Having three very small children in our home requires us to slow down a good bit. One thing we slow down for lately has been to take time and talk through relationship struggles- the girls sharing, understanding their baby brother, working through differences in opinion, etc. It’s not always convenient but we want to help them cultivate relationships with one another. The majority of children aren’t innately inclined to share, speak kindly, and help one another. If we want to cultivate these traits in our children we can help them by being strategic, making a plan, and teaching them. I wouldn’t say these ideas are foolproof nor that they’ll absolutely work in every family, but they are ideas to think about.
The first and arguably most important step might be the most challenging. We have to be an example. Even when we’re tired, frustrated, and at times selfish (speaking to myself here) we have to lay our desires down and choose to be kind, to share, or offer help. We’ve all heard it a zillion times, “more is caught than taught.” They watch us and mimic us so much more than we realize. If I speak sharply I shouldn’t be the least bit surprised to hear my 2 year old snap at her sister. When I refuse to share that snack I’m hiding in the pantry to eat they notice and observe that although Mommy says to share, sharing only applies in certain situations. You get the idea.
Obviously there’s a balance between adult and child behavior/privileges but one thing that continues to come to mind is that a lot of what we are working on with the children, I personally am working on too. Maybe Macie Jane struggles with self control when she’s feeling tired- I am the exact same way. If I’m 31 still struggling how much more difficult must it be for a 4 year old? This is where grace brings such freedom to the mama’s heart! When I mess up and I’m not the example I want to be for our children I can admit it. We sit down and talk about it and what a great reminder it is that we need the gospel so very much. Jesus would never have needed to come if people could be perfect. Jesus came because we are not perfect and we need Him so deeply.
Consider the character traits you desire to see in your children and evaluate yourself. Do you exemplify the same things you’re calling them to do? I’m not insinuating that mama has to be perfect to get it together. I am saying holding yourself to a similar standard you hold your children to is important. You’ll gain respect and the love of your children more than you realize in this one seemingly small act. Pray and ask the Lord to help you see ways to encourage the great things your littles are already doing and areas y’all can work on together.
Next week’s post in the Building Relationships series: Room Sharing.