Raising Defiance: Learning to Say "I'm Sorry."

There comes a time in motherhood when raising your child is no longer about the "Oooo's" and "Ahhhh's" that mark the many major milestones of your child's life: like rolling over, sitting up on their own, clapping their hands, saying "da-da" and "ma-ma" (if you're lucky enough to have that one come first), taking their first step, etc. It's like there's this shift, this subtle yet apparent shift that occurs when all those cute moments suddenly turn into...straight defiance.

You're suddenly having to navigate how to rejoice in your child's successes while simultaneously directing them away from "pushing the boundaries" as my doctor so gracefully put it (i.e. smudging your make-up all over the ground as you rush to get out the door, pulling every single book off your bookshelf because...why not...it's fun, climbing on top of your kitchen counters when no ones looking and oh ya, getting into the knife drawer...sweet, or simply tossing tirelessly on the floor as you change their fifth poopy diaper of the day. Pushing the boundaries. Ya right. It's more like pushing me off my ROCKER!!

Let's just be honest mom's...we all face it; That torn feeling of how to you love your child unconditionally while still giving them the push back they need (so you're not left standing with the screaming kid in the grocery store, while everyone looks grudgingly at you...although...we've all probably been there. And if you think you'll be the exception to that rule, I hate to break it to you...you simply won't). It's just something we have deal with as moms and although it sucks...it's our job right?

I had a mom friend a while back tell me she couldn't stand the thought of having to spank her child or even swat their hand. At the time she was a new mom with a 2 month old, while I was dealing with my 18 month old and laughing under my breath. But in all honesty, she's right...you can't stand the thought of punishing your child at such a young and innocent age. We don't like to do it, it doesn't make us feel better as parents when we have to teach our 9 month olds that it's not okay to stick their fingers in light sockets, and chew on the dogs bones. It doesn't just "come natural" to us to spank our children or tell them "NO" after you've already said it 57 times that day. But let's face it...we all have to learn how to raise defiance as mothers. It's not easy, it's not fun, but it sure is one thing...tiring.

Over the past couple weeks, I've been navigating through a situation with my almost 2 year old daughter and it's been one in which I've had to reassess a lot of my parenting techniques along the way. Now I wouldn't consider Rozalyn to be an incessantly "strong-willed" child (although she has her moments) but in this particular situation she was being extremely defiant against the wishes of her mother and it was making me really angry.

It all started when I returned home from my business trip to Utah. Rozalyn had been staying at my parents house/her auntie's house in Michigan while my husband and I were away for the week. My mom was relaying to me an occurrence from the night before that involved Rozalyn hitting her cousin Cylis in the face with a broom.

Wow. That was my first reaction too! How rude right!? Then she shared with me how after basically jilting her cousin she would not say that she was sorry (here it is folks...the situation). Well, that's weird I thought, since Rozalyn really started talking she's had no trouble saying the word "sorry," she would even graciously repeat it every time she was told to do so.

This MUST just be a one time deal. HAS to be! Rozalyn would never act that defiant............I mean look at her for heaven sake.

Well friends, I was wrong. After experiencing the same situation first hand once more in Michigan and countless times after returning home, I realized things needed to change.

Now, some of you might be thinking...Tessa, just chill out. Give the kid a break, she's not even two years old! And believe me, I've thought the same thing...over and over again. But the truth is...what it really comes down to, is that if I continue to (as her parent) inconsistently teach her that it's okay to knock a kid down or draw all over the kitchen floor, and if I continue to give her the excuse that ya, maybe she doesn't fully understand what it means to be truly sorry so I'll let this time slide, I'm not doing her any favors in the long run. I'm not teaching her to be compassionate, I'm not teaching her to love when it's hard to love, and I'm not teaching her what it means to lay aside your own selfish pride.


I am in NO way teaching her what it means to be Jesus.

So I have this strong conviction right? This needs to change.

Well that was much easier said than done.

I go through 2 grueling days with Roz...on top of the crazy, teething child that she already was, I was having to deal with a whole different beast. PRIDE! It's like I could see it in her eyes...festering, lingering, determined. She was not about to say that she was sorry.


Day 1 of my determined mighty mom act consisted of this:

It's a Thursday morning, just like any other day of the week, although this morning I had a business associate over for training. And THIS morning I NEEDED to focus! I couldn't get more than two words out without her screaming on the floor next to me, because although she wouldn't say she was sorry for coloring on my beautiful, white, antique table cloth, she was going to make sure that I heard just how upset she was about me sternly asking her to say she was sorry (as I tried my hardest to stay calm in front of my associate).

Be consistent Tessa. I told myself. Be strong Tessa. I screamed (to myself of course).

I needed to change my approach. So what did I do next? I told her that she needed to go to her room and she couldn't come out until she told me she was sorry. I had NO idea what I was doing. I'd never shut her in her room by herself for long periods of time. Who knows what she would do in there! But I stuck to my guns and it wasn't pretty.

When I first put her in there, she screamed at the top of her lungs and I "confidently" walked back to my meeting, feeling like the worst mother ever. I waited about 5 minutes but it felt like an eternity (in all reality it was probably 3 minutes) and I went back in her room. I knelt down in front of her and said "Rozalyn, you need to tell mommy you're sorry for coloring on the table." I got nothing. She screamed some more and tears rushed down her bright pink cheeks. She looked a little something like this...


