Principles that Help Me Overcome Discouragement

Last week I posed a question about overcoming feelings of failure as a mother. We all have good and bad days, and many of us will face feelings of despair or discouragement at some point as mothers. There is no reason that a mother who is giving her all to her family should ever consider herself a "failure." I, personally, want to have "ammunition" to fight this battle when it reappears in my life. 

Thank you to all who shared your thoughts by commenting! Each one was practical and helpful. I will include a list at the end of this post of the ideas that were shared.

Here are a few principles that I have found helpful as a mother, in overcoming discouragement:
  •  Go to the Source of all Power for help. Sometimes I forget that when I am having struggles, I am not expected to face them alone. God is always there for us. He even commanded us to pray and ask for help {3 Ne 18:19}. He wants to provide power, grace, blessings, and guidance. If He has all power, then He can give us power to overcome all things--even, and especially in the areas that we struggle the very most! We can ask Him specifically for what we need. We may need to ask Him "please help me to see my strengths as a mother" or "please help me to overcome these negative feelings" or "please help me find more happiness as a mother." When I plan more time to pray, ponder, seek for answers in the scriptures, and write down my answers, I am able to feel His enabling power more closely in my life. Think of this promise in relation to parenting: "Draw near unto me, and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you {Doctrine & Covenants 88:63}."  Here are more thoughts on prayer and parenting.
  • Recognize the source of discouraging thoughts. God corrects us and shows us when we need to improve or change, but He doesn't leave us feeling helpless and hopeless. Discouraging thoughts come from the adversary, who "seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself" {2 Ne 2:27}. Satan knows if moms are down on themselves, they will have so much less to give to their families. If he can convince us that we are failures, then he might convince us to 'leave our post' for something easier and of far less importance. He wants us to focus on our inadequacies instead of turning to the Lord in faith to ask for miracles and personal growth. When we recognize where these negative thoughts come from, we can determine to "give place no more for the enemy of [our] soul" {2 Ne 4:28}. I find that I can eliminate satan's influence in my life better when I am well--physically and spiritually. When I am getting adequate sleep, exercise, nutrition, and time for personal prayer and scripture study, I am a happier person and a better mom. 
  • Generate more positive thoughts. Negative and positive thoughts are both contagious. They permeate our thoughts, and influence those we share them with. I've found that when I've complained a lot to my husband, it doesn't necessarily make me feel better. In the end, I still feel awful! When I'm really down, I'll determine to think of 10 positive things from the day. Just that little "exercise" can change my attitude and brighten up my outlook on the day. Another part of being positive is giving thanks to God. When we live with gratitude in our hearts toward God {Alma 34:38}, we are happier. One scripture tells us to start the day with a heart full of thanks toward God {Alma 37:37}. That small act in the morning can completely change the way we feel throughout our day. For more ideas about being positive, see The Power of a Positive Mom.
  • We are all a work in progress. We are imperfect, and so are our children! We may get discouraged if we fail in our respective roles over and over again, but that's a fact of life. God is patient with us and loves us as we are. We need to accept ourselves and our children how we are as well. God isn't a failure, even when we are slow to learn. So we aren't failures when our children are slow to learn. Over a longer period of time, we will be able to see their progress. I am beginning to realize that with kids, challenges come and go in stages. They struggle with one thing for a while, and then they finally get it and we move on to another stage with new problems to work through. If I remember this with today's difficulties, I have more hope that one day we will overcome them. And it's crucial for me to recognize that even on a day filled with good, successful moments, we will most likely have not-so-good moments with such things as arguing, stress, disobedience, disappointment, etc. I need to remember that those things don't turn me or my children into failures. They are normal and we will work past them. We will learn forgiveness and repentance day after day in our family relationships. And those lessons are a necessary part of this life! 
  • Work on one thing at a time. I remember one day feeling completely overwhelmed with all of the parenting issues we needed to face: fighting, uncleanliness, disobedience, awful bedtime routine, disrespect, refusing to say "sorry", etc. But the parenting book I was reading warned us not to work on more than one thing at a time. I agree that it's more effective to focus on one thing very efficiently, rather than try to cover a lot of issues at once. We decide what needs to be addressed most urgently, then we focus on teaching the right behavior {and the principle behind the behavior}, modeling it, practicing it, and then rewarding our children {verbally or otherwise} for that behavior all week long. Slowly, I'm seeing the progress from months and months of effort.  
  • Decide your own definition of "success." When you decide what "success" is for you, then you automatically have a definition of "failure." Be kind. Don't expect too much out of yourself. Some days when I'm pregnant, I feel like I don't do a single thing. My kind husband will say something like, "You created a life today...and that's the most important thing you could have done." When I have a newborn and I'm recovering from giving birth, I simply try to survive day to day. My daily "to-do" list usually has one or two items, and even then, it may take a couple days to complete it. Under more normal circumstances, I make a daily "to-do" list that I will try to accomplish. But I have an unwritten list of things I want to do and be each day to be a "successful mom." It includes things like: love my children, feed them, hold them close, read to them or teach them something, laugh with them, and bring the spirit into our home through prayer and a scripture story. If I'm doing these "basics" with them, then I am succeeding. And even if I don't get to a single item on my "to-do" list, I have to remind myself that it was still a successful day.
Here is a quick summary of what other moms said about coping with discouragement {if you haven't read the post and their actual comments, take a look at them here--they are far more detailed and helpful than this summary}:
  1. Don't compare yourself to other moms or your children to other children
  2. Get more rest {that solves SO many problems around here}
  3. Be satisfied with just doing the basics
  4. Find out what aspect of mothering comes most easily to you and be sure to do that one thing well
  5. Get rejuvenated as a mother by attending a conference for women {"Time Out for Women" was mentioned, but there are many you could choose from, including Women's Conference, Education Week, Power of Moms, etc.}
  6. Keep a small journal, and on hard days, make a list of the things you are doing well {and I have found it helpful to write about my challenges and work through them as I write}
  7. Reconnect with you husband or a close friend to renew your sense of identity and purpose in motherhood
  8. Do things that fulfill your personal needs--things that help you be yourself {it's amazing how easily a little time to myself can re-energize me to keep going as a mother}
  9. Work on having a good relationship with your child(ren), and more happiness will be found in motherhood
  10. Be confident in your innate ability to know and give what your child needs, instead of trying to do everything that others say you "should" be doing
  11. Slow down and enjoy the kids while they are young. Remember that the little things that bother you aren't as important as the overall character that they will develop.

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