I don’t want to raise a good child

My daughter, Hope, is a senior this year.  And she decided her senior year should be adventurous and a little out of the “normal” box.  A lot out of the box actually.

She withdrew from traditional school.  Applied with the state to homeschool. Enrolled in on-line college courses that would allow her to get both high school and college credit simultaneously. And planned to spend the month of January serving in Nicaragua doing missions.

This didn’t surprise me really.  Because Hope has always liked charting her own course.

When she was really little I was scared to death I was the world’s worst mom, because Hope was never one to be contained.  And I honestly thought all her extra tenacity was a sign of my poor mothering.

One day I took her to the mall to meet several of my friends with toddlers to grab lunch.  All of their kids sat quietly eating cheerios in their strollers.  They shined their halos and quoted Bible verses and used tissues to wipe their snot.

Not Hope.

She was infuriated by my insistence she stay in her stroller.  So, when I turned away for a split second to place our lunch order, she wiggled free.  She stripped off all her clothes.  She ran across the food court.  And jumped in the fountain in the center of the mall.

Really nothing makes the mother of a toddler feel more incapable than seeing her naked child splashing in the mall fountain.  Except maybe that toddler refusing to get out and said mother having to also get into the fountain.

I cried all the way home.

Not because of what she’d done that day.  But rather because of how she was everyday.   So determined.  So independent.  So insistent.

I would beg God to show me how to raise a good child. One that stayed in her stroller.  One that other people would comment about how wonderfully behaved she was.  One that made me look good.

But God seemed so slow to answer those prayers.  So, over the years, I changed my prayer.  “God help me to raise Hope to be who you want her to be.”  Emphasis on, “God HELP ME!”

I think I changed my prayers for her because God started to change my heart.  I started sensing He had a different plan in mind for my mothering of Hope.

Maybe God’s goal wasn’t for me to raise a good rule following child.  God’s goal was for me to raise a God-following adult.  An adult just determined and independent and insistent enough to fulfill a purpose He had in mind all along.

Remembering this is the key to peaceful parenting. God's goal was for me to raise a God-following adult. www.lysaterkeurst.com

I don’t know what mama needs to hear this today.  But let me encourage you from the bottom of my heart with 3 simple mothering perspectives you must hang on to:

1.  Don’t take too much credit for their good.

2.  Don’t take too much credit for their bad.

3.  Don’t try to raise a good child.  Raise a God-following adult.

And all the mamas of fountain dancing children said, “Amen!”


Thanks to all who left comments on the Mark Batterson posts.  The winners of the signed books are: Joy Crile, Tammy Monroe, Christine Marie, Raquel Waters, Julie McD, Kim Cokern, and Kayla Turner. Please email Holly@Proverb31.org to obtain your book.

And the 2 Circle Maker curriculum winners are: Charlotte Askew and Kate Semer. Please email Holly@Proverbs31.org to obtain your curriculum set.


  1. Kierra says

    LOL. I am going to let my mom read this. She can feel your pain. I am now 20, however I fought my mom every step of the way. Like your daughter I was DETERMINED and DETERMINED to do exactly what I wanted. There were times where she thought I wouldn’t graduate or anything. She prayed just like you. And honestly the only reason I did graduate was because she told me “if you dont graduate yo won’t live here” then on graduation day she eold me “I didn’t mean that, I just knew you could do it and if you didn’t would regret it. You don’t know how afraid I was when you turned 16 that you would drop out so that was my only alternative” lol. She has been with me through so much. I also wiggled out of strollers and even got lost a few times. She could definitely relate to this. I love my mom and have a great appreciation for her.

  2. says

    Wow. I could have really used that when I was raising my now 20-year-old. She’s been headstrong and stubborn since she sat for three hours on her bed… like a statue, mind you… before she would offer {grudgingly} an apology. She’s Type A to the infinity power, a planner, and basically lives life on a mission. Thankfully, Jesus is at the center of her being {for the most part} and I’m immensely proud of the person she is. But it was not without some teeth clenching and head butting. But isn’t that what parenting is all about? You give great advice and encouragement.
    And the story about the mall fountain? PRICELESS!

