50 Things I Learned From Raising a Challenging Child

A Tribute to Debbie Hitchcock's Daughter August 8, 1988-May 30, 2017

If you had told me that anything in this week was happening, I wouldn’t have believed you. As many of you know, my friend, co-author, and ministry operations director, Debbie Hitchcock, and her husband and friend, and Greater Impact trainer, David Hitchcock, suddenly lost their 29 year old daughter last week. 

It’s also the week the Focus on the Family interviews air – ironically, the interviews are based on our parenting book, With All Due Respect. The way this family has walked through this communicates their relationship with Jesus Christ, and Whom they serve. 

Prayers for strength and comfort are appreciated. You can find out more of the details about the memorial service and how to help the Hitchcock family here.

I don’t think Debbie would mind if I asked you to help Andrea’s life leave a lasting impact by sharing the broadcasts, or her blog. You can read this beautiful tribute to her daughter on her blog, or you can read it here. Either way, please share the lessons learned with others – it helps us all attach meaning to these moments through the tears. 

Here’s the link to the Focus on the Family broadcast part 1 – they air today and tomorrow and I’ll send tomorrow’s show to you then. I’ll have the link at the end of this post as well.

It is with great honor, sorrow, gratitude, and worship of God that I offer what Deb’s written for you.

Love to you,

Nina

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Emerging into the world our daughter arrived six minutes after I had waddled through the emergency entrance at the hospital doors.  Our family joke was that she was the creator of drama and the day of her birth was the beginning.  She had orderlies, nurses, and doctors frantically hustling for her grand entrance while my husband, Dave, was still parking the car.  We knew that she was special arriving on the infamous 8-8-88 and weighing in at two ounces shy of 8 lbs. 8 oz.

That was the day I came to a whole new appreciation in knowing that God is good.  It just so happened that Dave was supposed to make a four hour drive to Cleveland that morning for a mandatory work event that would have kept him out of town for three days.  Our daughter arrived just shortly after 6 am; my husband was supposed to leave on the trip by 6:30 am.  Indeed, God is very good.

By the time she was three and attending preschool two mornings a week, I had begun to realize that she was indeed a very special child.  One morning I had just dropped her off at her classroom door and was standing in the hallway talking with another mother when the teacher had the children line up single-file to go to the big room for games.  I hid behind a half-open door so my daughter wouldn’t see me.  I watched intently as I saw her tap the little girl ahead of her on the shoulder. She then began to whisper something in the girl’s ear indicating that she was supposed to be in line in front of her.  Sure enough, my daughter got in front, stood still for a moment, and proceeded to tap the little boy in front of her and move into the line in front of him.  As I watched this happen over and over, I knew this child was destined for greatness.  Each child she had tapped and spoken to seemed  oblivious to what had just happened.  She was grinning from ear to ear as she led her classmates down the hall.

By middle school, I saw the beauty and talent this child had within her.  She not only had a stage presence and a beautiful voice, but she had such a tender heart for others.  It was common for mothers whose children were a couple of years younger to call me up to see if our daughter would come play with their kids.  Every time I would hear something like “She is so creative.  When she comes to play my kids don’t get bored.  She is really patient and makes sure to include everyone.”

She also loved to be in the kitchen baking something sweet.  One Sunday morning the youth pastor was telling a story from the pulpit about how no one in his family liked pumpkin pie so he didn’t get a piece for Thanksgiving that year.  When my daughter heard the story, compassion welled up within her.  The next Saturday she spent the day making him his own personal pumpkin pie to surprise him with the next day.

The difficult piece of this seemingly wonderful child was a dark side that we never quite understood.  Given a simple “no” over something seemingly minor became reason for a fit of anger or defiance.  A quiet family afternoon at home could quickly spiral into a “you never” or “you can’t make me”.  Jealousy over things only God can control turned into, “I should have been the first-born. I need a sister.  I wish she was my mother!”  And the list went on.

At 16 it seemed as if the heat turned up making things even darker.  Phone calls from teachers and other parents became a very real part of my life making me want to crawl into a hole and never come out.  I was trying desperately to find ways of helping this poor child that seemed destined for self-destruction.  Our family felt helpless in reaching her.  Counseling sessions were going nowhere so I did the only thing I knew to do.

I let go.

She moved out of our home at 18 and the path she chose seemed even more vile.  We kept in contact on a regular basis, but her antics kept our family in constant wonder of how to handle each new difficult situation.  We tried a reset of her life a few times, but the efforts would revert to a similar lifestyle breaking our hearts.

As I continued to maintain contact with our daughter, I employed new skills I was learning in an attempt to rebuild our relationship.  It was working.  She seemed more open, wanted to spend more time with me, was able to accept our family’s boundaries, and was beginning to reciprocate when it came to relationship.  She told my husband that I was her best friend.

I thanked God for his goodness.

But even through this glimmer of hope which included coming back to our home for a week, the choices she made were deadly.  Our daughter passed away May 30, 2017.

I am convinced that even though we may not be able to save our children from destructive lifestyles, He uses it for good.  After all, God is good.  God is very good.

Because of my daughter I am changed.

Because of my daughter I know that God is my strength in times of need.

Because of my daughter I have learned to let Him be in control.

