In the Way He Should Go

Train a child

I had just finished my Ph.D. in clinical psychology when we started our family. I approached motherhood like I did every other part of my life: I studied it. I would buy books and read all kinds about the best way to parent. I was confident that my training and reading would make things go the way they should.

The Potty Training Test

When my first son was around 18 months, I had him sit on the potty chair. Nothing happened. When I asked him to sit on it the next time, he was a little less enthused. A few more repetitions and he really didn’t want to sit, so I let it go. My mother didn’t though. She asked me how his training was going and this little fear started.

What if I couldn’t train him?

Sure, I knew that was ridiculous. I’d never heard of a child with no developmental problems refusing to use the potty in school. I decided to be patient. The books I read said he probably wasn’t ready. But as time went on with no signs of readiness, the fear started to grow. I found a book on potty training your child in one day. My very precocious child picked up the book and seemed to be reading it! I think he did read it, because he knew exactly what to do to turn the training process into a fiasco.

I was so angry at my son for not going! And I was so mad at myself for getting angry with him. I tried a number of different approaches in the months following, but to no avail. At one point I asked my son what prize he wanted for using the potty and he said, “Nothing. I don’t want to use the potty.”

Finally one day when he was three-and-a-half (much to my mother’s chagrin), I said to him, “I don’t suppose you want to use the potty.” He got up, sat on the potty and went. After that, he never had an accident and didn’t need a reminder to go.

Not in the Way I Thought He Should Go

The one-day potty training trial didn’t succeed in teaching my son to use the toilet, but it was a great first lesson for me. I came into motherhood thinking that I would determine who my child would be and what he would do with the end result that I would look good.

In the years since our one-day training, I’ve had some accidents. I’ve tried to insist that my child go in the way I want him to go with respect to his education, his friends, and his faith. Thankfully, in training me for motherhood, God is much more patient than I was. He’s cleaned up the parenting messes I’ve made, comforted me with His Word, and reminded me that He has a way my son should go.

Have you struggled to parent a strong-willed child in the way he should go?

8 Responses to In the Way He Should Go
  1. susie klein
    April 2, 2013 | 12:31 am

    I had a similar story with my 3 year old who was finally told that if he used the potty for a whole week he could move from the church nursery to a sunday school class and that did it! Ha! Motivation!

    • Melanie Wilson
      April 3, 2013 | 10:04 pm

      You’re blessed, Susie. 🙂 I kept hoping I would find something to motivate my guy, but no!

  2. Dawn St Amand Paoletta
    April 2, 2013 | 6:23 am

    Seriously? Did you write this just for me? Although not about potty training, but oh- the lesson, my friend…it smarts. ANd yes. Dealing with it and recognizing it …NOW. Thanks, Melanie- your insight and honesty is beautiful and refreshing!

    • Melanie Wilson
      April 3, 2013 | 10:06 pm

      Dawn, you’re such an encourager. Thank you. I think it’s one of those lessons that many of us moms needs a refresher on many times. Blessings on your parenting!

  3. Kate
    April 2, 2013 | 9:22 am

    I love that verse “train up a child in the way he should go…” I’ve heard that in the Hebrew it means according to his bent. We each have a unique personality. As parents, our job is to find the bent or particular curve of our children and train them to follow the Lord according to it. Not according to MY bent, but THEIRS. Boy, that has been one of the hardest (and I’ll confess, not always successful) trials I’ve had in training my children these past 26 years!

    Thanks for linking this up this week. Very encouraging!

    • Melanie Wilson
      April 3, 2013 | 10:07 pm

      Kate, I’ve found that it’s one of the best lessons that experienced mothers can pass on. I love your blog because that’s what you do. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! Have a blessed week.

  4. Missy
    April 5, 2013 | 10:08 am

    Melanie – this post is awesomely timed. I watch my littlest struggle and rail against my “teaching” and I find myself angry with her for not “doing” and frustrated with myself for getting angry. Oh, to be patient. I needed to be reminded that God has a way. For each of my children. I must listen to Him first and then cooperate in this Grand Parenting Adventure. I so appreciated your words here, today!

    • Melanie Wilson
      April 7, 2013 | 4:01 pm

      Missy, I’m so glad. I’ve had plenty of experiences where other posts have encouraged me when I needed it. Thank you for taking the time to tell me. We’re so blessed God is a patient teacher, aren’t we?