Learning to Love Your Children Well, Part 3
Hi friends, it’s been awhile, I know. I’m sure you’re wondering what happened since I dropped off the face of the earth last year. I wrote in one of my posts early last year, Making It Through Tough Times Together, about some very difficult situations my family was going through, and well, I just lost my spirit for writing for a time. But now my spirit is refreshed and I’m ready to write again! I’ll try and share what I learned as I go along from here. This particular blog post was difficult for me to even think about writing a year ago, but now I can face the sometimes painful reality that no matter what you do as a parent, one of your kids may break your heart. And it’s OK. That’s where God really can get in there and do His stuff—when you’re broken. I hope you glean something to take with you from today’s post. Enjoy!
Learning to Love Your Children Well
Part 3 of the Living Well Series
By Jennifer Edwards
The truth is:
“While I do support wholeheartedly spending as much time with our kids as possible, I think sometimes we can lose our intentionality in raising them. We get caught up in the day to day craziness of parenting and lose the focus of our goal—to raise them into responsible, loving adults.”
In my previous post on loving well, we learned what it could look like to love your husband well. But what about your children? Doesn’t it already feel like we pour everything we have into them? How can we possibly love them more? There is certainly an argument to be made on spending quality time vs. quantity time with our kids. While I do support wholeheartedly spending as much time with them as possible, I think sometimes we can lose our intentionality in raising them. We get caught up in the day to day craziness of parenting and lose the focus of our goal—to raise them into responsible, loving adults.
I want you to think about the idea of loving them well, meaning to love them in such a way that is beneficial and ultimately good for them. This kind of love requires your attention, focus, and effort to do what is needed, right, and good. Proverbs 14:1 says, “A wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Let’s face it. Parenting is hard and often reactionary. It’s hard enough to get everyone where they’re supposed to be, doing what they’re supposed to do, I know. But remembering a few key principles can help. Allow me to share from God’s Word to inspire you to love your kids well.
Foster your relationship with their dad. This principle will always be number one in my book. Your relationship with their father matters and will shape their idea of marriage and relationships between men and women. I wrote a whole post about this very thing. Read by clicking here. The husband/wife relationship should always come before the relationship with the parent/child. This applies in divorce situations, too. Finding ways to treat your ex-husband like you would want to be treated will be incredibly good for your kids—showing him respect, courtesy, consideration, and kindness. If this seems impossible because of bitterness or hard feelings, consider counseling and working on forgiving. Prioritizing your marriage relationship can save a lot of heartache in parenting; just ask single moms and dads!
Parent with adulthood in mind. (Prov. 22:6) Decide early what kind of adult you want your children to be and set a course to get them there. Many times we parent reactively, rather than considering what is best for them in the long run. Oftentimes, we turn our lives upside down to meet their needs, rather than taking the time to figure out what is needed. What kind of people do you want them to be? Start there. Of course, this requires a good understanding of what qualities you want them to have. Do you them to be compassionate and caring? Figure out ways to expose them to serving others with empathy. Want them to be financially savvy and hardworking? Get them to help around the house, learn about money, saving, and giving as age appropriate. There are many great books and resources out there to teach kids financial principles. Also, educate yourself on the different ages and stages of children by proactively seeking counseling and parenting resources that espouse the values you have. Learn ahead of where they are developmentally. That way you’re prepared for the next phase when it presents itself. Fostering friendships with other parents with kids the same age, who have the same values as you, gives you built-in counsel. (Prov. 15:22) The key is to think about those properties, attributes, skills, and attitudes that you want your children to possess when they are adults, and parent towards those goals proactively throughout their childhood. You may want to consider an annual review and planning session at the start of every year to keep track of your progress and make any adjustments to stay on course.
Only give them what they’re mature enough to handle. I remember many times with my firstborn trying to decide if he was old enough for his first Gameboy or cell phone or car. It’s so hard to figure out when the right time is to introduce these things into our kids’ lives! What I learned was that when we give our kids what they aren’t mature enough to handle, we set them up to fail. And to expect things without having to work for it isn’t good either. Rather, use their desire to have adult-like items as an opportunity to earn it by doing extra work, mastering and obeying a rule you’ve been working on, or taking on extra responsibilities around the house. In this life nothing is given to you for free, so let’s teach them not to expect that. (Prov. 19:2) I used to parent from the viewpoint that if I gave my kids something that required responsibility, they would somehow rise up to learn how to handle it maturely. Boy, did I have that upside down. I (and they) learned the hard way that kids should first learn to exhibit maturity BEFORE they are given more to be responsible with. If you have to ask yourself, “Should I be giving (your child’s name) a (insert name of item) yet?” then the answer is probably “no.” But you can turn it around and ask instead, “What does (your child’s name) need to do before he/she is ready for…” That’s where you start. Make a plan, then set a course.
Teach them the art of relaxing and down time. Let them enjoy being a kid by avoiding overscheduling. I see parents everywhere rushing, rushing to get their kids to school, soccer, piano lessons, karate, and so on, day after day for years. The parents are exhausted and frazzled, and the kids are exhausted and frazzled. I found a really cute book called Mitten Strings for God, by Katrina Kenison that changed the way I parented dramatically. Read it and see if it resonates a cry for peace and calm within you! And keep your goals in mind. Is one of them to teach them how to be stressed-out, frazzled, and worn out adults? Figure out what you can cut out of each family member’s life, including yourself.
Let them fail and allow them to walk through the consequences. (Prov. 13:24) Around the time of adolescence, the rules and roles of parenting change. Around 5th or 6th grade, kids go from you telling them how and what to do, to needing to figure some things out on their own, even if they fail! (Gulp!) Yes, I recognize how difficult it is to see a child flounder and fail, but if we rescue them from things that are hard, they will never grow to succeed. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t coach them or be their advocate or cheerleader; you still need to be involved. But they can choose to listen or reject whatever you advise them to do. If they listen to you, they’ll succeed; if they reject it, then they’ll feel the weight of the natural consequence, whatever that may be. Let them experience the full weight of it. Be there in support, but let them walk through it. Pain and discomfort are natural trainers.
If your kids are grown already, you’ve probably learned some or all of these principles along your journey of motherhood. But perhaps you can share them with other young mothers, or apply those you hadn’t considered before to your grandkids! My hope is that you can use some of what I talked about in your own family and that you will be a woman who wisely builds her household into one that is blessed. If you have any other words of wisdom, please share by leaving a comment or e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join me next time for Part 4 of the Loving Well series, where I will talk about how to love friends, neighbors, co-workers, and those in need well—ways to attune your attention, focus, and effort to do what is needed, right, and good for them.
It’s been a while since my last blog post, where I presented Parts 1 and 2 of this series. To refresh your memory, I’ve provided links to them here:
Blessings to you!