If you were to ask me, “Hey Kelani, if you were to pick what you think is the #1 most important thing a mom can do with her kids while at home, what would you say?”
Without hesitation, I would say: Connect.
What exactly does this mean? And why do I think it’s the most important thing? Well, let me backtrack a bit. Because a few years ago, I’m sure I would have had a different answer.
When I only had one child and she was almost two years old, I kept finding myself asking this question: “What exactly am I supposed to be doing all day?” I felt like I needed a job description, because I was lost!
So I did all the things that I knew at the time I needed to do. I cleaned, organized, ran errands, and cooked. I spent time with God, took care of my daughter, and made sure that every once in a while I even played with her.
But still…I felt like something was missing. I felt like I was doing all the small things right, but as the weeks and months went on, I felt like there was something bigger that I was missing, even though I couldn’t quite pinpoint it.
When my husband and I were blessed with another daughter and my little family grew, I got even more engrossed in my daily home duties. I got busier because, well, there was always so much to be done. And it was during this season that it dawned on me.
I wasn’t connecting with my kids.
An not only this, but I could tell I wasn’t really interested in doing so. I would try to sit with my kids and play with their toys, but I would get bored. Tear-jerkingly bored. I found that I had nothing in me that really wanted to sit and play with them, and this concerned me. Surely other moms aren’t like this, I thought. I need help.
Somehow, I came across a book called Grace Based Parenting and it opened my eyes big time. I cried through a lot of the book as God both healed my own heart and helped me see where, how, and why I was struggling with connecting.
I also kept going to the Lord in prayer. I would literally tell Him that I needed help and that I didn’t know how to connect. My heart’s desire was to be interested in my kids and influence them in the right direction. I wanted to care deeply about them.
You know, one thing I’ve realized over the years is that the dynamic of our relationship with our own parents will be the dynamic of our relationship with our kids unless we do something to change it. I didn’t grow up very connected to either of my parents. It’s nobody’s fault; that’s just the way things were, and my parents did the best they knew how to do with what they brought from their upbringing. But God was making very apparent to me that connecting was extremely important, that I was not good at it, and that I needed His help.
And what do I actually mean by connecting? I mean tending to the heart to heart ties you have with each child. Building and maintaining strong relational ties with your kids so that you can easily transfer your values and guidance to them and they can bring their needs, desires, and mess ups to you unashamedly. Tending to your relationships with each of your children so that you can have a stronger connection with each of them.
In his popular book To Train Up a Child, seasoned father Michael Pearl calls it “tying many, many strings of fellowship.” I think this is a phenomenal description of the important responsibility of connecting.
I’ve been a stay at home mom for going on eight years now, and I now have four children. I’m so thankful God has continued to open my eyes in this area, because I know my tendency to be task-oriented would hinder me from having influential relationships with my kids. I have begun to taste the reality of kids growing up too fast, and I know that I don’t want to wake up one morning realizing my kids are now almost out of the house and we have no relationship. I want to stop bad patterns now, allow God to awaken dead parts of my heart, and tie many strings of fellowship with my children.
What about you?
If part of your dream as a stay at home mom is to build healthy, Christ-centered relationships with each of your kids, I encourage you to make a habit of connecting. Here 4 ways I’ve adopted to connect with my own kids.
Make connecting a priority
In our busy, busy world of diapers, laundry, meal prepping and chores, it can be easy to focus mainly on getting all the things of the home done. And granted, these things need to be done, or else everyone suffers!
However, I’ve discovered from personal experience that if I don’t work toward making connecting happen, it won’t happen. I recognize that part of it is my own personality (I tend to be more task-oriented) and part of it is the business of our daily lives. Regardless, the days will fly by and I’ll start getting that feeling again, a gentle reminder from the Lord that I need to stop and connect. Time is not stopping for anybody’s personal issues, so we have to be intentional about investing in this!
