If I got paid a dollar for every time I heard the phrase “Enjoy your kids now. It goes by fast.”, I would have a little more money (I couldn’t say I would be rich because I don’t know THAT many folks and/or strangers).
But it is amazing how many times I have had someone tell me this 8 word phrase. Even while I was walking around with my belly bump, I would hear this from some older woman who had weathered many a kids and probably three times the number of grand kids. While I toted my babies around like luggage in their little infant carriers, a mom would kind of give me this charge as I would watch her teenagers- earbuds in, pimples on, and greasy hair slicked down – walking around with her in a store. And just yesterday, a kind older man whispered this to me, leaning in close while he watched my girls sitting with me in a coffee shop.
So, with this phrase fresh in my heart, I want to pass on a few bits of advice to every parent who is in the throes of learning how to love their kids. I am no expert as I have only been at this parenting journey now for about 12 years. I say “learning” because it is an ever-evolving, never ending struggle to grasp the “how’s” of loving little humans (as well as the big ones!) who, entrusted in our care, are NOT like us, NOT usually doing things to make us happy, and NOT behaving in a manner that oozes love. And, I know I just have girls-but these things apply to both little lasses and laddies……
1.Take time EVERYDAY to LOOK into your child’s face! This is something that I many times struggle to do BUT I try to be intentional about facing them, grabbing their little mug, and looking at them. And this is not a look to just wipe something off or pop something or scrape something. This is a serious “I want to take this moment in” look. If you need a reminder to do this-put a post-it note on your coffee pot or on your mirror at your sink or on your bedpost! It is amazing how much they change even in one week. I know it is reciprocated because they will many times come over and just look at me for a few seconds. Kids also need to see our faces just as much as we need to see theirs.
2. Find out what their love language is and then be intentional about spending five to ten minutes or so a few times a week making sure you “speak” that to them! If you have never heard about the “Love Languages”, they are 1) words of encouragement, 2) physical touch, 3) quality time, 4) gift giving, and 5) acts of service. You can find out what your love language is and what your kid’s love language is by checking out this GREAT read called “The 5 Love Languages of Children” by Gary Chapman (http://www.amazon.com/5-Love-Languages-Children/dp/0802403476/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458915765&sr=1-1&keywords=love+language+for+kids) I also recommend the first book “The 5 Love Languages” for your marriage.
My oldest is a budding author and extremely creative. She loves words of encouragement (imagine that!). So, I try to take time to read something she has written or look at a creation and then I just pour praise into her. “This is really, really good.” or “I think I could see what you meant here. You are very bright and smart!” You can tell she just beams with joy. Most kids would love to hear these words, but they mean extra much to someone who’s primary language is “Words of Encouragement”!
My youngest speaks “Physical Touch”(which BTW is mine and my older daughter’s LEAST favorite!!!)-so we have a little ritual that everyday (or when time permits) when I am making the bed, she comes running in and jumps into the covers, throws them over her head, and then says “MOM! Tickle me!” So, I start tickling every little bit I can make out as “neck, legs, arms” etc. She lets me do this until she screams “ALL DONE!” At this point, I know she’s had her fill. Sometimes she is so brave and the game goes on and on. Imagine if I had NO CLUE what these languages were and I insisted on tickling my eldest daughter every day for five minutes (or even 30 seconds!!!). She would HATE ME! She would probably want to run away. It is not her language. In fact, it is an offensive language. She has made it VERY clear she hates to be tickled, touched, prodded, poked or any of the above. (I am not a fan, either). I think it is so interesting that our youngest FEEDS off this type of “language”. There are so many relationships in your life that can benefit from this knowledge (I do not suggest a tickling match, though, with a co-worker!)
3. Sing songs with your kids! Make sure you have some great little tunes that go with YOUR family life. A few of our gems are “You are my Sunshine” in which we have taken out the word “sunshine” and replaced it with a person’s name. We also have in our arsenal some gems like “Twinkle, Twinkle” and “Amazing Grace” as well as every single Christmas song there ever was (BUT the rule is we only sing those during the Christmas season). Here’s a recording from when my youngest was probably 2 years old……
4. Give your kid the chance to learn a musical instrument (if you can afford it!). I have to admit-being a musician-I am a bit biased to this. I did not always love my music lessons (in fact, once upon a time, I threw my books at my mom and yelled “I QUIT!”). Learning music is one of the best things a child can do to develop their brain. It not only helps both the right side AND the left side simultaneously, but it gives them something to do besides staring at a “SCREEN” or begging you to watch them play Minecrap – I mean- Minecraft. Yes-it is annoying to hear a child play and practice the same thing over and over again. I am sad for my husband. His parents did not want to give him drum lessons because they said they would not have been able to stand “the NOISE”. He is naturally inclined in music. He never had any formal instruction, but he can play a bit of piano, guitar, and drums. I do believe if he had some training, it would have enriched his life in who knows how many ways. We can’t go back in the past. BUT-because I had lessons and it was so wonderful for me in so many ways, we give our kids some form of music lessons. They will thank me later when they need therapy and one form is sitting for a time with an instrument and playing your stress away.
