Of course we love our children. It’d be hard to find a parent who will come out and say they don’t love their children. Even those who lack in basic parenting skills, still love their children, even if deep down under the piles of turmoil that has been heaped on them. So I’m not asking “Do you LOVE your children?” I’m asking, “Do you ENJOY them?” I find that during the challenging parts of parenthood, there are moments I wouldn’t want to share my answer to that question. However, if I’m honest with myself, I’d have to sometimes answer no. I do not enjoy them. It is in this moment that I realize it isn’t THEIR fault, it is mine. The issue may appear to be a behavior issue. It may manifest itself in a period of time when the terrible twos are roaring their VERY loud head. It could be a feeling you have when the toddler and the baby (or the multiples) decided to stay up all night AND cry all day. And outside of those situations where your teenage or grown kids are choosing to be the troublemakers and not the peacemakers (despite what you’ve taught them), the root of the issue isn’t them, it’s us. It’s me. It’s you. So what can we do? How can we enjoy our kids when the bad behavior seems to outweigh the good? How can we truly enjoy our kids when they choose turmoil over peace? Is it even possible to enjoy your kids while you discipline and slowly count to ten… a million times… just to maintain the skimpiest glimpse of sanity. I believe it’s possible. I believe it takes discipline on a parents part, but is very doable.
Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Psalm 127:3
Children are a gift from God so why wouldn’t we enjoy them? And maybe this is the point where I should clarify that I am not suggesting we grin and smile and ENJOY the fits of the toddler, the misbehavior of the tween, the rudeness of a teenager, or the reckless behavior of the grown child. I’m suggesting that over all, we need to seek to enjoy the gifts God has given us. This also may be the point that I should admit that I struggle with this at times. I mean, let’s be completely honest here, kids can be annoying. Their incessant questions, their absent-mindedness (or is that selective hearing?), their bad habits, their WHINING…. I better not go on! But every 2-year-old will ask you why, then why again, then again, and again… it’s part of their development. Every 6-year-old will venture out to see if they’re old enough to get away with a little more. It’s part of the independence they’ve acquired through school. Every teenager will push and argue, they’re forming their own opinions as they learn to live apart from their parents. And every child will whine… I have NO CLUE what the developmental reason for this is… but EVERY.CHILD.DOES.IT!!! (perhaps it’s to build up a parents tolerance!). If we allow these natural occurrences to keep us from enjoying our children, we have a bigger issue than the annoyances themselves. And I find myself asking God to help me enjoy my kids. I know they are a gift from Him, they are a reward from Him. It reminds me of when I’ve given gifts to my children only to see them toss the gift to the side never to be played with. It hurts. And it hurts God’s heart as well. So, now that I’ve made you feel bad… not really my intention, but if you’ve ever found yourself saying (even if just to yourself) “I don’t even enjoy them!” you’ve immediately felt guilt for even having the thought. I do. It’s a cycle I’m quick to try to remedy. I’m frustrated over their behavior, so I feel I dislike being around them (I’m not sure I like the opposite of the word, enjoy… so semantic people, bear with me!) then I feel guilty for having the thought, knowing that I need to enjoy them… It is a real indication that a change needs to happen. How can I honor God, and the gift/reward He has given me. May I share some of my ideas with you? Not because I think I’ve mastered this, yet. But because I feel it works for me as I battle these challenging parts of motherhood.
- First, I immediately ask for forgiveness. I pray that God will help me work through these emotions, and forgive me for looking at His gift in this manner. For me, it is a sin. I am not exhibiting godliness, but selfishness. So I ask him to forgive me. Then I ask Him how to get out of this funk I’m in. Most of the time, I’m not able to do anything until I do this number one step. My heart will not change without God’s help.
- I begin to search the scripture for words of encouragement. I remind myself to take captive every thought and bring them into submission to God. So I search for scripture that will remind me of God’s will in my parenting. Scriptures like…
Psalms 139:13-16 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (read it and remember that God created your children in this same way!)
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (If He gave YOU the gift of children, he prepared you beforehand to be able to raise them! I promise!)