 

50 Things I Learned From Raising a Challenging Child

  1. Maybe God gives us these kids to change us.
  2. We may think there are only two sides to a coin, but really there are three. These kids see the rim on the circumference and make us think outside the box.
  3. I am not in control.  Let me repeat, I am not in control.
  4. There is always a different choice that I usually don’t see—this child does see it.
  5. These kids live life to the fullest in a very short period of time. We have to seize some of those moments to be in their world.
  6. These kids teach us to listen, listen, and listen more. As parents, maybe we should try talking less and listening one more time.
  7. These kids teach us that taking risks is part of life, and it shows we have guardian angels watching over us.
  8. These kids teach us to retract our words through apology over and over. They teach us that sometimes apologizing is more important than being right.
  9. These kids teach us to pause before we speak. We learn to gauge our words by their potential outburst response.
  10. These kids teach us to be consistent. One slip of letting them get by with something proves that they can change our mind.
  11. They teach us to learn who we are talking to. Is it our child or a voice from our past?
  12. Things we learned as a truth from childhood may actually be a lie; seek to find real truth.
  13. Friend’s “advice” shouldn’t drive our actions when it comes to parenting. We really need to listen for God’s guidance.
  14. It’s easy to give the impression that if you give me the right behavior that you will get my love. Work hard on unconditional love.
  15. Tension should be resolved quickly; don’t let it linger.
  16. We need to become masters at reading our child’s unspoken words. These are an indicator of what is truly below the surface.
  17. We need to do everything in our power to make sure there are more positive interactions than negative so they can feel our love.
  18. As moms, we need to make sure we have plenty of rest. Pushing ourselves to be supermom gives us less ability to respond with love and patience.
  19. These kids will push us to the end of our rope sometimes. Practicing non-emotional responses ahead of time will give us the skills to react calmly in the heat of the battle.
  20. My child taught me that every person has value and I need to show kindness to all. Inviting their friends in gives me opportunity to speak His truth to those who surround her.
  21. Beware of judgment. We are all on a journey; some are just farther along than others.
  22. It is important to break out of our place of comfort to enter their world at times even when it is a little scary and doesn’t make sense to us.
  23. Boundaries are important in the parent/child relationship as they keep us emotionally healthy. Mom and Dad need to be on the same team in setting them.
  24. Enabling our child to do less than what should be their responsibility stifles their maturity even if done in love.
  25. We cannot make our child’s life better for them. We need to teach them to own their own future.
  26. Letting go of one child sometimes means saving your other children.
  27. Rebuilding severed relationship can be done. Never stop trying, and be aware of the other person’s capacity to reciprocate at various stages of the rebuilding process.
  28. Make sure that the amount of energy poured into your challenging child doesn’t suck the life out of you so that you can’t be there for your other children.
  29. Behavior doesn’t necessarily define the whole person. It is only one slice of the pie.
  30. Children become the average of the five people with whom they surround themselves. Teach them to choose friendships wisely.
  31. Laugh often even when you want to cry. Laughter releases endorphins that will make you feel better in the midst of the pain.
  32. Our kids make choices that sometimes lead to destruction. We have to remember that they are their choices and the outcome is between them and God.
  33. As parents we need to own what is ours to own and not accept blame for every mistake our child makes.
  34. None of us are perfect parents and neither do we have perfect kids. If our kid self-destructs it is not automatically our fault.
  35. Our child’s heart might pull them into a destructive lifestyle. We can warn them, but we can’t control the situation.
  36. “I always thought that I’d see you again” can be a stinging lyric that fits unspoken conversations that you should have had. Initiate those conversations often.
  37. We need to teach our kids that relationships are transactional. There needs to be give and take on both sides.
  38. It’s easy to start thinking of these kids as a bother because they know how to press our buttons. Find ways to engage for short periods of time about non-emotional issues so that the mending of the relationship can begin.
  39. Offering empathy and validation for your child’s feelings means more than telling them your perspective on the issue.
  40. Keeping the pain and frustration to yourself makes you an island. Reach out and find a “safe” person who has been through a similar struggle to lighten your load.
  41. When you feel like there is no hope, pray. Starting with Amen or “so be it” shows that you accept that God is ultimately in control.
  42. When consequences for actions fail, push the reset button and work out a better solution.
  43. If emotions are high, take deep breaths and slow the conversation so that your brain has enough oxygen to speak with respect.
  44. Give your child the benefit of the doubt even when the likelihood is that they were in the wrong. Allow them time to tell their side of the story.
  45. When parents, teachers, and other authority figures call you to tell you “that awful thing your kid did”, listen, thank them for calling, and pause before dealing with your child on the issue. Listen to your child while asking open-ended questions about the incident.  Whatever you do, avoid any knee-jerk reaction.
  46. Stand firm in what is right and what is wrong so your child will always know where you stand on a given issue. Silence can be interpreted as implicit acceptance.
  47. When our kids make choices we don’t feel are good for them, rather than say “I told you so” talk through what could have been a better option.
  48. Be grateful for the positive aspects of your child’s personality. Find the good in them and encourage them again and again.
  49. Become a “safe” person for your child to talk to—no condemnation, no advice without their permission, and lots of listening with validation.
  50. Be your child’s #1 cheerleader when you have opportunity to do so and give lots of hugs.

Because of my daughter I have learned to “Let go…and Let God,”

 

 

 

Once again, here’s the link to the Focus on the Family broadcast part 1 

Does it feel like your tweens don’t listen when you’re talking? Or maybe you don’t feel like your teens respect you? Tired of the conflict?  Get the skills you need to connect with your kids! Click here to receive our new free 5-session email course.

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One thought on “50 Things I Learned From Raising a Challenging Child

  1. Items #32-36 hit home for me, and I’m especially encouraged to “ Initiate those conversations often.” It’s true we never know if we will see our child again. Thanks Debbie, for sharing “50 things…” I continue to pray for you and your family.

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