5 ways to love my kids well

It’s 2017! The past month for me has been all about goals and dreaming and planning and beginning to taking action.

Writing down the things my heart knows needs change, I’ve made all kinds of lists of things to work on, covering many areas of life – parenting, home management and organization, ministry, reading, health. But the one capturing my focus the most right now is about loving well these four little people God has called me to mother.

I’ve long accepted that I can’t do everything well, and I’m not aiming for perfection or to do what everybody else is doing. I’m learning to be ME as a mother, letting go of some things I used to think were required and instead listening to the Spirit lead me in what He’s specifically called me to. Praying through that, these are the five things I’m focusing on now and into the new year, as a mom:

  1. Pray for my kids like crazy. If not a priority before, this is something you start learning when your kids transition from a gospel-centered, Bible-loving school to a public one! Though a very positive change for our family, we’re now in a place where we can’t rely on teachers to daily speak Scripture into our kids’ lives, and all I can do is pray for the Spirit to speak to their souls. But this isn’t a bad option! Who’s the best Soul-Nurturer anyway?? I’m certain the Holy Spirit has that covered, but I know I need more discipline and structure in how I participate in that prayer work. Desperation is good, but I want it forming habits of prayer.

2. Praise God in front of them. Any conversation can lead to declaring God’s goodness. Not in an over-the-top way, just with simple, truthful statements about who he is. A Bible teacher reminded me of this recently: Praising God in front of your children will be a bulwark against idolatry. I can’t make them love him more, but I can certainly be telling them more reasons why I love Him. Anytime. All the time.

3. Relationship First! This one is all about grabbing the moments I’m given and using them to fortify relationship with my kids, valuing that above the rules. This isn’t about avoiding behavior training but instead saying “yes” as often as possible, really making those “no”s matter. The self-sacrifice this requires will be hard for me. I need to be more willing to join them in some of their required work instead of ordering them to do it alone every time. Togetherness is the new priority in our home. Not easy for the introverted, highly-sensitive mom. But God knew my temperament when he gave me these kids to mother, and I know he’ll give me what I need. Lately I’m feeling in a fresh way how quickly the moments are going by, and I want to make the most of the ones given to make them know my love through presence. Presence filled with more laughter and life-giving conversation.

4. Call out their strengths. Encourage, encourage, encourage! I know how important this is, but sometimes all I see is the behavior in them that needs to change. But this is not the way of grace. I need to affirm the good I see God working in them more than I obsess over the disappointing behavior. This has always been my struggle, and it’s been a long work to let go of certain ideals, the mirage of perfection, and the need to have them, well, make me look good. I will probably always have to work to stay on top of that, to keep crushing this idol every day.

5. Don’t let myself complain. Oh I’ve been convicted of the ease by which complaining language falls out of my mouth. Often it’s about my kids, and I hate that. “His attitude is making me crazy” and “you wouldn’t believe how messy she is” are just typical of phrases I say. Whether my aim is to be authentic in my expressions of family life struggles or just funny or relatable, I must be more careful that my words carry purpose and only voice the negatives if I’m certain it’s what the Spirit says the situation calls for. I admit that this language isn’t often a matter of discerning prayer but instead emerges from a complaining heart, released out of habit, from a place of feeling frazzled or frustrated. That has to stop.

Praying for grace to have its way in my heart and build new habits for nurturing these precious souls. Thankful that it covers all the failures I’ve had and will continue to have and that Jesus makes the work of learning and re-learning all worth it.

What are you aiming for in the new year?