Help! I Feel Like a Failure
About the Guest
Brooke McGlothlin, president of Raising Boys Ministries, grew up dreaming of having little boys of her own. But parenting high-energy, aggressive boys left her feeling frazzled and drained. McGlothlin tells how she learned that her giftedness alone wasn't enough to raise her boys, and how God showed her that He was enough, and He would help her. She explains how she allowed Him to change her life dreams and be poured out for His glory.
Brooke McGlothlin grew up dreaming of having little boys of her own. But parenting boys left her feeling frazzled and drained. She explains how she allowed God to change her dreams for His glory.
Help! I Feel Like a Failure
Bob: What do your children need most from you as a mom or a dad? Brooke McGlothlin says kids need to see parents who are passionately pursuing Jesus in their own lives and who are confessing and repenting when they mess up.
Brooke: There’s too many occasions in our culture where Christians have lowered the bar and said, “I can’t do that so I’m not even going to try.” I just am going to set those high standards and I’m going try to model them for my sons. My husband tries to model them for our sons. That is one of the best ways that we can teach our kids to be those kind of people is to be those kind of people. I want my children to know that Momma needs Jesus just as much as they do. I am a sinner just like they are, or they’re not going to know—they’re not going to be able to see how much they need Jesus, too.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 16th. Our host is Dennis Rainey. I'm Bob Lepine. What does it mean to be gospel-centered in your parenting? We’re going to talk about that today with Brooke McGlothlin. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Bob, did you vet our guest on the broadcast today?
Bob: We vet every guest who’s on FamilyLife Today.
Dennis: Did you know she was the founder of the “MOB.”
Bob: I knew, not only is she the founder of the “MOB,” but that her husband is a highway patrolman—so I’m wondering how all that works.
Dennis: Really is interesting. [Laughter] MOB stands for—well let’s let Brooke McGlothlin explain that to our listeners. Brooke, welcome to the broadcast. What is the MOB?
Brooke: Thank you guys for having me here. This is a treat for me. The “MOB” just simply stands for “Mothers of Boys,” so it is way more way more benign than you’re thinking. [Laughter]
Bob: Well now wait, if it’s “Mothers of Boys,”—that sounds like it could get a little dangerous.
Brooke: It can at times, yes. [Laughter]
Bob: How old are your boys?
Brooke: They’re getting ready to turn 11 and 13.
Bob: You have said in your writing that your boys are—how would you describe it—high energy?
Brooke: They are what I like to call those boys. [Laughter] They are very high energy aggressive little boys—250% boy is what I call them.
Bob: You wanted a boy. You prayed that your first baby would be a boy.
Brooke: I prayed that I would have all boys—yes.
Brooke: My husband is one of three boys. My father was one of three boys. I was raised with an older brother and surrounded by uncles. You know—on some practical level—I think I just knew the language of boys a little better than I knew—I’ve always gotten along better with boys. It just seemed to be a natural outgrowth there.
Really and truly the real reason—when I was praying and asking God for this—it was because I wanted to raise men who were different than what I had seen.
I didn’t have any children, and so my ideals were very naïve. I thought I could do it by myself. I thought—I could accomplish these things on my own.
I just looked around and saw a shortage of what I thought were great, godly men. I had seen just enough of them to know that our world needed more of it. I wanted to be able to do that—I wanted to be able to give the world more men like that. It was important to me, so I asked the Lord to give me men.
Bob: And what did the Lord give you?
Brooke: He gave me boys. [Laughter] He gave me two of those hard-to-handle type boys. My mother-in-law told me one day, she said, “Brooke, you don’t really have hard-to-handle boys. You just have boys.” I said, “I reject that in the name of Jesus. I have hard-to-handle boys.” [Laughter] I really do think there’s a subgroup of boys that are a little bit harder to handle than most.
Dennis: As I was reading your book, Gospel-Centered Mom, I had to smile when you said, “They’ve reached the age as I write this book, that they are constantly fighting with each other.”
Dennis: I thought if Barbara was here, she would say, “Amen, Sister!” [Laughter]
Dennis: No doubt about it.
Dennis: Your sons are the kind of young men that are causing moms to be fatigued. By the way, girls do too.
