, feeling like He let you down?

My dear sister, these are dangerous thoughts that will only lead you to despair and bitterness. Turn from this kind of thinking now, and cry out to God in prayer and repentance. As you do so, you will find that you are worshiping Him, and this will lead you to walk in obedience no matter what your daughter is up to.

More Encouragement

Seeing our children grow up and walk away from our beliefs and practices is heartbreaking, to say the least. I personally know this heartache every single day. But our children’s choices do not have to determine our own.

God is who He says He is no matter what is happening in our lives. When your child screams at you and slams her door, God is still good. When she chooses the world over Him, He is still faithful. Even if she walks away, leaving your home and disappearing from your life, He loves you. He loves you with an everlasting love that never fails, never leaves, never loses patience. Cling to Him in your darkest times.


One of the best books I’ve read on this subject is Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls, by Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert. I highly recommend it if you are struggling with these issues.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

Blended Families: What to Do BEFORE Marriage

blended families

Blended families: Ups and downs, joys and messes. If you’re in a blended family, then you know what it takes to bring together two families. It’s hard work, isn’t it?

But if you’re considering remarriage after divorce or the death of a spouse: What should you do before you marry again?

Two words: premarital counseling.

Already blended. . .and struggling? Counseling works for you too. Don’t despair. Be encouraged. At the end of this article you’ll find helps just for you.

Did you know your family is among the 40 percent of married couples with children in the US that are blended? This percentage counts full- and part-time residential step families with children under age 18 as well as adult children.

In this article, you’ll discover four main things regarding blended families:

  1. Take it slow!
  2. How premarital counseling works before remarriage.
  3. Helping the children.
  4. Encouragement for blended families.

Slow Down. . .When You Want to Speed Up 

After years of parenting alone, it’s tempting to “follow your heart,” as today’s popular mantra advises, and marry quickly. As Ron Deal of Family Life Blended says, “You cook a stepfamily slowly in a Crockpot, not forcibly in a blender! Kids need more time than adults to get used to the idea of a wedding.”

For example, consider a couple I counseled who married within months of meeting each other. Fiona and Eli (names and details have been changed) were previously married and have five school-age children. (Two of the children also live their mom during the week.)

The couple disagreed over parenting, handling money, and dealing with the ex-spouses, among other things. Both of them are Christians and declared their love for each other. However, life’s struggles created significant stress. Fiona became controlling; Eli backed away. Sometimes he moved in with buddies for a few days for a break.

Meanwhile, the children were confused and acted out.

As one spouse said, “I just want to live and make life fun. It seems that everything is a task. I’m just drained.”

Do these words resonate with you?

Did you go through pre-marital or pre-engagement counseling before you remarried? What difference has it made? If you didn’t have pre-marital counseling before remarriage, do you wish you had?

Pre-Marital Counseling Before Remarriage

First, during premarital counseling, you’ll think through the compexities of combining families and determine if the marriage is wise.

Second, you’ll discuss topics that may have factored in to a previous divorce — everything from communication and conflict resolution to parenting styles and personality differences. You won’t address every potential problem in premarital counseling but you will see the glaring ones.

Third, you’ll consider reasonable expectations between the children and the new spouse. Did you know that children cling to the hope that their parents will get back together? I did when my parents divorced when I was age eight. But when you remarry, your childrens’ dream dies. This is a loss for them.

Helping the Children

In premarital counseling, you’ll discover how to listen to the children–their hope, their fears.

You’ll also learn how to talk to the children about God’s role in blended families. Now they’ll have more people to love and support them! This includes the non-custodial parent when possible.

Sometimes chidlren become fearful that the new blended family will also end up in a divorce. In premarital counseling, you and your future spouse will develop a habit of praying with and for your children. reassuring them and each other that you choose to glorify God always.

5 Encouragements for Already Blended Families

Is your family already blended? You’ll appreciate these reminders from Ron Deal. I encourage you to peruse his ministry website, where you’ll find extra resources.

