Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shepherding a Child's Heart- My Goals/Desires for Myself as a Parent

As a parent, it is so easy to get caught up in the petty things and feel the need to do things one way because some people say that’s the best way. Breastfeed or bottle feed? Schedule or on demand? Co-sleep or crib in own bedroom? Cry it out or not? Yes, these are important decisions to make, but they need to be made based on what God’s word says, and what’s best for YOUR family, not on what others say. And, even though these are important, they really don’t affect your child as the grow up. You don’t look at a 10 year old and say, “You must have been bottle fed,” or “Your mommy let you cry as a baby, didn’t she?”

The most important things you can do for your children (and remember this is coming from a mom of a 2 ½ year old and a 6 month old, so I have a lot to learn!) are to make them feel safe and loved, shepherd their hearts, and teach them about Jesus. I have a long way to go in a few of these areas, but we’re getting there! I think we do a great job of making them feel safe and loved, and we are getting more and more consistent about discipline as we figure out the best way to discipline Karis. Every child is different, and we’re figuring that out. Until about 4 months ago, Karis was the easiest 2 year old on earth. She said please and thank you, she very rarely threw tantrums, and she obeyed. Then, 2 ½ hit. She is still what some people would consider to be a good 2 year old, but she’s not the toddler she once was! For about a year, we would use the “no, no” chair (timeout), and that was enough. Once she hit 2 ½, the “no, no” chair wasn’t enough. She’s a VERY moody and dramatic little girl. She constantly changes her mind. But, we have realized that we don’t need to please her! Our job as parents is not to please her or make her happy, but to teach her how to obey and why she needs to obey. When she “talks back” (yes, she already does this) or is disobedient, there needs to be consequences. Many times, there are natural consequences such as not getting what she wants, but there are times that we have to create them. The best thing lately when she starts throwing a fit (because she doesn’t get what she wants) is to make her to go her room. If she won’t go on her own, I take her in there and sit her on the floor. She DOESN’T like this one bit. If the fit gets out of control, she gets a spanking. When she’s done with her fit, she comes out to us and tells us sorry. We talk about WHY she was sent to her room. She’s at an age right now that she doesn’t always understand this, but it’s really important to do this now. Then she gives me a kiss and a hug and we move on. Most of the time, this is what happens. Now, if we’re not home, it gets more difficult. Thankfully, she very rarely throws a fit in public. And when she does, it’s usually because she’s hungry or tired. The only other time that we give her a spanking is when she’s blatantly disobedient (doing something after I told her flat out not to, and laughing/smiling about it). We don’t feel that spanking is necessary all the time. We save that for specific cases.

The best thing that we can do to prevent bad behavior, is by teaching them from the very beginning how they need to behave and why. We have done a pretty good job of this with Karis, but we have also learned more of what to do and what not to do.

Now, on to sharing Jesus with my children. I feel that we need to grow in this area. It’s difficult with a 2 ½ year old! Currently, we pray before meals (especially at home), pray at bedtime, read in her children’s Bible and do a devotion. We listen to praise music throughout the day and “praise Jesus.” We also praise Jesus in front of her at church (she comes to the music part of worship with us). She is so cute in worship. She sees other people raising their hands, so she does it too. Of course, she has NO idea why, but she’ll get there. We think that it is SO important to let our children see us worship. And, if she wakes up while I’m having my time with Jesus in the morning, I’ll get out her children’s study Bible and tell her that she needs to read her Bible while mommy’s reading hers and talking to Jesus. This doesn’t last long, but it’s a start J. Some goals that I have in this area are: 1) Pray with her more throughout the day, about even the little things, 2) Pray when she’s being disciplined; ask Jesus for forgiveness, and 3) Teach her more about God’s word instead of just reading it to her. I do teach her some, but not enough. When I read to her, she doesn’t understand it. I need to, more often, bring it to her level. As she gets older, I want to memorize scripture as a family, pray more as a family, and do longer, more in-depth Bible study as a family. But, these are all things that take time. There’s only so much that a 2 ½ year old can take in!

More than just sharing Jesus with them, it is very important to pray for them daily. Pray for their physical safety and protection, as well as emotional. Pray that they will grow up to know Jesus, and that they will serve Him all the days of their lives. Pray for their future spouse, that they will be a godly man/woman. Pray daily for yourself as the stewards of these children, that you will be good stewards of what God has allowed to you have in this lifetime. Pray that you will train them up unto the Lord, and that He would use you to share Jesus with them.

Your children’s souls are not yours. You can not choose whether or not they become a child of God, but you can teach them and pray for them daily. You can show them what it means to be a Christ follower with the way you live your life. You can shepherd their hearts by disciplining, then tell them why they are being disciplined; this builds their character. You can allow them to have friends that are Christian and non-Christian; they need to be in the world in order to share Jesus with others. Although, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to be in public school (that’s a whole other blog!). You can teach them how to give to others, and why that’s important. You can teach them how to be like Jesus.

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