Dennis: But you’re writing to moms who are not encouraged by the job description of being a mom today and they feel like they’re losing. They don’t feel like they are enough.
Brooke: That’s right, absolutely. I think at every turn the world tells us we’re not enough—or that we feel like we’re not enough—maybe that’s a better way to put it. The things that we encounter—our failures—scream at us, “You don’t have what it takes.”
As moms—you know, I speak on behalf of a lot of moms when I say—this is like the one thing in our lives we don’t want to mess up; right? None of us want to mess this up. So we feel like we have to be enough. We have to have what it takes—because if we don’t, we don’t get a second chance to raise these kids the way we want to. We’ve created these standards—in the world—that nobody can meet.
The world actually—you know, it’s very popular in today’s culture for people to scream at you, “You are enough!”
I actually went to a conference a few weeks ago where it was packed—like 30,000 people at this conference—it’s not a Christian conference—but it was a conference I went to. The speaker from on stage had everyone chant, “I am enough. I am enough.” I stood there and did not chant it back, because I truly don’t believe that I am enough.
When I look at Scripture—when I look at the Bible, which is my rule for living—I just don’t see it there. I don’t see that we were ever meant to be enough on our own. If we were, we wouldn’t need Jesus.
Bob: Well, I might have—at that conference—stood up and just shouted, “Jesus is enough!”
Brooke: That’s right.
Bob: Because that’s the real message of the Scriptures.
Bob: But He made us to be dependent on Him.
Brooke: That’s right.
Bob: And dependent on others, and especially in this season when moms are raising boys or girls, I think one of the things that’s often missing from what moms are going through is they get isolated from other moms—from other people. That isolation can kill you.
Brooke: Absolutely! I know that was true for me in the very beginning. Some of it was based on the fact that I came into my motherhood very prideful. I had been a very goal-oriented person. By the time we had our first son, I had checked off every major life accomplishment that I had planned for myself.
Bob: You were on track for a PhD.
Brooke: I was on track for a PhD. In fact, I was working on my PhD when I got pregnant with our first son and was so sick during that pregnancy that I ended up dropping out of the program. I still would love to go back and do that. It’s still something that I would love to do at some point. But my children literally changed the entire course and direction of my life.
Bob: A lot of moms experience that and become resentful or they experience it and say, “I got to figure out a way to have both areas of my life work for me.”
Brooke: That’s right.
Bob: So why didn’t either of those happen with you—or did you become resentful for a while?
Brooke: Oh, I did—I did for a little while—not so much that I wasn’t being able to pursue my original dreams.
I think there was a season of my life where I realized I needed to be willing as a Christian—as a believer—a follower of Christ—first and foremost; right? Like, that‘s my real identity—“Mother” is a secondary identity for me to that—so if I am going to call myself a follower of Christ—I have to be willing to be a follower of Christ.
That means that I need to allow God to change my dreams for my life—or even lay them down for a season—then I want to do that—because that’s what my Savior asks of me to do. But I think for a lot of moms, they get messed up in understanding there the difference between their purpose and their gifts.
If you look at the beginning of the Book of Acts—in chapters 6 and 7, we learn—we start to learn a little bit about Stephen. Of course we know Stephen was one of the first—or was the first Christian martyr. The reason that Stephen was chosen to serve in the church—if you look in chapter 6—the disciples are increasing in number.
The men who were in charge found that they needed to bring other men alongside them to do some of the work of the church—so that they could be free to go and preach the gospel.
Bob: The first deacons; right?
Brooke: So Stephen was one of those that was chosen.
Brooke: They looked at him. They found him worthy of that position. They—they saw his giftings and his talents as a man—then raised him up to that position. But we actually—we don’t know the whole story from Scripture. We don’t see a lot of him actually functioning in that role as it’s relayed in Scripture. What we see next is that Stephen is seized. Then he gives this glorious speech that ends up getting him killed.
I think Stephen is a fantastic picture of the difference between our purpose and our gifting. We are all given gifts—God has given all of us gifts to use for His glory in the body of Christ to serve other people—but that’s different from our purpose. Stephen’s purpose and our purpose—whether you are a mother or a father or an aunt or an uncle makes no difference, whatsoever—
—if you are a believer, your purpose is to be poured out for the sake of the glory of God. That is your purpose. Sometimes that includes your gifts—and sometimes it doesn’t.