  1. SLOW your expectations of how quickly your blended family will harmonize. Deal says, “The average stepfamily needs between five to seven years to form a family identity. In movies, love between adults and bonding with children happens quickly; in real life, it happens gradually.”
  2. INVEST in your marriage relationship. It is the the new foundation for your home.
  3. BE a united parental team while building relationships with stepchildren. What about disciple? Deal urges, “Early on, biological parents should continue to be the primary disciplinarian to their children while stepparents build relationship, trust, and respect with stepchildren.”
  4. AVOID common pitfalls. For example, a child who says, “You’re not my mom, I don’t have to listen to you” is telling you about their sadness that mom isn’t here. Also, keep some holiday traditions while creating new ones. Money matters can be confusing too. Calmly discuss how you will balance your responsibilities to previous individual financial obligations (such as paying child support) while combining assets for the new family.
  5. STEP UP your faith. Spiritual resources help everyone in blended families find grace for each other and strength for the journey.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,


Saying Sorry Versus True Repentance


When you hurt someone’s feelings, is it enough to say “I’m sorry”?

Or do these words fall flat when spoken without godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10)? Is there a preferred alternative? Is so, what?

Years ago these questions swirled in my mind when one of my children called her sibling a name, snatched an item without permission, or smacked her on the head.

In this short article, I’ll share. . .

  1. an experiment that flopped
  2. the change that made the difference.

The main point: Don’t raise a little pharisee who knows the right words to say. Instead, train up a child to who desires to please the Lord.

The ‘I’m Sorry’ Method

Several Christian moms at my church, Bible study, and MOPS swore by a method to change their dear children’s behavior after a skirmish.

Picture this scenario: Carrie tiptoes into older sister Mary’s closet and snags a super cool top to wear. Later Mary sees Carrie at school in her top and pointed words fly like daggers. Later at home their mom learns of the problem and tells the swiper to return the top and say “I’m sorry” followed by “I forgive you” from the other sister, then they hug. She requires both girls to say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” for the mean words, and they hug again.

The mom in the scenario truly believes she’s getting to the root of the problem and that the girls learned a valuable lesson about taking without asking first and using hateful words. Have you found yourself in a similar situation? How did you discipline your kids?

My Experiment

Sort of hopeful (but not confident) this method would work, I tried a week-long experiment with my three children. I clued in my husband. A united front, right?

The plan: When one child was mean in some way to another, the offending kid had to say, “I’m sorry” whether or not she felt sorry. The offended kid had to say, “I forgive you” whether or not she truly forgave her — and they hugged.

The goal: to instill a humble, contrite spirit leading to true repentance. But did it work?

Ah, no.

Laura called Julia a name, said “I’m sorry” while rolling her eyes, and Julia said “I forgive you” with great enthusiasm, bless her heart. Their hug resembled a vice grip you might witness on WWE. Within minutes John hit Julia in the face with a bouncy ball. It was an accident.

“I’m sorry.”

“I forgive you.”

Vice-grip hug.

Those two began throwing things at each other just to get to the vice-grip hug. Laura was “like whatever” and escaped to her bedroom.

When a lamp crashed and a cat flew out of the way, I stopped the experiment. I could not handle another six days! 

The  experiment flopped.

My children said the right words without an inkling of repentance. I was raising vice-grip loving, little Pharisees!

Change That Makes the Difference

The real point behind genuine sorrow is repentance. Wordly sorrow is fakery; it’s death.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death (2 Corninthians 7:10).

“Sorrow,” in this context, refers to sorrow that is according to the will of God and produced by the Holy Spirit, says pastor John MacArthur whose Grace to You media ministry reaches millions. True repentance is impossible apart from genuine sorrow over one’s sin.

sorryThis was my problem and my kids’ problem: The “I’m sorry” were just words, not genuine sorrow.

Worldly sorrow has no redeeming value. This type of “I’m sorry” results from getting caught in a sin or from wounded pride, and leads to shame, despair, self-pity, and even death (see Mattew 27:3 for the account of Judas’ hanging).

Genuine repentance is at the very heart of one’s salvation. Believers repent of their sin continually as they turn from loveless thoughts, words, behaviors, and motivations and turn to God.

A person who is truly repentant experiences change in the inner person. Consider this:

But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Matthew 15:18-19, NIV)

The Pharisees were experts in “good” behavior–as my children became adept at saying “I’m sorry” and vice-grip hugs–and missed heart change. True repentance cuts to the heart.

An Offer

Are your kids (young or older) driving you nuts? Do you need encouragment and godly counsel? Consider scheduling a free 15-minute phone call with me; contact me and we’ll set it up.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,


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