Moms are all about growth. It starts with growing a new little life right inside of our own selves. The growth is in our bellies, and then it’s in our arms. We go through boxes of clothes, changing them out seemingly overnight because growth is so rapid.
Our family size grows, gradually, over the years, and we learn to adjust to more needs, more love, more food, more laundry. Life overflows abundantly and we get the front-row seat to the growth happening right in our own home.
Moms, with affection, might tease their children about not growing anymore, about skipping a birthday, or otherwise staying right where they are.
Is that because we want to stay right where we are? We’re comfortable in this role of mom-to-young-ones; we love the affection and the antics.
Yet time stops for no mom.
The children continue to grow, whether you wanted it or allowed it or not.
The question becomes: are you growing, too?
Charlotte Mason once noted:
There is no sadder sight in life than a mother, who has so used herself up in her children’s childhood, that she has nothing to give them in their youth. When babyhood is over and school begins, how often children take to proving that their mother is wrong. Do you as often see a child proving to its father that he is wrong? I think not. For the father is growing far more often than the mother. He is gaining experience year by year, but she is standing still. Then, when her children come to that most difficult time between childhood and full development she is nonplussed; and, though she may do much for her children, she cannot do all she might, if she, as they, were growing!
Perhaps we get so wrapped up in all the details of right now in the name of being “present” or “productive” that we stagnate, thinking that this current situation is all there is and all there ever will be. It certainly can feel that way in the midst of diapers and laundry. But it isn’t true.
Life goes on. Children grow. So must we.
Charlotte Mason again:
That is the secret; always have something ‘going’ to grow by. If we mothers were all ‘growing’ there would be less going astray among our boys, less separation in mind from our girls… If we would do our best for our children, grow we must; and on our power of growth surely depends, not only our future happiness, but our future usefulness.
And here, as in other advice Charlotte Mason gave, recent research has proved her correct.
“Growth mindset” is the term used for those who believe that their capacities, abilities, skills, and even intelligence are not fixed, but able to be developed, stretched, and expanded.
Our capacities are able to grow, but you must know and act upon that knowledge for growth to happen. It won’t happen automatically. Growth takes deliberate effort.
Just like a baby requires milk to grow, so we require intentional action to grow our minds, strength, and spirit.
What do we wish for our children as we raise them? Strength, knowledge, wisdom, virtue, resilience, happiness. Most of all, we want them to have a right relationship with God.
All that we want for our children must begin in ourselves. If it is worth having, we must prove it. We must want it not only for them, but want it – period. We must want it enough to pursue it ourselves. Otherwise, our own actions give the lie to our professions and disciplines we give to our children.
We also know that our children will not wake up one morning having achieved the finish line on any of these hopes we have for them. We parent them for years, watching slow progress with many ups and downs. Over the course of decades, we see maturity taking root.
Why do we expect immediate change in ourselves? What we see in our children is the natural pattern of growth as well: it ebbs and flows, it slows and speeds. It never happens all in a day.
We see them grow year by year. Let us do the same.
Growth starts with motivation
We must want the growth. The desire is our motivation to make change, which is always uncomfortable.
Motivation is hope. Motivation moves us forward, propels us even, out of our mire and onto new ground.
Motivation is exciting and exhilarating.
However, motivation doesn’t last. It’s very force burns itself out. We don’t have the energy or emotional zeal to keep it bright for as long as we need it to see lasting change.
Growth builds on discipline
So when motivation fades, we screw ourselves to the sticking point with discipline, seeking to do the right thing by sheer willpower alone.
Willpower is necessary, but it is founded in determination rather than hope.
Discipline is exhausting.
Thankfully, willpower is a muscle that discipline exercises. Like a muscle, however, it can’t be in demand at all times – it requires rest to strengthen or it will break.
Growth feeds on habit
Habit is the fruit of discipline, but only discipline directed a certain way.
Sheer strength of will, consistently applied, will not necessarily create habit. Habits require certain prerequisites that discipline often overlooks.
But if you have the motivation, the emotional zeal, to direct your discipline energies correctly, you can build habits that stick and outlast both motivation and willpower.
What are these prerequisites for habits?
Habits can be broken down into three components: a cue, an action, and a reward.
Every habit has a cue, a trigger that reminds us – automatically – to do the thing. A habit isn’t a decision, it’s an automatic behavior.
Just like the baby’s body automatically transforms milk to energy, so good habits are those actions we automatically – without willpower – take to grow, to do the right thing and the right time without internal moaning and griping.
Personal growth is necessary.
Personal growth requires motivation and discipline.
But true personal growth happens once our intentional discipline has formed good habits.