So much of parenting has to do with paying attention: Noticing patterns in kids’ behavior, spotting attitudes that linger, taking note when a child is quiet because something’s on their mind. So many parenting issues can be addressed quickly, right there in the moment—but when we’re distracted, we miss opportunities to shape kids’ character, or to draw them out and develop a meaningful, real relationship. I don’t want to get so caught up in the where-did-I-put-those-immunization-forms-what-do-I-cook-for-dinner-who-outgrew-their-shoes-this-week life that I miss the REAL life stuff. I’ve found that when I’m praying specifically for each of my children, I’m more aware of how they’re doing and what’s going on in their little world. When I pray and pay attention, I’m a better mom, not to mention a better me.
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15–16)
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Are you majoring in the minors in your parenting?
Conflict is an inherent part of parenting, but some of us waste our conflict on the wrong issues. Those of us who have clean-freak and perfectionist tendencies can obsess over the wrong things with our kids, and create battlegrounds out of issues that should barely be skirmishes. We constantly push and nag about cleaning up, dressing right, eating healthy . . . and meanwhile, we’re missing the big-picture issues of character and heart. Parenting becomes one conflict after another, all day long. We are exhausted; our kids are resentful. Of course we should teach our kids good lifestyle habits, but let’s also keep in mind what’s most important: character and heart. And that means having the wisdom to choose the right battles at the right time. It means knowing when to give your kids a break for leaving a toy on the floor, or dressing like a clown-princess, or not eating their broccoli. It means finding the balance between high expectations and realistic ones, between expecting obedience, but giving grace.
Sounds a little like what God does for us, now that I think about it . . .
“Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.
Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred” (Proverbs 15:16–17).
The other day I was watching a house-hunting show on TV, and my 7-year-old son commented over my shoulder, “This show makes me greedy for a big house. I don’t really like it.” I was astounded by his wisdom! So many families have been hit by economic difficulties—lost jobs, houses, dreams—and in times like this, our hearts are tested. Our priorities are tested. What matters most to us? What does it mean to be rich? What makes us FEEL rich? We may not have granite countertops or stainless steel appliances . . . but as long as our home (however humble) is filled with love—for God and for family—then we are the wealthiest of people! Let’s teach our kids what true wealth looks like, and what’s worth investing in. Let’s teach them that love means more than money. Let’s exude contentment and gratitude and generosity, no matter how tight our budget. And then let’s celebrate the countless rich moments God showers on us every day—sunbeam smiles, sticky-fingered hugs, tickle fights—all free, and yet worth so much you couldn’t possibly put a price tag on them. If giggles were dollars, I’d be a billionaire—and I bet you would too. Giggles can’t buy houses, but they can build homes. Happy ones. The kind of homes we’re all hunting for.
Isn’t it great to be rich?
Sometimes bringing God into kids’ school days is simpler than we think: When my brothers were in elementary school, they walked to school with a bunch of neighborhood kids. Every morning before they left, my parents would meet them at the front door to hand out lunches, give goodbye hugs, and say a brief prayer asking God to be with them throughout the day. After a week or so, some of the neighborhood kids started knocking on our door early, hoping to get there in time for our prayer. Before we knew it, we had a group of kids gathered on our doorstep every morning, praying for their school day! Most of these kids were not religious; few had ever really prayed before—but they loved these prayer times. This simple act became a meaningful way that our family shared our faith with neighbors, just by doing what we already did as a family! And more than that, it taught me and my brothers how we could be an influence for God, a light to the world: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Sometimes we underestimate the power of simple godliness and daily prayer—their power to influence our children and change our little corner of the world!