Moms of Difficult Toddlers, Rejoice: Catholic Stuff Saturday

It's been a very busy week and is going to be an even busier weekend, but I wanted to pop in here to share some thoughts that really resonated with some of you already, and this week's very excellent Catholic Stuff giveaway.
From a social media post . . . Mothers of difficult toddlers, rejoice. There is hope. This guy is my oldest, and he was SO HARD. He would make himself throw up if he didn’t like what I made for dinner and thought he could get a popsicle instead. He dropped a full glass of orange juice on the floor of an airport restaurant, splattering everyone around us, because he didn’t like that it felt cold in his hands. He didn’t like taking naps so he did things like eating board books and shoving all of his clothing out of the second story window instead. He was frustrated with his siblings and his responsibilities. He always had a reason and an answer for everything. He always had a better idea for how or if he should do something. He was distracted all the time, to the point of really not being able to follow instructions. It’s funny to look back on, but it was HARD.
We have spent almost sixteen years losing our tempers and wringing our hands, but also loving him and being consistent and spending time and explaining and following through. He’s had his dad and his grandfathers and a great scout master and a great spiritual director. And you guys, today this young man is such a joy. He’s confident and friendly and responsible. He is sweet to his little sisters and helps old men find things at Home Depot. I like him. I trust him. I enjoy his company. We spent today, just the two of us, at an amusement park. I don’t know what the future will bring, of course, and I’m not saying we are done parenting him. But I can say today that the challenge and the frustration and the effort feels 100% worth it, and gives me hope for my other stinkers.
That's what I wrote last Monday, after Jack and I got home from our outing, and it was amazing to see how it resonated with parents who are in the trenches of parenting a stinker. Wondering if it's your fault, wondering if your parenting methods and failures are destroying his little spirit, wondering if it ever ends, wondering how it could be worth it. I have never claimed to be a parenting expert, but I really hope my perspective from almost sixteen years in CAN give you hope. It gives me hope, as I am very much still in the thick of things with babies and toddlers as well as teenagers! To answer some questions some folks had . . . Jack started spiritual direction in eighth grade. We use mentoring and leadership development programs sponsored by Opus Dei. We've found them to be a really excellent resource for spiritual direction and retreats for teenagers and adults. I highly recommend them. You can find out more about Opus Dei locations and contact them here. And an old post about it:


My general parenting philosophy, inspired by and practiced on this guy, can be found in this post:
And some thoughts on difficult kids, here:
We have found that obedience in small children in small things becomes the ability to make good decisions for oneself as an older child. Trust gained as a young kid who can do as he's told, means being allowed independence as an older child and teenager.
There was a assertion by a commenter, on a recent parenting post of mine, that to require obedience of children is dangerous and wrong and will result in damaged children and damaged relationships. All I can say is that in my experience, so far, it has resulted in manageable toddlers and small children, and in at least one confident, independent young adult. The jury's still out on the rest of them.
But mostly, I'd say, DO NOT parent by fear. If the parenting method you're reading about tells you that studies and statistics say that your children will be horribly scarred by doing anything other than what this one guy says, just put it down and back away. Choose the parenting method that fits your family circumstances, and temperament, and the temperament of your children. Trust your gut, and don't listen to fearmongering. Know that even once you have a general method that's working for you, it will change in the details as your circumstances change. Believe in the resiliency your children. Know that you will make mistakes and that your family can survive them.
For me, it all boils down to three little things . . .
LOVE them.
LIKE them.
SACRIFICE for them.
I am confident that you can't go too far wrong with this parenting thing if you love your children with a human and an eternal love, and that they know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are loved. My stinkers know that they are stinkers, because I TELL them. But I also tell them that I love them so much anyway, no matter what.
I also think it's important to parent them in such a way that I can enjoy being in their company. I'm pretty sure my kids could tell if I didn't like being around them.
And finally, we make sure our kids know and understand them sacrifices we make for them. So that they can be grateful, yes, but even more importantly, so they can know that they are worthy of being sacrificed for.
Jack is being confirmed today. I'd be grateful for your prayers for him, and for our family. You and your intentions will be in our prayers as well.
And now . . .
I'm really excited to introduce you today to two amazing Catholic artisans and small business owners.
The first is Shannon Wendt of Chews Life. You've probably heard of them already. I've had her chewy baby rosaries for many years, but she just keeps making them better and better.
The latest models come in beautiful colors with fun chewy crosses and miraculous medals.
Purple Rainbow Chews Life Soft Rosary
She's also got beautiful gemstone rosary bracelets for moms, soft bracelets for kids, and stylishly unbreakable necklaces for moms who are in that *my baby breaks all my necklaces* phase. (Me right now.)
Mariana Mom Necklace
Shannon is offering a special discount for all Catholic All Year readers, just visit to look around and use the code CAY10 to get 10% off!
The second is Jonathan Conrad, aka Catholic Woodworker. He makes really awesome manly rosaries, perfect for confirmation, new converts, graduates, and fathers.
Olive Wood Rosary
This is the one we are giving Jack as a confirmation gift. (His favorite color is purple.)
And you can win one too! Jonathan has offered to give two away: one here on the blog, and another on social media later in the week.
To enter, just leave a comment here on the blog post telling me who you'd like to give this rosary to. Bonus points if he's a recovering stinker!
But also feel free to just comment on the content of the post. We're all here to advise or commiserate as needed!