  3. Lynn says

    Thanks for the bit of encouragement! I have a son very much like this! Too much energy and strong will to make me look good! Thanks for giving me a new outlook.

  4. JoLynne says

    Thank you for sharing. My kids were those “good” little kids that behaved. My oldest one is in heaven, my son got into some things but he is on track trying to be the man God wants him to be. My middle daughter was my most spiritual. She was always commimg home telling me that she prayed with someone on the playground and they got saved! I thought she might be my preacher’s wife!!(my plan not God’s) I’m praying God brings her back to himself. I once heard someone say” it’s not always where you start but where you end up”!! Thank you I know there is Hope for my daughter. I’m am encourged by your story. again thank you

  5. Melissa says

    I just happened to come across this from a facebook post today. I have been amazed before that God has given me things when I need them so I am certain that I needed to see this today. I have been praying for weeks about my 9yr old daughter who is so independant and has such a beautiful heart. She floods with compassion for others but doesn’t always act the way I want her to. I have been struggling with how to help her and I am starting to see it is me that who may need the help. Thank you for your post.

  6. says

    Thank you for this! I have two, and maybe now three, out of four, very spirited, strong-willed children, ranging in age from 3 to 14, and I often feel overwhelmed. I, too, am beginning to understand that making them “good” might not be the right answer. Or possible 😉 Being a mother has got to be the hardest and most refining position on the planet.

  7. Misty says

    How great. This makes me feel better. As my son climbed the fence behind home base then had a melt down which raised many eyes. His determination is my insanity now but cant wait to see the hurdles he jumps and where he goes. Thanks for the inspiration

  8. says

    Amen indeed! I will be reading and rereading this post on the days when my strong willed toddler is testing my last shreds of patience! Thank you for your words of inspiration and encouragement Lysa!

  9. Jill says

    I raised a child like this- and 30 yrs later- TODAY…God showed me where I went *wrong*….
    God forgive me…where I tried to squelch her, she rebelled instead.
    But He, in His grace, will bring her back to His side…that I KNOW…
    now it’s time for me to look at this with a whole new HOPE.

  10. Laura says

    This is probably one of the most amazing posts I’ve ever read on parenting! I am so sick of parenting how-to books because no one knows my children the way I do! God is the only one who can grab their hearts and make them who He wants them to be. All I can do as a mom is love them and PRAY. Thank you so much for this beautiful post.

  11. says

    This sounds like my son — always raring to go and keeping me on my toes! When he was 3 he jumped the neighbour’s fence a 3 or 4 times and took off at VBS because he couldn’t have his craft right away.

    He’s 6 now and thankfully he doesn’t take off the way he used to. He has such a heart for God. Thanks for reminding us to see the big picture!

  12. Jennifer says

    AMEN! Thanks for the reminder. As the mother of four kids, one with special needs, I can totally appreciate this. But it IS the cry of my heart to raise God-following adults. I have never wanted the robot child but I have wanted the “good” child. And with one of mine I have struggled lately with just HOW to pray for her. Great article.

  13. Merrie says

    Beautifully written! I reading through tears by the second paragraph. As a mama who has raised/is still raising 4 “naughty ones” and “1 “good child”, I can attest to what little control we have over their character and destiny.
    All we can do is love them and pray for them and keep our eyes on Jesus for direction in handling it all. And keep it ever in mind that no matter if we are struggling with a “naughty” little one or blessed with a “good” child- we never have the right to take the credit nor criticize another mother.
    They are all a blessing and God has a plan for each and every one of them. Even the ones who strip naked in public…even the ones who do it in church…yes. One of mine did. In the church nursery, flipped up her skirt in front of God and everyone there, revealing her pantiless bottom and bent over yelling “Peekaboo!”