Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Reacting to our Children vs. Leading Them

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Life with small children is wildly unpredictable. Before having kids, I swore I would never yell and I didn't understand how parents lost their tempers so easily. Then I hit the sleepless nights, the constant interruptions, the unexpected and totally insane messes, the noise, and baby brain. 

And wow, it was a recipe for disaster. All of my cherished notions flew out the window and I finally understood a thing or two. Mainly that I didn't understand a thing or two about parenting!



I recently reread Carrie Ward's book, Together: Growing Appetites for God. It's all about one mama reading the Bible to her kids {you see why this interests me 😉}.

One paragraph early in the book particularly stood out to me this time. 

"...I wanted to get a greater knowledge of the Bible into my children. I had come to the realization that I spent most of my days reacting to my children instead of leading them. I noticed moms who deliberately guided their children's thinking and actions. I didn't necessarily want to follow their exact methods, but I did admire the fact that they were intentional. I wanted these days with my children to be purposeful, and what I most wanted to teach them about was God and His Word." Together, page 44.

"Reacting" to my children is something that I'm all too familiar with. The kids get out of bed before me, and I'm met with a list of demands before I've had the chance to even open my eyes. Things snowball from there, and before I know it I'm snapping out orders, putting out fires right and left, trying so hard to play "catch-up" that I'm in no way thinking ahead.

It makes for a lot of stress. I don't want to be the crabby, strung-out mama reacting to her kiddos. 

There are some simple ways to avoid this and to be more intentional about leading our kids. I notice all the difference in the world when I intentionally pursue these courses of action with my children!


When possible, get up before the kids. I know this isn't always possible {pregnancy and newborn days, I'm looking at you!}. But I also know my own foolish tendency to stay up later than I should, not necessarily doing anything worthwhile, because I'm a glutton for that kid-free time. 

If I enjoy an hour or two of intentional down time once the kids are in bed for the night, then get my own self to bed, I'm able to get up early and enjoy an even more fruitful kid-free time the following morning. When I'm up even just a few minutes before them I'm better prepared to greet them warmly and start our day off on the right foot. 

Start your day in the Word. We read the Word together most weekday mornings at the breakfast table, and it such a great way to start the day intentionally! Some of our most meaningful conversations center on what we read together, and getting our eyes fixed on Jesus first thing never hurts. I also attempt to do my personal Bible reading in the mornings, either before the kids get up or after they've left the breakfast table.

Develop a predictable routine that works for your current season. When the kids know what to expect as their daily rhythm, and you as mama know what you are aiming for each day, peace and order generally follow. 

Peace and order as much as you can achieve in the unpredictable days of finger painting and temper tantrums and nursing babies. Let's not get too crazy here! We are aiming at intentional living in the most general sense of the word... not perfection. These are the basic routines that are saving my life right now. 

Go over expectations ahead of time with your kids. Taking children out in public can lead to some of the most.... interesting... occurrences. Sigh. As a general rule, however, I've found that if I take a few minutes to prepare them before we go somewhere, everyone will do much better. Surprise- they know what to expect at a new place, and they know what you expect from them. Win win! 

Before we go to a doctor's office, we remind each other that an office setting requires no running, and quiet indoor voices. Before hitting the store, I lightheartedly expound on not touching goods without permission, holding onto the cart, and listening carefully to and obeying mama. 

This makes the conversation a lot friendlier than it would be if they start acting out in the store and I have to address it in the heat of the moment with my own blood pressure rising. 


Proactively address issues with the Word. When I released my book of monthly Bible reading plans for family worship, each plan was crafted intentionally around certain seasons and struggles that are pertinent to our children {hey, and their parents too it turns out}. Obedience, minding our mouths, and remembering that life isn't about me are the kinds of lessons we are going to need day after day as fallen sinners. 

Sometimes an issue comes up before you've taken the time to prepare for it. A few weeks ago I read this facebook post about preparing your children for encounters with people who look "different"- whether it be a handicap, skin condition, chromosomal disorder, or whatever. I thought, "Hmm, this is really important and something I should do." Then I promptly walked away from the computer and forgot it. 

Wouldn't you know that a few days later we had one of these encounters, and my children's responses were not ideal? The woman we met was very gracious, but I couldn't help feeling deep regret at our lack of preparedness and any pain we might have caused her as a result. The next few days we talked a lot about the encounter, and other differences, and how we can consider and honor the feelings of others. We watched videos of "different" kids. I hope that they will be ready to show love and grace next time.

It's all a process, isn't it? With a long learning curve. 

By God's grace I want to be a mom that intentionally seeks to lead her children in the ways of the Lord. I want to forsake the desperate reactions, and pursue this intentional leadership with a heart humbly dependent on the Lord for strength.

Sleepless nights, finger paints, and come what may. We may not know a thing or two, but He's sure got us covered 💗.

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