Posted in Childhood, Family, Freedom, God, Health, Love, Parenthood

To Pick Up or Put Down (Every Parent’s Never-Ending Battle)

“Have a heart soft enough to give love and mercy, but wise enough to know boundaries.”  (Kayil Crow)

It has started:  Sarah and Cody’s battle whether or not to put Broden down (cry it out) or pick him up when he is fussy.  Believe me, both have been tried.  (Don’t let the pics of the happy baby fool you.)  The truth is holding him tends to calm him.  He sleeps better.  He stops crying.  He is basically happier.

It continues:  Esther and Allen’s daily battle about how much to help our adult children (pick them up when they are “fussy”) or let them figure things out on their own (many times painful and uncomfortable).  Believe me, both have been tried.  For decades.  The truth is helping them tends to calm them.  They sleep better.  They stop “fussing.”  They are basically happier.

It never stops:  My mom and dad’s battle about how much to help their youngest son with the care of his children while my mom goes through radiation treatment during the next several weeks.  This is a big one:  he lost his wife about 18 months ago and the situation is complicated.   They are 84.  He is 56.  It never ends.  The truth is helping him calms the situation.  Everyone sleeps better.  The “fussing” is abated.  He is basically happier.

If you are a parent, you can completely relate, no matter how old your child is.  It can be teaching a baby to sleep by themselves, driving a forgotten homework assignment to school for your elementary daughter, purchasing a car for your new driver, allowing an adult child to live at home rent-free for a season, watching grandchildren for your middle-aged son, the list goes on and on.  I’m sure you can add your own.  The questions are basic:  how much do I “pick up,” help, console, “save the day,” when my child has a need or even a want?  How much do I let them “ride out the storm,” figure it out on their own, “put them down” so to speak?  Where is that line drawn?  When is that line drawn?  How is that line drawn?  What choice should we make so that we are promoting emotional health and good boundaries, yet making sure the other feels safe and completely loved?

I am becoming keenly aware of how daily of a battle this is, no matter how old the parent or child is.   I am also highly in tune right now with how many opinions everyone has about this and how strong those opinions are.  I also realize how often I go to others to ask this very basic question:  what should I do in “X” situation with “such-and-such” child?  Do I pick them up or put them down?

For many years, I went back and forth, always unsure if what I was doing in any given situation was right.  I felt trapped.  If I “picked them up,” I heard the voices that shouted, “You are doing too much.  Your boundaries are too lax.  They need to learn for themselves.  This is unhealthy.  This is bad.”  If I didn’t help, I heard opposing voices, “You aren’t doing enough.  Your boundaries are too rigid.  They need to feel loved and not alone.  This is unhealthy.  This is bad.”  Ugh.  And if the truth is known, I still struggle with this and it is real and it is still almost every day.

Today, I share with you my “half-thoughts” on the subject.  A “half-thought” is something I am still in process about and haven’t completely “landed” anywhere quite yet, but still want to share.  I hope these bring you some freedom for the “back-and-forth,” trapped feeling you may find yourself in today:

  • Even though the questions are easy, the situations are complicated.  No two are the same and rarely is there a quick answer or fix.  Rest in that.
  • This dilemma is part of being a parent, period.  There’s no getting out of it.
  • Other parents are in the same boat.  We all need each other, not to judge and give solutions, but to listen and give grace.
  • Don’t ask yourself if the decision is right or wrong, black or white, good or bad.  Rarely are decisions that we make all one way or the other.  That’s an exhausting treadmill and only promotes fear, guilt and shame.  Either decision will have both difficult and wonderful attached to it.  Usually it’s some combination of beautiful and messy.
  • Ask yourself these questions instead:  What do I really need?  Why do I want to help?  What do they really need?  Take the long-view and dig a little deeper.
  • Change your mind if you need to.  Take the time to re-evaluate and get counsel from others.  There is great freedom here.
  • Show yourself boatloads of grace no matter what you decide.  Remind yourself that God loves both of you and He can come in and provide all that’s lacking no matter what decision is made in the moment.
  • I leave you with my biggest one for this past six months because many days I just don’t know what to do.  This verse comes up every single day on my reminders.  I pray it every morning:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives GENEROUSLY and FREELY to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  (James 1:5)

Here are my not-so-secret questions that I have asked God about recently about my own parenting:

  1. Do I pay for a hotel room for Josh for his Psychology conference?
  2. Do I buy all Jared’s starter supplies for his new apartment this week?
  3. Do I keep making meals and sleeping over at Sarah and Cody’s (with this new baby)?
  4. Do I call the apartment complex where Rachel lives about an unwarranted noise complaint (we are the lease-holders)?

