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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Tuesday 3rd March 2015

How Being a “Good Girl” Hurt My Parenting (With Book Giveaway)

Melinda Means is a mother, an author, and a cheerleader for moms everywhere. Along with Kathy Helgemo, Melinda is co-author of the new book Mothering From Scratch. It’s a joy to welcome her to the blog today.

How being a “good girl” hurt my parenting
By Melinda Means

A good church girl to the core, I grew up trying to win my halo.

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As the sensitive, youngest child in a loving, but dysfunctional Christian home, I quickly assumed the roles of family peacemaker and people pleaser.

My mother suffered from an untreated mental illness. On top of that, extended family issues were complicated and nightmarish at times. More than anything else, I longed for validation and stability.

I stuffed my own opinions and feelings. I worked hard to earn my worth. The most “rebellious” thing I ever did was get my ears double pierced. Crazy times.

But my “good girl” persona came at a high cost. I looked to imperfect people — including my precious children — to fill me up. That always ended badly and left me feeling even more worthless.

Over the years, being a “good girl” has also taken a heavy toll on my children. Here’s how:

I had underground resentment and anger.

Motherhood severely tested my image. I wanted my children to behave. I wanted them to make me feel good about myself. When they didn’t, after I had tried so hard to please them, it made me angry. They disturbed the outer and inner peace I fought so hard to construct … and I resented it.

All those thoughts, opinions and desires I had stuffed for years came bubbling up like volcanic lava. And, often it spewed all over my kids.

I was trying to be a “good” mom. Why weren’t they cooperating?!

It took lots of counseling to understand these things about myself. I’ve slowly learned to look to God for my value. Everyday, I have to consciously remember that what He says about me is all that counts. Because what He says and thinks about me and my worth never changes — no matter what I do or don’t do.

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I’ve had to work hard with both of my kids to repair the damage. I’ve asked their forgiveness and still do when I fall into old patterns and attitudes.

I give them — and myself — a lot more grace. I don’t look to them for my worth anymore, which frees them to voice their opinions and make mistakes.

I was incredibly naive. I assumed my kids would be “good” like I was. I thought this parenting gig would be a snap.

Don’t get me wrong. I have two incredible kids. They both have so much more of a sense of their opinions and who they are than I ever did at their age.

They are not people pleasers. Thank God. But that means they do push boundaries. They question the status quo. Plus, they live in a world with so much more temptation and wickedness than the one I grew up in. My kids face challenges I never had to face.

Through painful experience, I now know how badly I need God’s guidance and wisdom to handle today’s battles. I also need Him to help me prepare for and anticipate the challenges that lay ahead. I need His help to act instead of react. I ask Him everyday for this.

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I didn’t know how to set boundaries.

Because I wanted so much to please — to be worth something — I usually gave in. Did what others expected of me. Never rocked the boat. I was able to get away with that for years — until I had kids. People pleasing does not work well as a parenting philosophy. “Giving in” to toddlers and teenagers always ends badly.

This came into full bloom in the middle school years. All that “pleasing” blew up in my face. It was those years that God used to wake me up.

I realized parenting couldn’t be about me — my worth, my image. I had to do what was right for my children. As difficult and frightening as it seemed, I had to be the “bad girl” and set clear boundaries and stick to them. Even if my kids didn’t like me and thought I was a “mean mom.”

I focused on behavior and image instead of relationship and “heart” issues.

As long as my kids were well behaved, my halo stayed firmly in place. I could feel good about myself and my mothering. So, I spent the early years of my mothering working very hard to get my kids to “do the right thing.”

They felt my love was conditional. And to some degree it was.

As God has worked on my heart, I’ve realized that I have to concentrate more on theirs. Jesus doesn’t want “perfect” kids. He wants relationship with them. They need a mom who gives grace freely to help them understand their heavenly Parent does, too.

The Pharisees did all the “right” things, but their heart was far from Him. I would rather my children wrestle with their faith and live messy, transparent lives that ultimately lead them closer to Him. 

I’m not perfect. I will never be. Some people won’t recognize my value. Nothing I do will ever be enough.

Thankfully, for my kids’ sake, as well as my own, I know my worth doesn’t depend on it.

Finally, I can put the halo away.

mmoutsideclose Meet Melinda

Melinda Means is mother to a strapping teenage son and a beautiful and entertaining teenage daughter. She has written for Focus on the Family, CBN.com, In Touch and Lifeway’s Journey.

She is the co-author of the new book Mothering From Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family (Bethany House, 2015), available on Amazon, as well as bookstores nationwide. She blogs at Mothering from Scratch.

Giveaway of “Mothering From Scratch”

latestcoverimageMFS Melinda is giving away a copy of her new book. To have your name included in the drawing, fill out the Rafflecopter. I’ll draw a winner over the weekend.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Post includes affiliate links.
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  • “Everyday, I have to consciously remember that what He says about me is all that counts.” Me, too, Jennifer. Thank you for making me feel less alone.

    • MotheringFromScratch

      Trudy, it touches my heart to know that my words made you feel less alone. I’m convinced that one of Satan’s top tools is isolation.

  • I loved this book and was so pleased to be able to recommend it on my blog, and then to put it into the hands of the young mothers in my church. Here’s the link to my “two thumbs up” review:

    https://michelemorin.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/throw-out-the-cookie-cutters/

    • MotheringFromScratch

      Awww … thank you so much, Michele! It makes me so happy to know how much you enjoyed it and it blesses me to know you passed it on to young mamas. 🙂

  • Brooke Montgomery Cassinelli

    Daily remember that my kids are NOT reflections of my parenting skills… I have 5 and if they were all the same then I could brag/cry. They are as different as night and day with the same parents. Isn’t God good?!?

