This week was difficult with my 3 /12-yr old son. More than just misbehaving, he was borderline malicious, seemingly looking for ways to antagonize our dog or his sister or to defy me. None of my efforts – talking about the incidents, praying with him, consistent discipline – appeared to be making any difference.
Finally, at the end of the week and after praying it through, I decided to try making some changes from my end. I spent a day focusing on him, talking casually with him as much as possible, including him in everything I did, making time to play with him however he wanted. And it worked – it seemed to break the logjam and alter the dynamics of his behavior and our negative weeklong dance. My concentrated attention, affirmation, and love had reached him in a way nothing else had.
A friend of mine shared similar thoughts. “Sometimes when one of my children becomes ornery and ventures into disobedience, I’ve found it helpful to take a step back and assess the situation, see where the child is, and respond in love and one-on-one attention. Sometimes all they need from me to ‘shape up’ was some one-on-one time and cuddling. Obviously I wouldn’t do this in the middle of a defiant stand-off, but if I’m trying to figure out where the behavior is coming from and I can cut it off at the pass by using love when needed, I’ll try that. It can even be more of a diversion strategy before things really heat up, and it often works.”
At the end of my experimental “focus on my son” day, I made an interesting discovery. My heart had changed toward him and I loved and appreciated him more for who he was. It got me thinking about the nature of love, particularly the notion of delight. The bustle and grind of daily life can sometimes cause me to lose focus on my kids – their individuality, their hearts, the things they enjoy. I can be less than attentive as we go through the motions of our routine – we can co-exist a bit. To “delight” means to “take pleasure; to enjoy.” This is how God regards us – he “takes great delight in” us, “quieting us with his love” and “rejoicing over” us with singing (Zeph 3:17). God’s delight in us reaches our hearts and changes us, causing us to want to be close to him and please him. And our relationship with our kids can work in the same way – we can sow delight and reap closeness and love.
Delighting in my children – as a way of life – only happens when I’m intentional and when I make time for it. If I’m hunched over my computer or sending them off to play so I can get chores done, I’ll delight in them rarely or never. In The Mission of Motherhood, Sally Clarkson writes: “Choosing to be a servant-mother means willingly giving up myself, my expectations, and my time to the task of mothering – and choosing to believe that doing so is the best use of my time at that moment.” We delight in our children as we lay down our lives for them in small moments and love them fully and wholly. Delight and grace work together hand in hand, and this post from Making Home describing grace toward our children as “generosity, kindness, and surprises” speaks volumes to me about delighting in our kids and the importance of prioritizing this in our homes.
Bottom line: I’m adding an expanded love for my kids and a priority of delighting in them into my prayers about parenting…