For me, it was the realization that my purpose was to be poured out—in whatever way God was calling me to do that in that season of my life. There might be a time later—there might even be a time in that pouring out—that God would allow me to still use the gifts that He gave me. Whatever season I was in, I needed to be open to being poured out for God’s glory.
Bob: That means sometimes laying aside things that you delight in—
Brooke: That’s right.
Bob: —for the sake of things that God has given you that may be tedious—mundane.
Dennis: Like raising a child maybe?
Bob: Things that can seem insignificant—and you understand this, Brooke. For a mom when you’re going through the daily-ness with toddlers, you don’t think you’re doing anything glorious. You don’t think you’re seeing the kingdom develop.
All you think is, “I’m working hard and this kids barely surviving and that’s all we’ve got.”
Dennis: Yes. In fact, the opposite may be occurring. This little child you’re pouring your life into may grow up and take it out on another kid. That occurred with one of your boys—
Brooke: It did.
Dennis: —who sent another boy to the E.R., and you had nothing—you had no knowledge of it.
Brooke: I didn’t even know it happened. He didn’t know it happened. He didn’t realize. You know—he was very young at the time. He was just playing. He didn’t understand that what he was doing was actually hurting someone. In his defense, all the boys were kind of being rough in that way. It just so happened—that he was the one that sent somebody to the E.R. But it was—it was a crazy thing for me—as a mom—to try and process. It was really just one more thing.
Bob: What happened? Tell the story.
Brooke: Sure. Yes. We’d spend a lot of time at the pool in the summer. My children are fish. They’re just happier at the pool.
Every time we don’t go to the pool, I say to myself why did we not go to the pool today?
Dennis: Yes—right! [Laughter]
Brooke: We spend a lot of time there. One day I was doing laps. This particular pool that we have, observed adult swim. I thought I would be really fantastic and exercise while my kids were outside of the pool playing. I’m swimming laps doing a couple at a time and then stopping in between to hyperventilate. [Laughter]
I was stopped at one point trying to catch my breath, and I overheard some moms that were right beside me having a heated conversation with another child. This child was looking down at his mother who was in the water and he said, “Mom, he did it again.” I heard her talking to him trying to get the story. He described what the attacker was wearing and my heart just sank when I realized he was talking about my son.
I thought, “Okay, Brooke, we’ve got to—we’ve got to go over here and handle this because this is not good.” I didn’t know what had happened yet, but I knew it wasn’t good.
I walked over to her. It was really humbling for me, because she was in a Bible study that was studying one of my other books at the time. [Laughter] It was very humbling for me. I walked over to her and I said, “Can you tell me—I know you’re talking about my son—can you please tell me what happened?”
She said, “Well, I’m very sorry to tell you this, but yesterday when our sons were playing in the water, your son punched him and kneed him in the chest and we—he was in so much pain that we had to take him to the E.R. last night. Thankfully he’s just bruised—but we thought something was broken—and my son has just come to tell me that he did it again today.” And I—
Brooke: —stood there and absorbed it—
Dennis: Of course.
Brooke: [Laughter] —with just feeling like my whole world had fallen apart, because I fight for this boy on a regular basis. He—when he was very little—the Lord showed me that he was a fighter and that I need to fight for him and not against him. I have fought for him in prayer. I have fought for him in word. I have fought for him in deed—in so many ways.
In that moment it was just one more thing I had failed—because I took it all on myself.
I went and got him and pulled him aside. I told him what had happened. He was completely shocked. He had no idea that what he had done had caused this kind of damage in somebody’s life. The little boy was fine. There was—it was nothing major, but it was a big deal for me. He told me they were all playing and we worked it out—but it was—it was very, very challenging for me.
Dennis: What you’re talking about there is…seeing disappointment in the product of what you’re trying to create in a child. I got to tell every mom listening. You’re—you’re not dealing with a robot here.