(there are many more… but for space sake… I’ll move on)
- I begin to search for podcasts that will speak to the challenges (and solutions) to parenthood. I get my Bible out, and study alongside the speaker. Hearing that I’m not alone, is a comfort. But learning how to deal with it, is empowering. I use Oneplace.com (it’s an app for Android, too) And there are many preachers that post their past broadcasts. Focus on the Family, or Jim Daily’s “Focusing on Parenting” are very good, but sometimes I just put “Parenting” in the search and find something. You don’t have to agree on everything in order to gain a small nugget of encouragement to fuel your parenting journey. And if I can’t find what I am looking for, I will google things and try to find Christian blogs I can read. *****I am not looking for something that will validate my feelings! I am looking for something that will reprimand me, and encourage me to get back to where God wants me! I suggest you do the same, flattery won’t solve the issue.
- I begin to godly discipline. If it’s bad behavior that is causing my kids to be unenjoyable (I may have made that word up… but I really don’t like the true opposite of enjoy… so…), then I need to teach them the right behavior. It is our job as parents to raise obedient children.
Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your son, for there is hope;
Proverbs 1:8-9 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.
And my point…. Proverbs 29:17 Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.
When we discipline properly, we are teaching our children to be delightful. Not just to us, but to those around them. I warn my children. I start off my telling them that I’m sorry that I did not discipline enough (to which they quickly forgive me, don’tcha know!) And I explain that I’ll be cracking down on behaviors to which they know they should be having and are not. I remind them of my expectations for them, and outline where we’re falling short (not getting the morning routine down, making us late… or putting shoes away so we can find them when we leave, or how to be kind to a sibling… whatever the issue may be). Then I follow through. The first week is hard. They are in more time-outs, I am taking WAY more deep breaths. They are losing out on privileges, I am chanting “Yell less, love more” to myself while rocking back and forth in my closet… but it needs to be done, and it’s beneficial to us all.
- I let them be annoying once in a while. Like I said, kids can be annoying. As children learn the social norms to behavior, they will often do annoying things. It’s part of their learning process. They repeat themselves, they chew with their mouths open, they get overly excited about things that seem unimportant to us. But, I refrain from being annoyed. I may correct them (“Please eat with your lips closed.” “Please stop repeating that phrase.” “Let’s not stand so close to my ears while chewing gum.”) But I do it in love, not in irritation. I don’t allow myself to reprimand them, belittle them, or show them my annoyance. I correct; I teach them the right behavior… and leave the room if I’m struggling more than I want. (I’m human! I DO get annoyed… but in order to choose to enjoy them, I take my thoughts captive, and I allow them to be children.)
- I go to bed earlier. Let’s face it, we’re a better version of ourselves when we have our beauty sleep. It is much harder to have patience when we’re sleep deprived. I can do this now that I have children who sleep through the night. It’s much harder when you are up all night with babies, and up all day with kids who don’t nap! Grab rest when you can. Ask your spouse for help. You’ll be a better parent for it.
- And Lastly… for now… is CHOOSE to enjoy! Look at your gorgeous, smart, energetic, and amazing child and see him/her as the gift she/he is! Watch them when they play, laugh at their silliness. Join them as they jump in rain puddles, and laugh when they giggle at their own made up joke. Watch them as they interact with their siblings and realize this child of yours is AWESOME! If you have to, go back to sweet baby pictures or remind yourself of funny things they’ve done in the past week, month, year. Hug them tight, tell them how wonderful you think they are, and remind yourself that this reward from God is one of the biggest blessings you’ve ever been given. Pray over them, praise them, marvel in them, and be awestruck! Be intentional about finding things to enjoy. Whether it be the moment they are quiet listening to a book, or coloring nicely at the table, or studying for a test at school, make it intentional. Then remind them how much you love them. Tell your child that they are the best gift you’ve ever been given. Then when you collapse in bed at night from the exhausted day that comes along with being a parent, do not allow yourself to dwell on the rules they broke, or the attitudes they had. Instead count your blessings. Just as you began your day in prayer, end it just the same. Praise God for the thoughtfulness of His gift. Thank Him for the blessing.
I write just as I come out of this. Like I said, I have not mastered this. And I don’t always enjoy every moment. But I love my children, and want to honor God with the gift He has given me. I believe I am not where I need to be when I choose not to enjoy them. So, today, I’m choosing to enjoy them! I’ll gaze at them and thank God for my quadruple blessing. And I’ll start the day tomorrow doing the same. Feel free to add some of the ways you choose to be intentional when it comes to enjoying your children, I’m open to more suggestions!
Until then… Enjoy those kiddos of yours!