We all probably recognize that we need more self-discipline. We look for ways to increase our willpower, our motivation, our stamina — and yet we continue to come up short.

Most of the time, we’re looking for the quick-fix answers that will help us turn over a new leaf tomorrow morning.

But we can look to our own children for a better analogy for the help that we need, for the kind of discipline that we need.

My new book, Simplified Organization: Learn to Love What Must Be Done, is all about the six skills of homemaking, and half of them are mental-emotional skills for a reason. We need to change our approach, our mindset, about housework before we’ll find joy and satisfaction in it – but joy and satisfaction — and traction — are totally possible, no matter how bad your attitude has been about homemaking up until this point.

Don’t miss the first article in this series: “Tell yourself true stories – homemaking skill #1

We all have an inner toddler who tantrums

It’s common to feel frustrated as moms with the unreasonableness of toddlers. However, it’s possible to flip that script and replace the frustration with convicted gratitude.

The toddler’s unreasonableness mimics our own. As adults, we have learned to mask and disguise our selfish impulses and stubborn whining in socially acceptable ways.

With toddlers, it’s all out in the open. That’s good, because then we can deal with it.

When we get better and better at dealing with toddlers, we can turn around and apply those same skills on ourselves. We need to mother our own inner toddlers, especially when they are prone to hissy fits.

A fussy fit is a fussy fit, even if no one else saw it. It was still done – even if only internally – coram Deo, before the face of God, and needs to be covered with Christ’s forgiveness.

But just as we extend grace and forgiveness to our toddlers, so God our Father extends grace and forgiveness to us – even more and better.

Make a better choice

At one of our Convivial Circle Zoom calls last week, Elaine was talking about an analogy she took from her own motherhood adventures and applied to herself.

She told the story of watching her toddler try to put on his shoes. He wanted to go outside, which was good. He wanted to be independent, which was good. Yet he wasn’t able to do it all himself, which his mother expected even though he didn’t.

He got upset. He was not happy. But his mom calmly reminded him: “Just ask for help.”

Elaine reminded us all that we also have that option. We can be upset that things aren’t going our way, or we can stop and calmly ask for help from our Father.

In reality, we are always toddlers with our Father. Will we be stubborn, fussy toddlers or cheerful, resilient toddlers?

We have the choice.

When we make a plan we think is a good plan, and then for a variety of reasons, our plan doesn’t work, how do we respond?

Do we get upset? Are we unhappy? Do we assume it means we’re failures?

Instead, we can rejoice because our Father knows better than we do and He rearranged our day. We can receive that with gratitude because He does all things well, whether we like it or not. We can repent, rejoice, and choose to like it.

Self-discipline means parenting ourselves

We all probably have goals this year that boil down to increasing our self-discipline. Whether it’s a diet and exercise goal, a housekeeping habit, or a character-based resolution, increased self-discipline in that area is what we’re after.

That increased self-discipline is not likely to come via grit teeth, nor will it come easily just because we wrote it down and resolved it.

Rather, self-discipline is the result of parenting our inner toddler. We might feel something, we might want something, we might not like something, and instead of indulging that default reaction, we have to pause and put on our parenting hat. Is our feeling, our desire, our resistance reasonable? Is it in accord with reality? Or are we trying to live our own, self-made reality and having a hard time because that’s not working out?

Don’t be a toddler. Your initial, default reactions are likely wrong-headed. Pause and consider that. Question yourself. Choose to behave properly, not self-indulgently.

Perhaps doing so will give us more sympathy for our actual toddlers, but sympathy and even grace with real toddlers or our inner toddler does not let either off the hook. Sympathy and grace hold the line. Love shows the toddler the path to maturity and asks him to walk it.

When we choose to be responsible, mature, reasonable, we will be so much more happy and satisfied than if we actually get our own way.

Imagine giving a toddler his way all day, every day. Would he become more reasonable or more tyrannical? More loving or more selfish? Every loving, intelligent, engaged mother knows the answer and therefore actually requires her toddlers to do things they don’t initially want to do. Mothers require toddlers to obey them because they do know better and they want what is best for their toddlers.

We need to want the same for ourselves. The more we discipline our own inner toddler, the better we’ll be at disciplining our actual toddlers, too. The more we discipline our own inner toddler, the more wise we will become in all circumstances. This is the reality God has created, and it is marvelous. Growing in wisdom and discipline is a delight, even while it is a death to self. This is living in faith, walking in faith with the help of the Holy Spirit.

By the effective, working grace of God in our lives, we can mother not only our literal toddlers, but even our own inner toddler, no matter how out of hand.

Become a more mature homemaker

Tomorrow I’ll have step 3 for becoming a more skillful homemaker.

Dig deeper by getting my book, Simplified Organization: Learn to Love What Must Be Done. It’s available in paperback, on kindle, and via Audible (yes, read by me).

Make 2024 the year of embracing cheerful, competent homemaking. Better yet, do so with a friend! Use the share button on your phone or below to send it, then set up a time to talk about it!

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