One thing that’s helped me is to put spending time with my kids on my schedule. I’m very used to putting tasks on the schedule, but I never actually scheduled in playing time. I’ve realized over the years that life can, and will, get busy without my permission. If I don’t manage things, they will manage me, and I’ll never get around to doing what I want and need to do. So if you struggle with spending quality time connecting, pen it into your schedule!
Related: How to Make a Schedule that Works
Tip: If you’re not great at connecting, try setting aside 20 minutes a day to give your child your undivided attention. No cell phones, no TV, no social media, and no distractions. If you have more than one child, I would encourage you to give 20 minutes to each child (or even play all together!). I’ve seen it do wonders for my relationship with my girls. It tenderizes our hearts toward each other and I’ve noticed that they even listen better!
Make honor a habit
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like we as mamas can overlook the need to honor our kids. We know honor is right, and we may honor our superiors and even our husbands, but we may not think about honoring our kids. And that’s a problem, because every human being on the planet has an innate sense that they deserve honor.
I remember a few years ago when I was completely blind to this. I’m so thankful for the Holy Spirit, because He’s our teacher and our counselor. But I kept sensing that the way I was treating my kids was less than pleasing to the Lord, so I took to prayer to see what He was placing on my heart. In prayer, the word honor dropped in my spirit and I knew exactly what He was saying.
He wanted me to make sure that I was treating my kids with honor. Just because they’re kids doesn’t mean that they need to be given less honor than I would give to a superior. Now granted, they mess up a lot and can be very inconvenient. But these are not reasons to treat them less than the Bible says we should.
What are some actionable steps you can take to honor your kids? Here’s a short list:
- Use a kind tone to correct your kids. We wouldn’t go off on our boss or somebody else if they did something wrong, so we don’t want to do it to our kids. 🙂
- If your kids do something to make you angry enough to break the wall with a cast iron skillet, keep your lips tightly zipped. Walk away, pray, and calm down. Get yourself under control so you can speak to them properly. This also teaches them how to have self control when someone wrongs them! I read this quote in an awesome book called H3 Leadership: “You can teach what you know, but you will reproduce what you are.”
- If you do have to discipline your child, make sure it’s not an expression of your anger. If you spank, honor his or her body.
- Always speak well of your child. If they did something wrong, deal with it and let it be forgotten, never to be brought up by you again. So in other words, don’t broadcast your kids’ past wrongdoings to her grandparents, teachers, aunt, etc.
Take time to listen
One of the best ways we can honor our kids is by taking the time to listen to them. I know this may sound obvious and like common knowledge, but I can say from experience that it can get lost in the shuffle when life is so constant.
Oftentimes I find that I assume things about my kids that aren’t exactly true. I assume that they are [crying, whining, throwing a fit, etc] because they are being selfish. And many times, that is the case. But what I’ve learned often is that a lot of times, my kids are acting out because they don’t feel understood. And we all know how desperate we feel when that happens to us!
I’ve had to learn to listen to my kids and their concerns without allowing myself to assume things. Also, lately I’ve learned that I often need to help my kids voice how they feel. Sometimes they don’t know what to say, so when I help them dig out their feelings and express them, I can help them find a right solution.
Take time to engage
Aside from listening to my kids, I’ve realized firsthand how important it is to my kids for me to engage in the things they like with them. My kids all like different things, from drawing to ballet to play doh and building blocks. One of my daughters is fascinated with making mud out of dirt and water-it’s her favorite thing to do!
It’s super tempting for me, with my type of personality, to busy myself with other things while my kids do their favorite activities. And there’s nothing wrong with this-in fact, it’s helped give me some down time every now and then! But I do believe, and have seen personally, how I’ve strengthened my connections with my kids when I’ve taken time to engage with them in this manner.
There are differing opinions out there about playing with your kids. I’ve heard some people say that children should play with other children, not parents. But what I’ve discovered by experience is that whoever plays with the kids has the most influence on them. We want to do our part as mamas to make sure we are investing in our influence with them, so let’s take time to connect!
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