Of course you love your children. Isn’t that why you take them to fun places, let them choose activities or sports, give them the best education you know of and buy them lovely clothes? All of us love our kids but sometime our best intentions fail to translate to our children’s’ minds and hearts. I’m continually asking myself as a mom, Do my kids perceive the love I am trying to communicate?
Recently— in the late hours of the night— I have been reading over some research by Dr Stella Chess & Dr Alexander Thomas on the effects of nurture in the life of the child. In this study, they conclude that a child’s choices and adult outcome is largely determined by a combination of the home environment and personal traits of that specific child. It’s true: some children are more difficult to parent than others. Chess and Thomas describe nine temperaments observable in a newborn nursery that tend to stay with them as they grow, though these characteristics can change in the home environment. But the best news from the study is that the atmosphere a nurturing mother provides often contributes to a well-adapted child. Even in situations where mothers had difficult babies or toddlers, nurture was a huge factor in determining how the child ultimately adapted in society.
I’ll be honest: our children have been easier to nurture in some seasons, and more difficult in others. A couple of our kids were very difficult babies and it took digging into the depths of my heart and lots of prayer to give them all the nurturing they needed. And one of my more difficult babies is now a toddler. Her long bouts of crying as a baby have turned into lots of wonderful verbal and physical energy. (I would add that she also barely sleeps these days which equals one tired mama. I thought these days were over, but I guess I was wrong!) One of our children was an easy babies but now her quietness is challenging to interpret. I’m now asking the Lord for daily patience as I ask question after question to my sweet, quiet daughter who I long to know deeply.
If we hope to maintain continual relationship with our kids throughout their life, a bond of true unconditional love must be present. Without it, whatever activities, programs, discipline, ideas, relationships we present will likely not be received with openness.
Every child is different so finding a way to the heart of each child is a non-formulaic unique process. My oldest craves quality time. She cannot wait for the next opportunity to sit alone with me and just talk about all that is going on in her heart or to read a book together and discuss it. A listening ear and an empathetic spirit are what she needs most from me. And my five year old son will share his heart over activities he loves, like building legos, or during a pre-bedtime back scratching routine. Even if there is little conversation between us, connecting with him through the things he loves fills up his little heart. Discipline seems less necessary when I give him the individual time he needs. All of our kids crave individual time and as you might imagine can be challenging to achieve with four.
Each family has their own unique puzzle with unique personalities. Ask the Lord to show you how to connect with each of your children. I believe He will be faithful to meet you in your struggle, in your questions, and in the ever-changing seasons of a child’s heart. Ask Him to help you sense how to love your children well as you continue to build the relational foundation that will last your entire life.
After all, we will never stop being parents. Love well.