“Momma, what are we doing today? Who will we see?” Desirous of the details from the moment her little feet hit the floor, my daughter thrived on 2 things:
People and a schedule.
Sometimes, I felt more like an activity coordinator than Mom.
But I noticed a barely perceptible unrest in her little spirit when unsure of the day’s events. The questions became incessant, and my patience often faltered before lunch.
One day it hit me. She can’t read, but she understands pictures! From then on, a homemade poster hung on her wall with velcro affixed in squares creating a grid, and a box full of 3×3 cards with pictures of activities sat on her desk.
Most evenings, we stuck on the appropriate activities for the following day. It was not set in stone, and I maintained authority to change it, but something amazing happened.
A peaceful countenance emerged and the continuous questions ceased.
Humans, all animals, thrive best in stable environments, and routines cultivate security for our little people to flourish. Structure and routine aren’t about temperamental style, rather basic human need.
Ultimately we possess little control—hello Pandemic—but as much as possible, providing a flexible (because life happens) routine for children creates an environment fraught with potential. When children feel secure, their little minds and hearts are primed for growth.
Communication, creativity and joy flourish under routine’s watch. Strong family bonds, one of the many benefits of routine, develop around the dinner table, a bi-monthly family night, evening walks or annual vacations.
We cultivate stability, for parents are stewards.
I’ll never forget a particular parenting conference we attended when our children were young. Most grateful for these words, the speaker declared with urgency:
“Parents are the most influential people in children’s lives. While church is a wonderful complement to their spiritual formation, parents possess the primary role of discipleship.”
Those words hit my heart like an arrow.
Never experiencing church events like AWANA’s, VBS or church camp, I was enraptured with it all. But I realized there was more to soul-nurturing than showing up for every children’s program (which we did)!
So, prayerfully, we decided to disciple our children in partnership with Jesus.
But I didn’t know how! Thankfully, with help from parenting classes, books and friends, what we learned was broken but beautiful:
- We held weekly family meetings complete with a devotion and discussion about the upcoming week to stay connected.
- I found children’s Bibles with fun activities, enjoying many outdoor—and indoor—picnics working through them.
- I read missionary biographies and other stories most nights until they were teens.
- We listened to the classics and other true stories about ordinary people God used—mostly in the car.
- I hosted a bi-monthly Bible study taking our children through graduation.
- We found relevant Bible studies they completed independently when older.
Each family is unique, and what worked for us may not be a fit. We sought counsel and tried things on for size. You can too! Remember the broken but beautiful part; God used my brokenness in His faithfulness.
We nurture souls, for parents are shepherds.
From the womb, she was a lively little one, full of energy with emotions to match. Middle school years, already wrought with growing pains, gave way to the inevitable struggle of self-discovery.
It’s a time children embark on the second stage of separation from parents. Questioning their beliefs is natural because until now they’ve been copies, not originals. Giving her room to discover, pray, talk to friends and mentors was difficult, but crucial.
During this transition, emotions occasionally ran high, sometimes wearing on this introverted Momma. As I attempted to manage instead of mentor, the muted colors of manipulation manifested in my parenting.
I realized I was protecting my child from emotional pain for my benefit as much as hers.
Parents hurt when their children hurt; it can become complex and exhausting parenting children in pain.
I had to ask myself, was it my heart or hers I desired to protect? Or maybe parental reputation motivated me? Did I desire approval and accolades, relief from personal pain, or her best?
This was perhaps the hardest question to ask. And the answer—even more difficult to admit.
Children need guidance for their benefit, not ours. But, there’s a delicate balance.
We should monitor our emotional state, evaluating when exhaustion or frustration set in. We can pray and ask for help from our spouse, wise friends and mentors, take a breather, and jump back in with a renewed mindset.
We hate to see our children in pain; however, there’s a bigger truth at work:
Pain propagates purpose.
It’s in times of struggle our children grow in godly character, wisdom and resilience.
While difficult seeing my children endure struggles, I would not change one moment, as stressful and painful as it was at the time.
We mentor—not manage, for parents are guides.
If you have parenting suggestions or questions, please comment!