Dennis: You’re raising sons and daughters who are born broken—born selfish. What you have to realize is your purpose is still the same. It is about honoring God, doing the right thing, training them in their character and relationships, and teaching them how to follow Jesus Christ.
You mention in your book that you call moms to realize who they are as followers of Christ.
Brooke: Yes. I think that’s the most important thing we can do as moms, because when you’re in that situation—I know this is true for me—the enemy throws fiery darts at us, right? For me, sometimes what that is—is him saying, “You can’t do this. You’re a failure. Your kids are going to end up in prison. You’re never going to make any difference in their lives. They’re always going to be this way.” A lot of those “always” and “never” words; right?
Brooke: —that just break us.
Brooke: They break us as moms and dads—because we so badly want that our children to know the Lord and follow hard after him. We’re trying with all that we have to believe that God can do this work in their hearts, but the day-to-day grind of it can be very disappointing and very difficult to deal with. For me, I have to tell myself the truth over and over and over again.
I had to begin to recognize when the enemy was lying to me and replace that—actively replace that. In the beginning, sometimes that looked like for me to say, “No!” out loud—like—just out loud. If you’d been standing outside of my house, you would have thought I was crazy.
Bob: So a thought pops into your head—
Bob: —and you just say, “No.”
Brooke: “No, no that’s not true. This is what the Word of God says about me and I’m going to choose to believe that instead.”
Bob: The thesis of you book is that the parenting process—and especially for moms in the midst of discouragement and—and the mundaneness and the loss of dream and vision that moms sometimes experience—that the gospel speaks to that. I think people hear that and they go, “That does not make sense to me. The gospel speaks to how I come to faith in Christ.” How does the gospel speak to anxiety or failure as a mother?
Brooke: Yes. It’s a great question and I think it’s such an important one in our culture today. We know that the gospel is our way for salvation; right?
We’re really good—we’ve gotten great—at churches—at telling people about the gospel and getting them saved—but the gospel is more than that. The gospel is not just our one-trip ticket to heaven. It is the way we live our life. It is the standard above all standards for our behavior and our world view—just even the way we see ourselves.
God wants to show us who He is, but He wants us to look at who we are through the lens of the gospel—through the lens of His Word. That has to be our worldview because we will always live what we believe—always. If we are not believing the truth about what the Word of God says, then we will always fall short of the freedom that we can have in Christ.
Dennis: Brooke, are you—are you shooting for two or three things in each of your boys that you want to build into them—that if they grasp it and practice it in their lives, you will consider your job—your work—the tireless work of a mother—you will have been successful?
Brooke: Yes. There are two things that pop into my mind right away. One is that I want to teach my boys to go to God in prayer for everything. Prayer is such an important part of my personal journey as a mom and as a person. I want to teach them the power of prayer. That’s a huge thing in our home.
I also want to teach them to be the kind of man that admits when they’re wrong. I want them to be strong enough in who they are and in who God is in their lives that they can be humble—that they can ask for forgiveness—and that they can be weak in front of other people so that God can be strong.
Dennis: You know what you’re talking about there is what Proverbs speaks about as a father counsels his son about not being arrogant, but expressing humility and asking God for wisdom. In order to pray, you have to admit there’s someone in authority that you submit to.
The other issue you talked about just in terms of pride and arrogance—that too has to have humility in order to operate.
It’s one of the things you keep doing as a mom or a dad with your sons and your daughters is you help them realize when they have been arrogant—when they’ve been—perhaps thinking too highly of themselves. You help them think rightly of themselves—to relate with respect with their brothers, their sisters and other people outside the home.
Now this all is easy to talk about in here, but in the tireless pursuit of those two objectives you talked about, Brooke, it wears you out and it wears you down. Again you’re not dealing with perfection here. It’s not something you can say, “Well, I did, I did it. I’ve grown those qualities in my sons. I’m done.” No—it’s a lifetime process.
Brooke: It is. It is. But I think it’s important to hold the standard high. I think our—there’s too many occasions in our culture where Christians have lowered the bar and said, “I can’t do that so I’m not even going to try.”
I just am going to set those high standards and I’m going try to model them for my sons—my husband tries to model them for our sons. That is one of the best ways that we can teach our kids to be those kind of people is to be those kind of people ourselves.
