A year or so ago, a great friend and mentor of mine, Craig Dixon, preached a sermon on parenting. I entered church that day expecting to learn great tips on how to lovingly discipline my children. But I was in for a surprise.
The sermon message was clear and even sounded simple. He said “bless your kids”.
I was shocked. Maybe this seemed like an obvious message to other parents in the room, but I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I wanted practical tools and instead I got a heart adjustment.
Recently, this sermon came to the forefront of my mind as I was laying in bed at 3 in the morning. I had just fed the baby and was starting to think (read: worry, obsess) about some of the issues we had been experiencing recently with our older children.
My husband and I often just look at each other and realize we have no idea what we are doing. But that night, I thought about the sermon and the word “bless”.
I started to think of those five letters and what they could each represent that would help me remember in the difficult moments of parenting, how I could bless my children.
This is what I came up with:
Do you know what sucks? Being lied to. Especially when it happens over and over again throughout your day or week by the same person. Children are notorious for telling stories when they should really be telling the truth.
When I am on my high horse and at the end of my patience for the day (around 10 am), it is easy for me to jump on the opportunity to tell my kid that I know they are lying. It’s easy to choose punishment and shame over grace and trust.
But do you know what makes a person feel loved and trusted? When you believe their words.
I realized that I would rather have my children successfully lie to me and have them go to sleep at night knowing their mother takes them seriously than accuse them of lying so much that they decide it is better to not tell me anything.
Give them the benefit of the doubt even if you are pretty sure they are lying to your face.
Yes, they may be getting away with something they shouldn’t be doing. But in the long run, it is going to benefit your relationship because there may be a day when they need a safe person to talk to, and that person should be you.
They need you on their side more than they need you to prove them wrong.
This does not mean that you let your children dictate “truth” in your household. It does not mean that you do not teach them the importance of honesty. But it does mean that you don’t jump to the conclusion that they are being dishonest every chance you get.
Listen to them
When I need to make sure my children are listening to me and not just hearing me, I say, “eyes please”. Making eye contact when you’re communicating helps you absorb what the person is telling you plus it makes them feel like you are truly listening.
I can’t expect my children to learn how to listen well unless I am modeling that behavior for them.
Listening to a person is respectful, so if I want to raise respectful and interested people, I better put down my phone, walk away from the stove and listen to every word they have to tell me, with my eyes on them.
When my daughter gets the attention of everyone in the room, with silence and eyes on her, she gets a huge smile on her face and usually forgets what she was saying. She has an older brother that talks enough for ten people and parents who talk just as much.
Her normal is having to fight for a turn to speak.
But that smile says it all. Her beaming face lets you know that she feels loved, respected and interesting because you are taking the time to shut your own mouth, open your ears and direct your eyes to the littlest soul in the room.
Explain yourself to them
It causes my son anxiety if we give him instructions without telling him why we need him to do that. I don’t justify my request for him to wash his hands after he goes to the bathroom, but for certain directions that are out-of-the-ordinary, it is helpful for me to explain the reason I need him to do whatever it is that I need him to do.
Some parents might think they should never have to explain themselves and that their children should just obey, obey, obey.
I get that… to a certain extent.
But I also know that I definitely like to know why I’m doing something that I’m asked to do. It helps me feel at peace about my actions and about obeying the person who is asking something of me. I also tend to perform an action better if I understand the “why”.
I have realized that taking 15 seconds to answer my kids’ questions BEFORE they obey can actually save me an hour-long tantrum when I just respond with “just do it”.
I do, however, ask that my kids say “okay Mommy” and THEN continue with a question.
Responding to a request from me with “But…” is the beginning of an argument and is not okay. If their response is communicating obedience and positivity, I’m more than happy to answer their questions and help clarify what is going on in my mind that I’m asking them to be a part of.
I don’t know about you but I think my attitude towards my children can feel like I think they owe me something. As if bringing them into this broken world is some gift that they need to pay me back for over the next 18 years.
Even when my attitude isn’t ugly, I become overwhelmed that my interactions with my kids are mainly me completing tasks for their benefit, not for mine.
By default, I am serving them. But this call to serve them means to go above and beyond to do or say something that will make them feel cared for, loved and noticed.
Sometimes that means sitting on the floor and playing a game. Sometimes that means taking them to go get a donut. Sometimes that means having a dance party when I really need to do ten loads of laundry.
Serving a person is an act of humility and love and I definitely want to be a mom that models those two qualities to my children. And choosing to serve them in a way that is specific to their personality will make them feel even more cared for and known.
Smile at them
When my daughter knows that she is being disobedient or unkind, she looks at me and says “Mommy smile at me!”. Of course, she’s trying to manipulate the situation, but her demands made me think a lot about the power of a smile.
She can sense that our relationship is strained and she wants it to be fixed and for some reason, she thinks that a smile will fix it.
Our days are shadowed by packed schedules and a never-ending to-do list. Our interactions with our children can be ruled by commands and requests. Sometimes I realize that I don’t even take a moment to look into their sweet faces, let alone offer a genuine smile.
Maybe some parents are naturally cheerful and love their role as mom or dad. I am not one of those people. I have a serious case of RBF and I am very easily stressed out by my daily momming responsibilities.
For me, remembering to smile is a difficult but crucial part of blessing my kids.
And yes, they know when I’m faking it.
Blessing my kids requires me to dig deep. It requires me to know them. To set aside my selfish desires. To value what they value.
When I take the time to B.L.E.S.S. them, I realize what Craig was talking about in his sermon that Sunday.