“When I have kids, I’ll never let them do that.”
Many parents have heard this line from a non-parent at some point. We smile politely and hold our tongues, knowing that the strain of raising human beings can’t be fully understood until you’re living it.
But there’s another level of understanding that comes to some of us, to those who have kids with extra challenges. Our kids may be categorized as “spirited” or “strong-willed,” diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ADHD, or identified with myriad other challenges. Whatever the origin of their issues, these kids don’t usually follow regular patterns or fit the bell curve.
Their relationships with siblings can be strained. Their behavior may be unpredictable or unusual. They may need extra resources, counseling, specialized types of therapy, and lots of extra patience. Whatever the origins of their issues, these kids can be hard for parents.
Of course they’re loved. But they’re also difficult.
In today’s world where picture-perfect family moments can be captured, curated, and published on social media in seconds, parents may feel like they need to hide the storm in their households. Our non-Christian coworkers and neighbors loudly tout their kids’ accomplishments whenever we see them; even fellow church members can hold up their family as a model of what “Christian” children should be.
Parents can feel as if navigating the challenges of medication, family therapy, meltdowns, school troubles, and relationship woes are taboos that “good Christian families” don’t encounter. Such parents can feel helpless, and sometimes hopeless. These issues are weighty and can affect the entire family. They can certainly exhaust and discourage you.
What you might not expect the struggles to do, however, is change you.
God uses all kinds of things in our lives to change us, including hard kids. Here are four ways he might be using yours to do just that.
1. Hard kids reveal the depravity of our hearts.
This depravity is always there, in both parents and siblings, but the difficulty of a hard kid reveals our sin more quickly and more often. Our selfishness, pride, unwillingness to serve, and arrogance are uncovered by the relentless needs of challenging kids. You may yell, shame, bribe, ignore, or do other things you never imagined you would do before you were a parent.
Our selfishness, pride, unwillingness to serve, and arrogance are…