    • MotheringFromScratch

      Amen, Brooke! The older my kids get, the more I realize that some things/behaviors just have nothing to do with me — good and bad! 🙂

  • Carma

    Thanks so much for this!

    • MotheringFromScratch

      I’m so glad you were blessed by it, Carma!

  • Stephanie

    People pleasing has affected my life in so many ways. I soon need this book.

    • MotheringFromScratch

      Stephanie, over the years, I’ve learned more and more how people pleasing has influenced so many of my poor choices. It sounds so noble, but it truly hurts not only us, but usually also the people we’re trying so hard to please!

  • Caryn Jenkins Christensen

    Melinda, I can relate so much to the way you parented ~ as a ways and means to receive approval from my children. My girlies are grown young women now and I can still see vestiges of my insecurities in (especially one) my daughters. Your book sounds full of hope 🙂

    • MotheringFromScratch

      Caryn, hope is what I want to give to mamas who struggled so much in the same way I have. Because there IS hope, even when we think the time has passed for us to correct our mistakes with our kids. God is still working in their hearts in ways we can’t see. He CAN redeem those things in them. It may be more painful (for them and us) as we watch them struggle, but I’m so comforted by knowing that He works all things together for good.

  • joni

    people pleasing has brought me to my knees and screwed my parenting up with my regrets which i can not get back. The years i allowed the enemy steal from me reminding me i was never good enough and i always caring what others think about me instead of knowing I am who He says i am Beth moore quote.

    • MotheringFromScratch

      Joni, I SO understand what you mean. But this is the verse I cling to: “He will restore the years the locusts have eaten.” I know that my kids will always bear scars, but He can redeem those years. He has in many ways for me. And, even though your children are grown, that is no barrier for God’s redemption of those years for you, too. I don’t know how He’ll do it, but I believe He is able!

  • joni

    the reality unlike my pic says i did let my struggle become my reality and identity

  • joni

    my children are grown and i cant get those years back but i can give em back to my four beautiul grandchildren.

    • MotheringFromScratch

      Amen, Joni! And God is so faithful to redeem our mistakes. I’m SO grateful for that everyday!

      • joni

        Mothering them as adults is hard too

        • MotheringFromScratch

          My oldest just turned 18 and I can really see that, Jodi. A whole new phase of mothering.

          • joni

            Its more like watching n counseling. Choice is theirs.

          • MotheringFromScratch

            Yes, that’s the hardest part. Letting go of control.

          • joni

            so true i find it hard in life in general cuz my dad was very controlling. i spent alot of ppl pleasing and building my own walls of protection and security.

  • Paige Estes

    Ouch. Melinda this was a tough one to share and it touched my halo loving heart. Thank you for ripping it raw today. I pray God show me where I need to change in my parenting here and that I will have courage to do it. I don’t want my boys to feel love is conditional! But I do want them to do what they need to do! I am guilty of searching for my “good momness” in their behavior. Ugh. Father forgive me!

    • MotheringFromScratch

      Oh, Paige, it such a painful realization to make, but as you submit to God’s leading you will feel such freedom and your children and your relationship with them will benefit more than you can imagine. Everyday as I was making this transition from people pleasing-parent to God-pleasing parent, I prayed for wisdom and courage. He was faithful to give it to me every time. <3

  • joni

    my kids dont walk with lord but have been saved and baptized now are 26 and 21. so praying for my prodigals and that my grandkids dont become prodigals.

  • Anna

    Thank you so very much, Melinda, for your raw honesty. This post has helped me realize why I ran from faith as a teenager and why I respond to conflict and situations that feel out of my control in the way I do. It is a huge eye-opener for me and for others I have shared it with as well. I want to stop the cycle here: I don’t want my children closing their hearts and selves in the way I have done the past 15 years or more. Thank you and may the Lord bless you for your willingness to let Him into your pain, to bring healing not only for you, but also for others. Praise God for His faithfulness and His love abounding.

    • MotheringFromScratch

      Anna, it blesses my heart so much that God used my words to provide insights and encouragement to you and others. I have learned so many, many lessons the hard way. I love it when God can use our pain and redeem our mistakes, in part, by sharing them with other people. May God bless you! <3

  • I have to return to Scripture all the time in mothering…as I let how others view my parenting affect me so much. Love this post!

    • MotheringFromScratch

      Thank you so much … it’s a tough battle to keep our focus on what God wants for our parenting and not worry about what others think!

  • Michelle Pieters

    God knew I needed to read your post about motherhood and trying to people please (being a good girl). My 3 year old told me yesterday I had failed as I hadn’t done baking with him as promised (I was too exhausted) and it cut me to the bone. I was in a mess the whole night and felt like the worst mother in the world. I am going to print out your words and read them over and over until it gets into my heart and mind. Thank you for your obedience in writing what needs to be heard. May God bless you heaps.

  • Michelle Pieters

    God knew I needed to read your post about motherhood and trying to people please (being a good girl). My 3 year old told me yesterday I had failed as I hadn’t done baking with him as promised (I was too exhausted) and it cut me to the bone. I was in a mess the whole night and felt like the worst mother in the world. I am going to print out your words and read them over and over until it gets into my heart and mind. Thank you for your obedience in writing what needs to be heard. May God bless you heaps.

Dear God, Thank YOU. Here's where I guide my gratitude this Thanksgiving Day -- straight to YOU. Without You, I would have to direct all of my thankfulness to fate or the universe or thin air or my "lucky stars." But it's You. It's all because of You. … ift.tt/2zyTE5h pic.twitter.com/bWjoMVLmcd