“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: joy.” Galations 5:22 NLT
I would consider myself kind, but not sweet…..pleasant, but not typically “happy”. But joy is deep and constant. And I do feel I have it. For instance, I love my children, but I’m not a fan of “parenting”. Not because of the emotional exhaustion, the busyness of it all or even the self-sacrifice……it’s mainly because I know the magnitude of the responsibility and it overwhelms me at times. But I know I’m a good parent because I see it that way and choose it anyway.
I was recently asked by my children’s music school director to write an article for the school’s newsletter. This is what I shared. And for me, it is evidenced that the Spirit of God has been gracious to give me great joy.
I recently read a blog where a mother compared her parenting young children to hiking Mt. Everest. No greater truth has been written lately! You may feel a sense of amazement and accomplishment later, but in the midst, it’s difficult to see past life’s greatest challenge. With pressure to do it all and varying opinions of how it’s all done, I know I have felt very overwhelmed at times. But a statement I heard a long time ago was to “connect children to their strengths.” Pretty simple I thought…or is it? With limited time, finances and possible resources, how do I create an environment in which my children will connect to their purpose in life? Now, I guess it may not be so simple.
I once took a leadership class where the instructor was discussing the subject of “Emotional Intelligence” and a particular case study in which 3rd graders were each given a piece of candy. They were told that they could eat it right away, but if they saved it, they would get another piece the next day. The researchers followed these students into adulthood and the half or so who waited for their added reward later were found to have higher education, more successful careers, better marriages and a more fulfilling life, while those who did not wait were found to have met many of life’s terrible challenges legally, financially and relationally. How could this be all from a piece of candy? Well, I learned one main differing aspect was the attribute of being able to see today’s decisions with tomorrow’s benefit….that is what separated the success. Those who just saw immediate gratification didn’t receive life’s rewards then or later. I never forgot that story and even though I heard it long before I had children, I was affected by it for my own life and now for their lives.
So taking care of children – spirit, soul and body – is not for the faint of heart. As I try my best to take care of their bodies with healthy food and good rest, their minds with creative stimulation and outlets such as academics, language and music and most importantly, their spirits with love…love….love and lots of it, I often wonder if I’m doing the right thing. I think of the discipline it takes to have vision for your life, even at a young age…..to connect our children with their strengths, to foster creative environments and to see today’s decisions with tomorrow’s rewards….how is it done? In reading about this topic and speaking to several parents recently, here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- Turn off the TV/computer/phones as often as you can. I love technology and it’s such a great aspect of efficiency in our lives….but it can disconnect us with the person right next to us!
- Delight in your children’s presence. It’s not always easy to do as toys overtake the house or the 100th question of the day is being asked, but I want my eyes to light up when I see them walk into the room. I want to enjoy being with them and them with me. So even when having a “work hour,” have them do their homework while you do your work or a hobby like art, knitting or reading at the same table.
- Listen to all kinds of music. My son’s favorites range from classical violin to rock to hip hop. He has no idea he has eclectic taste. He just likes what he likes.
- Reward the journey, not just the destination! Sometimes, things may come easily to a child and that’s wonderful, but the reward is in the work put forth….what gets rewarded gets repeated!
- At the end of the day, talk about your favorite highlights; it will teach an attitude of gratitude. We teach our children why and how to pray, and depending on your spiritual beliefs, teaching your children to be in tuned spiritually is life directing.
- Ask them open-ended questions about their day. For teenagers, I’ve learned that walking side-by-side on the beach or somewhere else peaceful helps in discussing the day. For younger children, getting answers besides “good” or “nothing” may require asking them to draw a picture of their day.
- Read aloud together. My husband often reads in an “enchanted” voice and my children love it! And sometimes we take turns acting out scenes. It’s so much fun to see them interpret stories. Children’s Charades has been made popular in our home.
- Tell them a funny story from their younger days, tell them a funny story from your own childhood……in fact, tell them any story you can think of telling……lots and lots of story-telling.
- Ask them to teach you how to do something. This is big….very big. The art of giving lessons is an amazing skill that I’ve learned from my son’s Montessori School.
- Love People….find creative ways to give in your community such as taking a bag of clothes to the shelter, writing a letter to a family member, caring for a neighbor, or making cookies for a friend for no reason. We have a friend we visit in an elderly care center. He has become part of our lives and like family. My little girl will sit herself down right by some of the elderly ladies there and have a full conversation. Once it was all about birds and candy. I don’t know who had the better time. I think most individuals who have a passion to make a life better are those who are most successful.
I know each parent has some unique ways for their children and each list will grow and evolve. But lessons learned and stories told are how we support one another! I wish you well my fellow musical families, and may all our children connect with their strength and find their purpose!