Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hold their hearts

This is the first in a series of blog posts on parenting that I'll be doing for the next few weeks.

As I said in my previous post, I don't consider myself to be the perfect parent. Sam and I have had our share of mistakes made, trials we've gone through with our children, lessons learned, what have you.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: I'm not an expert, but I do have experience.

And quite honestly, sometimes I've found that experience can be a better teacher than a textbook. I personally find that I am helped so much more when I ask somebody for help who's actually been through something -- rather than just reading something written by "an expert." In fact, if you've ever talked to somebody who just recently majored in child psychology or child development or any other child-related course of studies ... it's almost comical the disconnect between parenting philosophies or how-to's ... and what actually happens in real life parenting.

It's like that funny old saying :

“Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories."

Parenting has a way of throwing all of our previous ideas abut "how everyone should parent" right out the window, doesn't it ?

Thank God for His grace !

Anyway what I'm trying to say is this : I hope that the school of experience will serve as my credentials in this little series, even if I don't have several initials following my name. But if not - maybe just pretend my name is Patti Rice, MRS. and read with an open heart ;)

In the posts ahead I want to talk about some of the brass tacks of parenting : how to make children mind without losing yours, how to maintain a (somewhat) tidy home with many small children, why food is not the real reason your child is a demoniac (you think I'm joking), how to survive the teen years without killing anyone, why it IS important to sweat the small stuff, and why prearranged marriages are in everybody's best interest.

(Okay, just checkin' to make sure y'all were still really reading the words in this post.)

But for now I just want to talk about one principal that I will refer to again and again when I'm talking parenting stuff ... and maybe you could say this is my guiding philosophy in regards to raising children. Are you ready ? 

This is, as my smart husband often says - a heavy revvy. (heavy revelation, for all you generation x-ers.) 

Duh-duh-duh DUUUUUHHHH .... (that's a trumpet sound) .....

Always aim for your child's heart.

This may sound overly simplistic. It may sound trite and completely obvious. But what I have found in parenting eleven children, is that all the rules and how-to's in the world, will not produce the kind of children you hope for, if you do not have their hearts. 

We can demand that our children adhere to a list of rules in our home.

And while they are little, that might work.

We can make sure our kids know how to walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk, so to speak. 

But before we know it, those little people turn into teenagers, with ideas of their own, and opinions of their own, and very strong wills of their own ... and it's been my personal experience that every child suddenly knows everything there is to know in life at about age 14. At least they think they do. 

And suddenly, as hormones and puberty and this newfound omniscience collide ... rules don't hold as much sway as they once did for our children. Almost overnight it seems, our children are able to defend and justify and debate and excuse, and if we don't have a firm grasp on their hearts, those years of parenting miniature lawyers can overwhelm even the best of us. 

But you and I can make it through, if we will keep this principal in mind :

Always aim for your child's heart.

A few years ago we had to deal with a situation with one of our children... for privacy sake I won't go into details here as far as who and what the situation was. I remember feeling so completely dependent on God during that time- because without His help and wisdom and grace our child could have made some very bad decisions. Sam and I prayed and sought God for wisdom, and through several lengthy and emotional conversations with our child, we were able to work through some things that had been brewing for some time. It was a very difficult time for us emotionally, wondering if the things we had instilled in our child all those years were going to bring good fruit or not. Better parents than us have watched their prodigal children go through some very hard seasons before returning to what they knew was right. 

A few months ago I asked that child what was the thing that held them in check ... why it was that they made the decisions they did to stay on track with God and keep themselves from a potentially bad situation. What this child told me reinforced the guiding principal I mentioned above : I couldn't take the thought of disappointing you and Dad. I can't bear the look on Dad's face when he says "you have no idea how deeply this will hurt me."  

That desire to stay in right relationship with us - and ultimately God - is the thing that kept our child tethered to sanity. Our relationship with our child was the rope they held onto, until reason and the grace of God reeled them back in. 

Does this mean we are supposed to be our kids' best friends ? I don't think so. There is a place for being a friend to our children, and certainly we feel that our adult children are some of our very best friends in life. But we aren't called to be our kids' buddies - we are called to be their parents. And as such, we have to be the bad guys many times. There are situations in life that will arise that will require us to say the hard things, and make the tough calls that go beyond "friendship parenting".

So when I say the following :

Always aim for your child's heart -

I am not talking about being such a great friend to your kids that they'll never want to let you down.

But I am talking about maintaining a relationship with your children. Aiming for your child's heart means going beyond establishing house rules and do's and don't's - and investing everything you can into building a solid, loving relationship with the children God has entrusted you with. It means making that relationship one of the priorities of your life - above your career, your hobbies, your other friendships, and anything else in life besides your spouse and your relationship with Jesus. 

Our kids know what is important to us, and if we will take the time to invest in them and love them and nurture our relationship with them, we will reap incredible rewards. 

As I said at the beginning of this post, I am not the perfect mom. I make mistakes, I lose my temper, I sometimes make bad judgment calls, I mess up. Badly sometimes. But my children know where they can turn when life hits hard. They know we love them more than anything else in life, and their hearts are knitted with ours. I may not get everything right as far as Parenting Academics go, but I am aiming for holding their hearts. If I have their heart - the rest will all fall into place.

This doesn't come easily. This comes through praying, praying, praying, and when everything is going wrong, praying some more. This requires diligence and intent and determination and resolve and patience and the grace of God ... this means a lifetime of investment and love. Or at least 18 years :) 

But the dividends are awesome.

Taking the time to build that relationship with my kids is worth it. Those midnight discussions - even when I'm exhausted and weary and emotionally drained myself - are worth it. Those moments where I drop everything for the day, because one of my kids just needs time alone with mom - even if it means adding a dozen things to my to-do list for tomorrow - are worth it. The years that I've given to my children, even when it meant laying aside some of my own personal hopes and dreams - they are paying me back today with rewards far greater than anything I could have imagined. 

Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!

Stay tuned for part two ;)


Grammi Faith said...

According to your grandmother I wasn't raising you and your siblings right. Oh well, I guess you all turned out exceptionally well in spite of my poor parenting skills. Your Dad and I are so proud of all three of you. Daddy would say "we certainly are blessed in spite of ourselves."

We prayed a lot and I still do, oh for the power of prayer.

Bethany Eicher said...

Well said. My husband says he couldn't have said it better himself .....and that's a pretty high endorsement I might add!! :)

Wendy Talley, Portsmouth, VA said...

Love this advice. Thank you.

Our victory! said...

Really good! Thanks

cara said...

Great wisdom!! I am SO excited for this parenting series you are doing! I will never forget reading the parenting books before we had our first. That all went out the door on day 1, ha! I like the whole prearranged marriage thing . Can we just arrange Benji and Lily's wedding now?! (only kidding) Although Benji would be thrilled!! Honestly, our Abigail believes her daddy will choose for her.

I hope you all have a fun, blessed night! The costumes are beautiful on beautiful people! xoxo

Unknown said...

I enjoyed this post wholeheartedly! I'm a Homeschool mama of 5, ranging from14-10 years and I have begun the long emotional heart to heart conversations with my older ones. I cherish these moments because it's something that I never had growing up, but something that I always longed to have as a girl. I thank God for everything he has taught me and is still teaching me through my children. And I really look forward to the rest of your series!

mex said...

With 11 children, you already kniw more than the academics.... I look forward to your upcoming blogs. I love how you write and love what you say. Thank you.