Character Building · Christian Thoughts · Day to day · Mommy Talk · Parenting · Uncategorized

To Shepherd or Shout: My quest toward good parenting grows more complex

Well, confession. Toddlers are not my jam.

Newborns, nursing infants, high-chair-bound babies, early toddlers who I can dress with no resistance, and preschoolers in school – these are my favorite kind of kids. And by favorite, of course I mean, the most manageable.

Interaction that demands my attention and strategy is not my jam.

Give me a crying baby or babies in the middle of the night that I can quietly nurse, snuggle and then put back to bed, all day every day.

But toddlers who have their own minds, own words, own plans and own opinions – I’d like to send them to spend the next 5 years with my parents.

I kid. But, not really.

What’s happening here is I’m being forced to change. I can no longer be a passive parent who only meets needs, but I’ve got to get all up in their business or else their business gets all up in my house. Fortunately, this seasons’ business usually involves throwing toys (STOP!), destroying their train tracks (I SAID DON’T DO THAT!), saying “baby diapers” all the time (This I think is their version of cursing.) They have been known to call everything “DISGUSTING” whether it’s legit – dirty diapers – or totally not legit – my chili.

Sometimes Chris and I laugh. Like when Cohen uses “it’s too big!” as his irrational reasoning behind not wanting to do something.

“Want to wear your jacket outside, Cohen? After all – it’s freezing.”

“No! Too big.”

“Want to drink some water out of your right-sized sippy cup, Cohen?”

“No! Too big.”

“Want to help me clean up this enormous mess you made?”

“No! Too big.”


I’m not blaming anyone here. I just find myself having to give some kind of response to some kind of person for some kind of reason all day, every day. And I run out of answers, steam, and patience.

So, some days I just start shouting.

And some days this gets the job done.

But some days they all laugh at me.

And then I want to put them in full-time school.

But then I run into a grandparent who tells me she wishes she hadn’t yelled so much at her kids.

And then i’m back to square one.

Does anyone else feel this way?

Probably not. Because according to your Instagrams and true-lives as far as I can tell – you’ve got it all under control. Your children are lovely and dressed nicely, steering far from potty words and listening to your requests. While mine, well mine are marching around the house in a parade chanting “poopy diapers! baby diapers! poopy poop.”

I’ll be darned if toddlers haven’t lead me to the brick wall I never thought I’d find so quickly in parenting.

But one thing I do think is very true – my response always plays a huge part in how the next few minutes are going to go.

Shouting or Shepherding?

Shouting is what it usually comes to. Kinda like sticking the chips up on top of the fridge, it solves the problem for a moment (kinda) but doesn’t do any real changing of the problem.

Shepherding – which is not my area of strength (again, i’ll nurse two babies for 13 months over this any day), always helps. It guides a person to a solution, that will likely have to be reinforced a BILLION times, but still it offers a solution for real change.

I am reading Jen Hatmaker’s, For The Love, right now and was reminded that there are alternative ways to handle moments.

Her “good boundary” words rang true:


If you happen to be in the same boat as I, welcome. Glad we’re here together. Because quite honestly, I need to know you’re here. I need to know your kids are rough around the edges and more importantly, that you are, too.

I am trying to shape up our ship, though. We are currently working on potty-word reduction (not allowed at all anymore unless we are discussing the trashcan full of dirty diapers. A discussion that actually does happen a lot around our house.)

I am attempting to shepherd over shouting. Though, when I imagine Shepherds watching over their flock by night, I imagine a mild-mannered person (of which I am not) and start to diminish the importance of shepherding since it’s not me anyways. BUT THEN. I see my kids’ response, and how much they like being shepherded instead of just shouted at, and this is a good reminder for me to stay the course.

Another change that is currently happening around here – mostly in my heart – is remembering that God gave (as a beautiful, perfect gift) these imperfect people to be raised by imperfect parents. Mostly so that each one of us can look to the only one who is perfect – and that is Jesus. We need a Savior, round here. We can’t possibly grow well without Him in our lives.

I don’t want to send my kids to their grandparents’ house, you know? I want to learn – as hard as it may be – to parent well. Or at least die trying.

To conclude, I’ll just tell you what I would want to hear: parenting is hard, let your spouse be your best partner, stay strong, stop comparing and trust the Lord, oh and potty-training twin boys will be a piece of cake. (I said what I would want to hear.)


they have my heart. xo



9 thoughts on “To Shepherd or Shout: My quest toward good parenting grows more complex

  1. First reply. We have just spent a week with you and Chris and your kids who are my jam. With four adults and more, they were a piece of cake.

    Never get too complacent. Pray and read and hang out with other parents so you can always add to your bag of tricks. Hold God’s hand and just hang on for the ride. You are doing great !!

    We also wish you could ship them off to us now and then.

    Love, Mom

  2. Karen,
    You are not alone! Check out It’s all about empathy and connecting with your children. It’s hard work but it works.
    I struggle with my responses daily.

  3. I’m with you, Karen! Thank you so much for this gracious and authentic look into your mommy-hood. Stay the course! As a mommy of a 7 and 5 year old, I can say it will get better! But I remember all too well (let’s be honest, I still do) the shouting over shepherding moments. Moments I saw shear terror in their eyes as they looked back at me…honestly I shouted more than I like to admit and my kids keep me humble to this day saying encouraging things like, “I hope you’re not mad, mommy.” “You’re scary when you’re mad.” From a fellow shepherdess, welcome to the club! You are not alone!

  4. #truth! Such a great post, this resonated with me!! I’ve been working hard at the shepherd over shouting course but I’m still a work in progress too 😉 I’m there with you! Thanks for being so real 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Sarah! It’s tough – and I feel like our kids’ ages require a lot of opportunities to shepherd or shout. Praying for you (and me) for strength for shepherding all along the way. XO

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