Heart is everything. If you have your child’s heart, then an occasional attitude flare will be easily dealt with.
So how do you nurture your relationship with your child? When we were first married, our Bible study group watched Gary Smalley and John Trent’s The Blessing video. It should be required viewing for all parents-to-be. Smalley and Trent share real-life stories on how devastating the lack of affection and acceptance is on children. The Biblical teaching at the core of their presentation is that of Jacob and Esau, and the blessing that Jacob stole from his brother. I can’t do it justice by blogging, you’ll have to take my word for it. A must see.
In the meantime, here are some practical tips on keeping your child’s heart.
- Be interested in what they care about. They need to know they are more important than the newspaper, or the computer. So don’t brush them off.
- Match their excitement when they come running with news or something to show you
- Show physical affection–ruffle their hair and pull them in for a hug. Tell them how glad you are that God gave them to you.
- Don’t criticize their efforts to help you. Instead praise them for their servant’s heart and later, at a separate time, gently instruct in the right way (if you are so led)
- Be consistent. Nothing frustrates a child more than a parent that lets an offense slide one day (b/c of apathy)and punishes for it the next. If your family standards of obedience change, have a family meeting and make sure everyone understands why
- Don’t take them for granted. Praise them when they do the right thing, when they go out of their way for someone. So often we come down harder than we need to for their mistakes and don’t capitalize enough on their strengths
- Role play with them. For instance, before their birthday party, remind them that each person in attendance went out of their way to shop for a special present/card with them in mind. They need to be genuinely thankful for this reason alone! Remind them of how they felt when “so and so” looked disappointed in the gift they gave.
- Leave the past in the past. God does. Practice grace in your parenting when possible.
- Picture a special future for them (taken from The Blessing)
- Ask their forgiveness when warranted.
That last one is a must if we want to keep the heart-lines open. Don’t send mixed signals–walk the talk.