You see, it never ends.  I’m okay with that.  I am growing and being stretched and learning to love in a healthy, hope-filled, very complicated kind of way.  Here’s to our children and here’s to our parenting.

I would love to hear your feedback.  I would love to know your secret questions.

(Also would you mind liking the post back on out social media if you came from there? It helps me to get the post viewed by the most people.)


I am a wife, mom, daughter, women's group leader, sister, marriage mentor, friend, speaker and lover of Jesus.

17 thoughts on “To Pick Up or Put Down (Every Parent’s Never-Ending Battle)

  1. All of our uncertainties bring us closer to God if we are constantly seeking Him for help…what a great joy to receive God’s wisdom and love as we seek Him♥️


  2. Hey, I met you when I was a student with Sarah at Messiah. I read your post because I remember this dilemma for all my babies, but especially my first. My second cried quite a bit, but the decision was agonizing for my first baby. Thinking of Sarah at this time!
    I don’t know if you remember that I also have four kids. The “baby” is turning 20 soon. The post is very timely. I have been reflecting on decisions I made to not help my older children per friend’s advice and how much I regret some of those choices. I am helping more than I did before and not just because I have my teaching job now, but because it is right. The world is not the way it was 30 years ago. I wonder if young adults have always needed this much support launching into adulthood or if it is different now. To me it seems it is different than it was when I was young.
    I often think of Job’s friends. They sat for seven days listening before they gave their unhelpful advice! Our decisions have to be between ourselves and God and we shouldn’t be censured or badgered for doing what we have decided.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hope and Healing:
    you have brought so much of these two things into my life Esther, and now you are bringing them to every parent that reads this post. It is so thoughtful, so transparent, so authentic, so refreshing. You are sharing the middle part of the story, AS IT IS HAPPENING, which is so rare, so helpful, so connecting. You are narrating the really messy part, the part between awareness and solution (as if!) the part that is almost always left out; at least until after the fact, from a safe distance. And you are asking questions, questions that are not easily (or satisfactorily) answered – brave! You know I struggle with these things too. What to do, what to do? My plan, at the moment, is to try to accept where I am, and where they are – right now, on this day, in this moment . . . and to remind myself that I am being held, right now, on this day, in this moment. That I am being offered time, space and grace; three things that are so hard to allow, but are integral to change. To accept that this slow process of learning to be, of being (with intention and wisdom of course) will bring more change and better results than my usual patterns of fear and control, and the “solutions” that issue from them. So that’s the plan that I am in the middle of, a very messy middle, as you well know.
    I have many questions but the one that popped up while reading this post was . . . how long is a season? lol
    Thank you for this post Esther. ❤️


  4. Hi Esther,
    Remembering that our children and Grandchildren are a gift from God. I Love my granddaughter with all my heart. I have to remind my daughter and son in law that she has only been with us for days not years. To pick her up is pure joy. I know she’s crying and fussy but she’s my gift from God that I Love with all my heart. I too stayed with her and cooked and cleaned. While she slept and went back to work. It was my pleasure to help her. My Joy is seeing my Grandaughters face light up. To push her in her swing outside and see her hair blow in the wind. I help when I can. God gives me all that I need. And I Love God and Praise him everyday.


  5. Esther! Super true. My secret questions.
    Should I call Natalia while she is in a sleepover? I don’t want her to tell me that she wants to come home. I like the little freedom. Does that makes me a bad mom?

    Should I pay for Amanda Starbucks Coffee? I feel that is a waste of money 😡


  6. Great post Esther! I enjoyed it and relate fully! I have some many questions now with the kids. Little kids little problems. Big Kids Big problems. Grades, colleges, driving, curfew, prom etc. Yikes!


  7. I always come back to one question… Am I doing the right thing? It’s great to help in the beginning. Especially with first timers. Until they get their feet on the ground and grasp a better understanding of the situation, the support is much needed. Also, questions prove that we’re trying.

    Liked by 1 person

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