By Christine Darragh

All my kids went through it around 4 years old. They spent some time trying out their independence and putting personal will on for size. For them, it was a rush against the limits of their freedom.

This 4- year-old world was expanding outward further than they’d known it. To me, it looked like seismic temper tantrums, which made me wonder why any parent balked at about the “terrible twos.” This open defiance was sudden, violent, and sometimes uncontrollable.

While each of my kids went through it, and along the way, the older two shook it off as their growing maturity and (I hope) my parental consistency won out, I am still combating this with my youngest. Her persistence is one of her most admirable qualities.

This summer, her dogged little legs carried her, scrambling up and down rocks, up to 5 miles on our family hikes without much complaining. But, as a man whom I used to work for was known to say, “Your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness.”

So too, her tenacity can trip her up. In her daily fight to keep up with siblings, have her own way, and get what seems “fair,” she often shows up with the biggest, longest 4-year-old tantrums I’ve ever experienced as a parent. She should be past this already, because she’s five.

And a half.

I’m a runner, and I’ve said before that you can make running a metaphor for just about anything. And, this time of year, I hate running. August is hot (well, not actually this year) and humid, and beginning in July, my training comes grinding to a halt.

I slow and slow, and seemingly can’t make myself get any faster–all at a time when I’m supposed to be running 20 miles every other weekend.

Every year, I start to lose hope. The inner voice who likes to tell me all the ways that I’m not measuring up, comes around and lets me know that I should probably quit running because I’m so slow, that they’ll probably close the race in October before I even get a chance to finish.

That voice shows up during these parenting situations, too. Because I’ve tried many, many things–consistently, too–to help my daughter curb these behaviors. We’ve paused to eat, taken extra naps, given more one-on-one time, and don’t forget the time-outs.

But, there comes a point, when my child has been in and out of time-out for hours, that I become convinced that whatever discipline I’ve chosen is completely ineffective. No matter how consistent, it’s not enough to contend with this tiny, little will. In those moments, it becomes simply exhausting just to continue along the course (of discipline) I’ve chosen.

I become convinced that whatever discipline I’ve chosen is completely ineffective.

Sometimes, I feel alone in this disciplinary confrontation, because my spouse doesn’t always see the behaviors I do, doesn’t receive the same defiance. And that exhaustion changes into hopelessness.

In fact, I can sometimes feel hopeless about many different parts of parenting, because there are so many questions I don’t have answers to, and so many tools, which seem like they’re growing obsolete as my children age out of them.

But community has been one way to find encouragement. There I’ve found advice from other moms about what worked for them. I’ve received wisdom from women with a longer view.

But, mostly, I’ve found a place where other parents have struggled, and had questions, needed tools. In short, a place where I knew that I wasn’t alone.

I found a place where other parents struggled, and had questions, needed tools. In short, a place where I knew that I wasn’t alone.

Those temper tantrums are not gone, but I’ve been thinking lately, that they’ve lost some of their fight, and I might be winning this one after all. And the words of those encouragers around me were what kept me going.

Parenting can be a journey of ups and downs, joyful relationships and fierce selfishness. MOPS is a place where moms can find encouragement to persist in the hardest job of all, gain practical wisdom, and grow as leaders and influencers in their own lives. Living Water also offers a refuge for parents where they can connect and build relationships with one another, while their children have plenty of fun learning about the love of Jesus. Read more about Splash Kids Zone and the Galley Café (for parents) here.