Aren't you glad that God gives us itty-bitty babies to start out with, and not teenagers? The two DO have much in common, but one's a lot bigger and harder to get into a car seat.
Starting Small. That's what God does with US, and it's what we need to do as parents. Keep our expectations realistic while keeping our standards high. It's a dance that starts at Day One and keeps going until our kids drive off to college. The challenge is that you have to keep learning new steps along the way because the music changes constantly.
So what does that mean? By starting small, I really mean start when they are small. The baby/toddler/preschool days are when you are setting important patterns that can bring an abundant harvest in their teen years or can bring you heartache and disappointment in later years.
We've been blessed with an abundant harvest, despite our own limitations and failures. We have some glaring short-comings as parents, and yet! God had been faithful. We are still working on our issues, still working things out. I timidly hold out my faltering example to show the grace of my heavenly Father and to encourage all of us who feel, at times, unequal to the task.
Starting small means remembering that your small children are forgetful, impulsive and need naps. It takes into account that they will make mistakes and that YOU will make mistakes along the way. Once you are OK with that reality, it will keep you from expecting perfection in your family. At least, WE never achieved it.
That being said, it IS important to have a level of expectation that is appropriate for your children's ages. We always expected a foundation of respect from our children, so unfortunately, that meant we had to do a lot of work in the early years. Boy, I got tired of dealing with tantrums and "NO's!" and unpleasant behavior! It was exhausting work, but I'm amazed at how many people now tell me how lucky I am to have such "EASY" teenagers. Trust me, it is much easier to deal with a 2 year old's tantrum than a 15 year old's. And yes, I've experienced both.
Starting small may mean that you have to back up and keep covering the same ground over and over with your children. Wouldn't it be nice if you only had to discipline once for back-talking and that was the end of it? I think that's where much of our parenting frustration happens. We want instant results when in reality, it can take years of consistent effort and follow-through to see progress.
But don't give up! You are going to make it and so will your little ones. Someday people will tell you how lucky YOU are and you will say, "yes, the harder we worked, the luckier we got."
Just keep loving and leading them. Keep your instructions clear, simple and doable. Require respect and obedience, and keep on keeping on. Slow and steady wins the race.
And most of all, look for the small beauties and blessings in each day, no matter how hard or long it may be. Drink in the glorious goodness of childhood, the sweetness of sleepy heads and sticky fingers. Linger outside bedroom doors and listen to their munchkin voices. Watch them learn and grow and amaze you with their perfection. There may be days in which you will be hard-pressed to find anything good. But hang in there, because the next day may be golden. You just never know!
Remember that, not only are your children God's gift to you, but YOU are God's gift to them. And since God doesn't make mistakes, He knew just what He was doing by putting your family together. Don't be afraid of the small starts or the big failures. He is in the business of making something incredible out of the messes we sometimes make as parents. He never gives up on us, never throws us out, because He can see the end from the beginning. And He has good things in store for you.
Zech. 4:10 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.