5. Do not let your kids say “I AM BORED”. This is a banned phrase in our home. This world is so full of so many wonderful things for kids to learn, explore, and try that it’s almost sinful to imagine that boredom even exists. BUT-that means that as a parent, you have to be willing to plan your day a bit and get your feet wet, so to speak, and spend time DOING these things with your child. And, boredom unspoken can help lead your kid to possibly find something creative to do with their brain and hands. The most loving thing you can do is personally engage your child in an activity side by side. Do you like to cook? Then show your child how to make a SIMPLE recipe. Do you like to organize? Then show your child how to make a sock drawer look neat. Do you like to exercise? Then have them take an easy jog with you. Do you like to plant things? Then grab some soil, a pot, and some seeds and make an herb garden together.
6. Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT enroll your child in every sport, birthday party, church or school activity, and/or play date imaginable and then some! I really do not like being a taxi driver. I loathe having a day full of running my kids all over TARNATION (YES! That’s a word we use here in Goshen!). This one really gets me going. I have some friends who can’t wait to drag their children to every activity so they can go live their lives and the kids can live theirs. I understand that every once and a while, the children need to be involved in “stuff”-but to have non-stop stuff-tivities is insane!!!!!! And if your kids are in school ALL DAY then drug to weekend activities then social events, how in the world will you be able to get to know them?
7. Turn on the music instead of the T.V. every so often and have a DANCE PARTY. Your kids will roll their eyes and you may not be the next Michael Jackson, but they will so thank you for the time and making the memories. I just LOVE to watch my kids act crazy. I honestly think they love laughing at me. And, when you grab their hands to dance, it can turn into some serious bonding time! The louder and faster the music-the better. The more kids dance-the better. So, do this with them when their friends are over. They will probably roll their eyes-but I guarantee their friends will love coming to your house to hang out!
8. You (and dad-if he is in the picture) take turns putting sweet notes and surprise treats in their lunchboxes, backpacks, hidden under the toilet seat, or posted on their mirror. A simple “I hope you do great on your test today!” or “I heard a rumor that you are the smartest kid in school” may embarrass them in front of their kids-but I think they will know their mom or dad love them a LOT! You may also want to invest in some dry erase glass safe markers and write on their mirrors from time to time.
9. Read the Bible with your child. Find verses that speak specifically about how much God loves us. This is such a wonderful way to learn side by side with your child all that this amazing book has to offer. If you need a companion study guide, I recommend any resource from Focus on the Family, but this special read is very encouraging and helpful https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/spiritual-growth-for-kids/family-bible-reading-and-devotions/studying-the-bible-as-a-family
10. Never tell them you are “punishing” them for something. Instead use the word “Discipline“. I am a Christian. I have this deep-rooted belief that Jesus Christ took our “punishment” for sin and died with it. He took all our sins (and our kids’ sins) on a cross. It is a deep concept and one that I honestly could write about in a separate blog post-which I may someday-but not today. The Bible is full of the truth of this. Discipline is in a total other category than punishment. I have never told my kids they are being “punished”. In fact, there is a great verse that backs up why I believe this. It comes from 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But PERFECT LOVE drives out fear, because FEAR HAS TO DO WITH PUNISHMENT.” and Hebrews 12:11 “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however; it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Don’t you think the most loving thing you can give your children is a harvest of righteousness and peace? As painful as those moments are, make sure that your children are DISCIPLINED in love and not PUNISHED in fear.
11. Find out what your kid’s “BESETTING SIN” is and be willing to tackle it head-on. Really, we ALL have one. You know, that one “thing” that trips us up, makes us mad at ourselves, and hurts those around us from time to time. When you narrow it down, it is probably a one-word sin like “lust” or “greed” or “jealousy”-but we all have one that seems to creep it’s ugly head and kicks us in the butt every so often. I would love to tell you mine, but I’ll let you use your imagination.
Here’s the thing-you can’t just identify the “ONE THING” and tell your kids “I’m so tired of this. Why don’t you stop doing THIS? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? YOU ARE GETTING IN BIG TROUBLE FOR THIS!!!!!!” You have to give your kids the tools to help them overcome “THIS” thing.
So-I am going to help you build your tool box of ideas for helping your kids. But, you will have to wait for the next blog post for this. I am not perfect nor do I think I have all the answers. But, I have gleaned many a tool from many an experienced parent.