I had a mom say to me one time, “I would never ask my son or my daughter to forgive me—never! That undermines my authority.” It just broke my heart, because I want my children to know that Momma needs Jesus just as much as they do.
Bob: That’s right. Right.
Brooke: They have to know that I am a sinner just like they are or they’re not going to know—they’re not going to be able to see how much they need Jesus, too.
Bob: That’s one of the key things that Jessica Thompson shared in the Art of ParentingTM video series that we just completed. She says, “It’s on repeat at our home, ‘I’m a sinner just like you. I’m a sinner just like you.’” Unless parents demonstrate for their kids—
Bob: —what confession and repentance looks like, kids are not going to learn how to confess and repent.
In the video series that we created, we’ve got a lot of people who talk about the fact that we train our kids to avoid sin and then conceal sin.
We don’t train them to confess sin and then repent of sin and experience God’s grace for their sin. But to train them with that, they’ve got to see Mom and Dad doing that, as well. I think you’re absolutely right. Your friend needs to go and apologize for not apologizing for all those years. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well and what our children need to see is not just us apologizing to our spouse and asking our spouse to forgive us around something they’ve seen us do—maybe a sharp answer or anger or something hurtful we’ve said where they’ve witnessed it—but they also need us to get down on one knee and look them eyeball to eyeball, as I’ve done on more than one occasion with a three-year old, a five-year old, a ten-year old. Then when they grow up you don’t need to get down on one knee. You just look them face to face, and eye to eye and say, “I’m sorry, son. I’m sorry, sweetie.“—
Dennis: —“I wasn’t right; my response to you was inappropriate. Will you forgive me?” We’re really modeling in that point really what is at the heart of the gospel—
Dennis: —which is forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, and hope.
Bob: Yes—and we’ve got to be reminded of that regularly because—as Martin Luther said—he said, “Every week I preach the gospel because every week I forget it.” We do that as parents as well.
I’m grateful, Brooke, that you’ve written the book, Gospel Centered Mom: The Freeing Truth about What Your Kids Really Need. We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order the book from us today on FamilyLifeToday.com—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy of the book.
Of course what you’re writing about is at the heart of the video series that we put together called FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting™.That video series is being used by a lot of churches this fall. They’re starting parenting groups or parenting classes in their church.
A lot of them are using our movie Like Arrows as a kick-off event this fall and then getting groups started from that. If you’d like more information about the Art of Parenting video curriculum or about the free online Art of Parenting content that you can go through, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. The information is all available there. Again, the website—FamilyLifeToday.com.
Speaking of the Art of Parenting, we are waiting, Dennis, for the book that you and Barbara have written by that title to arrive. In fact, many of our FamilyLife Today listeners have gotten in touch with us this month to make a contribution.
We’ve got a matching-gift campaign going on. Anytime somebody makes a donation during the month of August their donation is going to be doubled, dollar-for-dollar, and we’re going to send them a copy of your new book The Art of Parenting as soon as it arrives. They’ll be among the first to get a copy.
We are grateful for those of you who support the work of this ministry.
The month of August is a key strategic time for us. As the summer is ending, our fiscal year is ending this month, as well. Your donation this month will be a great help to us as a ministry. You can donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com—or you can call to donate—1-800-FL-TODAY is the number. We just want to say thanks in advance for your partnership with us and your financial support.
We also want you to let you know that we’ve got something special planned for our Legacy Partners. It’s happening three weeks from today. Dennis and Barbara and FamilyLife® President David Robbins and his wife Meg and I are all going to get together for a special Legacy Partner Connect—an interactive event where we’ll connect by phone and talk about parenting issues that moms and dads are facing these days.
If you are a Legacy Partner—or if you’d like to find out more about becoming a Legacy Partner and connecting on the call, being able to interact with us—you can find out more about joining with us when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY and ask about the Legacy Partner Connect event.
Again it’s Thursday night, September 6th. It’ll happen at 7 pm central. We’ll call you, so all you have to do is be by your phone and be ready when we make the call.
We want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow. We’re going to have Brooke McGlothlin back and continue to talk about what it means to be Gospel-centered in our parenting. Hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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