Loving your children is a given.
But do you LIKE them?
And do they KNOW it?
Recently, I was reading an excerpt of a Reb Bradley article posted on Josh Harris’ website. A personal story concerning his relationship with his son related in that article stuck out to me as something every parent needs to read. In his words:
Few others in his entire life had shown him much acceptance, especially not his mother and I. It is no exaggeration – in our efforts to shape and improve him, all we did was find fault with everything he did. We loved him dearly, but he constantly heard from us that what he did (who he was) wasn’t good enough. He craved our approval, but we couldn’t be pleased. Years later, I realized he had given up trying to please us when he was 14, and from then on he was just patronizing us.
I hovered over those words replaying the last 13½ years of my mothering and wondered…
Do they know if I like them?
Do they feel approval or do they think I never think they are “good enough?”
The easiest way to raise children who lose all respect for you as a parent is to make them feel like they never do anything right. And unfortunately, this is so very easy to do.
Many times our parenting is reactionary and done with selfish motives. Recently, I relayed to a Raising Arrows reader my own selfish motives from years ago (that still manage to rear their ugly heads on occasion!) Here’s what I wrote:
I remember telling God after my first child that I didn’t deserve any more children because I was a terrible mother to the one I had. I went to bed nearly every night kicking myself for my angry behavior during the daytime hours towards this little guy who was just being a little guy. What it boiled down to was my own heart attitude and how I saw his childish foolishness as a personal offense and something that went against my picture perfect view of what childrearing looked like. Honestly, it was selfishness mostly…I simply did not want to deal with real parenting.
In Mary Pride’s book All The Way Home she mentions people wanting to have children like they have pets or a hobby. It’s a selfish want. I hadn’t meant to be like that, but I was. I wasn’t a joyful mother because I was a selfish mother who wanted children who behaved like well-trained pets or could be put aside like a hobby.
When I began to take mothering my God-given children seriously, I began to see my children as blessings.
And that’s where the rubber meets the road…if children are blessings and rewards as the Bible says (Psalm 127), then we need to treat them that way and rejoice in motherhood…even when we don’t feel like it. Sometimes we just need a little practice…
It just takes time and perspective and a whole lot of grace and mercy from you and for you.
We must practice joy. We must learn to not only love our children, but learn to like them as well. We must look into their eyes and hearts and smile…
Great big no-strings-attached smiles.
Even when you are tired or don’t feel like it or have said the same thing over and over all day long.
Don’t just love your children.