I was dying inside! But I told myself once more, stay strong Tessa, be consistent. So again, I closed the door and told her that she couldn't come out until she said she was sorry. At this point I'm sure the woman sitting at my dining room table thought I was nuts but I smiled and urged her to continue with her questions. This time I'm sure I had to have waited 10 minutes because I answered A LOT of her questions!

When I went in to check on Roz, she was sprawled out on the floor in front of the door with her blotchy red, tear streaked face staring me down. "Rozalyn, can you please say you're sorry?" Nothing. I was at a loss. In that moment I caved, settled for a hug and a kiss and called it quits for the day.

Day 2:

It had been a day or two since our last go around and I honestly can't remember at this point what series of events occurred prior to this specific episode but it started out much like the last time (at least I'm sure it did), except for this time my husband was around to witness the chaos.

I insisted that she say she was sorry. She wouldn't. So I told her, like before, that she needed to go to her room and stay in there until she said she was sorry. This led to an uproar all on its own. Apparently last time had been pretty traumatic since the mentioning of her "room" made her lip quiver. The screaming soon followed and like before, saying sorry was not something she was going to give up too easily. So I gave her one last chance to say she was sorry (for whatever it was she had done) and when she refused, I closed the door.


Now let me just interject really quickly and say that this process was not just difficult for me, it was EXTREMELY difficult, it was exhausting and it was heartbreaking. Having to literally "shut out" your child from your instinctual grasp is not something that comes natural, feels natural, or remains natural. It hurts your heart to see your child collapse in tears as you shut the door in front of them, and it kills you when you have to listen to their muffled cries following. Nothing about this process is easy for us moms (and or dads) but it's a learning curve for each of us. So grace people...I need grace.


When I felt like a sufficient amount of time had passed (4 minutes max!) I reentered her bedroom, knelt down and for what felt like the hundredth time asked if she would say she was sorry. My heart sunk when those words did not fall off her lips and I slowly turned for the door. After closing it to the sound of her pathetic sobs I ran out to my husband and cried, "I don't know what to do honey. What am I supposed to do?" With little response from the jury I decided I was going to go back into her room and suffice for a hug and a kiss.

As I once again knelt before her small, delicate toddler innocence I asked one last time, "Rozalyn, can you please tell mommy you're sorry." Is it any surprise to anyone else that she said nothing once again? In that moment so many things flooded my mind: I could spank her again-that might work, or I could yell at her some more, tell her she has to stay in her room longer... and as all these thoughts thickened in my brain, I began to feel discouraged, upset and most of all defeated. It was then that I heard the Lord say to me..."Pray Tessa. Just pray."


Pray? PRAY? What am I supposed to pray about here? I thought.


But with strong conviction in my heart, I grabbed Rozalyn, wrapped her in my arms and began to pray. I'm not really sure what I prayed for in those next 5 minutes but I remember asking the Lord to reveal to Rozalyn what compassion truly looks like, and what it really means to be sorry. I asked the Lord to take away any pride that might reside within Rozalyn and to replace it with mercy. I thanked the Lord for Rozalyn's grace and tender heart and I declared that the enemy not have any jurisdiction over those areas of her life.

Like I said, I'm not too sure what I really prayed during that time but the Lord's grace was flooding my spirit and all I knew was that in that moment this is the one thing that I could do, the one thing the Father would do for His children.

When I reached my final remarks and ended with an accompanied "Amen," I pulled Rozalyn in tight and told her how much I loved her. It was in that moment that she pulled away, looked into my eyes and exclaimed, "Sowwy mom."

I was completely undone. Every fiber of my being was extraordinarily overwhelmed at what I had just heard flow off my daughters tongue. Lord, thank you. You are good. You are worthy. You know just what we need when we need it and you give endlessly to those who trust in you.

This was not a "Go mommy" moment this was a "Go God" moment, because He knew what Rozalyn needed before I knew it. And had I chose to continue going about the situation like I was, she probably would have never uttered that fragile word. But the Lord intervened and it is through Him and Him alone that that conflict was resolved.

If there is one teaching moment here, it's that the Lord knows exactly what His children need and we sometimes have to change our perspective as mothers, and daughters as to how we approach certain situations. Society will tell you how to deal with a specific situation by giving you a load of self-help books and parental advice, which absolutely works for people, I am in no way denying that. But our Heavenly Father is not our society, He is our creator, our comforter, our counselor; and He and He alone knows His flock better than anyone. So maybe the next time you feel like you have your heart set on what the world would do or finds acceptable, step back and say a silent pray for all that you need in that moment and the Lord will intervene. I promise. 

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Phillippians 4:6-7

Thank you for tuning into my blog. I cannot thank you enough for your endless amount of love and support. I want to state, that my intentions for this blog are to share with the world my daily life as a mom, as a wife, and as a daughter of our Heavenly Father. I, in no way claim to know it all or interject on the righteousness of others dealing with similar situations. My hope is to encourage others to laugh, and see the beauty in our sometimes wild and crazy lives. Please share this with anyone that you think needs a little uplifting today!

xoxo, Tessa