Have you ever read something that just hits you square in the chest? I recently came upon an article by Jen Wilkin, entitled “Your Child Is Your Neighbor“, and that is what it did for me. Every now and then, us parents need to be reminded of what is truly important, and how we need to emphasize that in our daily lives. We only have these precious children in our homes for a few short years before the opportunities to influence them and enjoy their company decrease. Let’s not miss it because we are busy with trivial things, or because we are not operating with a servant’s heart.
While nearly all parents want to give their kids the time, attention, and love they deserve, we oftentimes get caught being busy, or pursuing the mundane daily tasks that make our worlds go around. We live in a such a busy world, with work, family, friends, responsibilities, hobbies, finances, etc. being just a click, call, or text away. It’s had to turn off and disconnect from all of that, but we must. If we want our kids to grow up feeling loved, valued, and connected, we must make that a priority. As parents, it is up to us to set the tone in the relationship. Are we willing to put down whatever distraction we are engaged in when our kids want us to read to them, or when they need a hug? Better yet, are we engaging with them frequently, instead of being constantly distracted? Time and attention are the best gifts you can give anyone, and our children ought to receive those gifts in abundance.
Now, it is very easy to say we need to consistently be present with our kids, and hard to do all the time. After all, we are not just distracted with technology, we are distracted with laundry, bills, cooking, cleaning, errands, etc. These things are important, and they are essential to an orderly household, which will benefit the entire family. However, too much of an emphasis on tasks and chores leaves little time for fun and family bonding. How do we balance the responsibilities of running a household and raising our children? For me, I think it comes down to intentionality.
When we are intentional with our time, our kids know they are priorities, even if we can’t drop everything right at the moment. When we make time to play with our kids several times a day, it means the world to them. It doesn’t matter if you choose to go for a walk, read a few stories, or have a tickle fight, they will love it, and the bonding opportunities will be well worth it. Our kids need our undivided attention frequently throughout the day. Now, this may seem like re-inventing the wheel, but oftentimes obvious things still need to be pointed out. Like most parents, I am guilty of allowing myself to be distracted or busy, and that is why Jen’s article resonated with me so strongly. I need to choose to be present everyday, regardless of what is on my to-do list. Eventually, I will have all the time in the world to tackle that list, but I will not always have my baby in the house.
A servant’s heart is perhaps the biggest key to harmony in the home, which includes the kids. When we put others first, there will be less conflict. Why? Most arguments happen because we are worried about ourselves and what we want. Putting our wants and desires first will often leave us disappointed or angry when others fall short of our expectations, which will happen frequently. As Christians, God calls us to have a servant’s heart towards everyone in our lives, regardless of the relationship. Think about that for a moment. Literally everyone we come into contact should be treated with kindness, gentleness, love, respect, and compassion. It is often easier to treat total strangers this way than it is to consistently treat those closest to us this way. Food for thought, huh? Thankfully, we have been given grace upon grace for when we fail, (which will happen on a regular basis) but our goal needs to be to serve those around us, but especially our family.
When you apply those selfish desires and expectations to children instead of a servant’s attitude, it gets really tricky. For example, most people want their kids to behave while out in public, but what is the motivation? Is it to be successful parents in the eyes of others, or is it to teach the kids life skills that they can build upon as they grow? If the kids do not behave, what is the primary concern? Is it embarrassment, because we suddenly feel incompetent as parents, or is it compassion and a genuine interest in resolving whatever our kids are upset about? If our children are rude or disrespectful, is it an affront to our pride, or does it elicit a genuine concern for what’s in their heart?
Usually, we lean towards the selfish side when it comes to motivation and reactions; it’s due to our sin nature. However, God gives us the ultimate gift, which is a new heart in Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate example of a servant, and may we emulate that in our parenting. When we put ourselves second and choose a servant’s heart, we are more:
- willing to help
Tell me, what relationship would not benefit from improvements in these character traits? Of course, every relationship would, but especially our relationship with our children. How many times a day do they need kindness, patient, gentleness, compassion, love, joy, and help? Every mom knows these things are required in abundance each day, and some days more than others. While we are not perfect, we need to strive to be better each day. We have only a few short years to show our kids what it looks like to have a servant’s heart on a daily basis. Sure, parenting doesn’t stop when the kids leave the house, but the influence you have on their day to day life is significantly reduced. These children are wonderful gifts, and we need to choose to see them that way each day.
May we respond with patience and endurance when the sheer volume of our kid’s requests and needs begin to wear us down.
May we respond with compassion and understanding when they melt down over what seems to be nothing, often at the most inconvenient times.
May we see their need for our love, warmth, and comfort when they are scared, unsure, or upset, regardless of when this occurs.
May we put their needs ahead of our schedule, pride, and selfish desires.
Parenting is without a doubt the greatest crucible I have encountered in my short thirty years. If you want to really learn about yourself, have a kid! Sleepless nights, new anxieties, little alone time, upheaved priorities, weighty responsibilities, etc; it all comes together in this tiny little bundle of joy that rocks your world. All of sudden, the things that we previously prioritized no longer matter as much, and things we never thought twice about (or even knew about), make our world go around. How amazing is that? A little baby that weighs 5-10 pounds can do that to us!
I personally have grown and learned so much since becoming a parent. I have been able to refine what keeps me encouraged and on the right track (getting adequate sleep, not eating a lot of sugar, doing my daily devotions, and limiting my time on social media), and I have learned what it looks like to be a true team player in the parental unit. This did not happen right away, as it took some time for me to realize where I was falling short. There is nothing like getting zero sleep while being screamed and cried at to make those undesirable traits rise to the surface! Thankfully, we are given grace upon grace to cover our failures, and we are being progressively sanctified in our journey to be more like Christ. While I am certainly not there yet, I am improving, and hope to see it make a difference in our family life.
This whole parenting thing is a challenge, but what an opportunity! We are given the wonderful chance to greatly impact the life of another human being! We get to be their safe place, their comfort, and the lens through how they see the world. We get to build traditions and show them the simple pleasures of life. We get to rejoice with them during their triumphs, and console them during their failures. We get to build the framework that will be the foundation for the rest of their lives.
Lastly, and with bittersweetness, we get to let them go and make their own way in the world. Our seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years of hard work are all rolled into this one precious life. I hope that we work hard to not miss one opportunity to do good in the lives of our children and families. Let us be their safe place, and let us treat them like the little treasures they are. That was one of my biggest takeaways from Jen’s article. Children are an incredibly precious gift from God. Let us steward them with patience, love, joy, peace, kindness, and integrity, even on the hard days! What a great opportunity we have been given!
I encourage you to give the aforementioned article a read. I can promise that it will not be a waste of your time. Us parents need encouragement, and I found a lot of it in Jen’s words! I think you will too.
What are some ways that you make your family a priority?