This is day 19 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The series can be found here, and I hope you find it enriching and encouraging. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.
The simplicity of a child’s heart is a thing of beauty. I am convinced God has given me six children so that I could discover—six times over—just how much joy, wonder, and beauty a single child can bring into the world. I have been on a mission to understand simplicity and live a soulfully simple life in part because I have learned that doing so helps me to see my children and their hearts with a new lens—one that I completely missed when I was caught up in the busy life. It is really easy to miss just how profound a child’s heart really is.
Years ago, before I became a mother myself, I lived with a family for a summer during college. Husband, wife, daughter and son. The kids were young, maybe 1 and 3 years old at the time. They were sweet, funny kids who constantly did delightful things that made their mama light up and laugh loudly at different times throughout the day. When I think of her now, many years later, the image that comes to my mind is her great big smile and hearty laugh as her toddlers poured their joy into her through every means at their disposal, and I can’t help but long for my children to one day remember me that way.
Do your children see you smile? Do they know that you delight in them?
It is a struggle for me to put my adulthood on the shelf with all my worries and responsibilities and sit on the floor where my children play and join them in their world, even if its only for a little bit of time each day. Children are full of wonder, creativity, curiosity, and trust, and as I have re-discovered the beauty of childhood through my little ones, I have a swell of desire to hold space for this time they have to engage the world with wide eyes and open hearts.
Mamas of little ones: Do you see your child’s heart? Are you able to see through the struggles, the tantrums, and the frustrations that come in the young years and see how brilliant and incredible your little person is? Delicate, but resilient. Tough, but tender. Stubborn, but teachable. Rowdy, but eager. And you have a front-row seat, with a front-row responsibility to guard and guide them to a life full of good things.
There is no greater privilege or opportunity in the world than to influence the heart and mind of a child with love and diligent leadership, both of which require great personal sacrifice if they are to be effective.
I hope you see the opportunity you have to fill them up with love, deposit wisdom into their hearts, teach and correct them with gentleness, build trust and security, establish connection and communication—all of these big things in these little years. If we don’t make the investment now, we are not going to magically have any of those things with them later, when they are up against bigger challenges with higher stakes. Little seeds grow up into big things.
If our homes and our arms are not a soft place to fall a safe place to learn and grow and make mistakes, where else will they find that respite, connection, and peace? Not with us. For this reason, I take the pursuit of my children’s hearts incredibly seriously.
Something that encourages me: perfection is not required to have a good relationship with a child, but it does take the daily intention to clear away whatever is unnecessary to make room for what is lovely and life-giving between my children and myself.
This is soulful simplicity: parenting edition.
My goal every day is to consider my child’s heart, not just their behavior. As such, the following things are the practical things I try to do when responding to them through all the challenges we run into.
Get quiet, get close. I don’t know about you, but it takes a hot second for me to go from calm to boiling mad at some of the things my children do. My natural response is to yell. I hate that. A wise mama-friend I met a few years ago gave me some advice that I think about often. She said to me, “When your children are acting out, instead of raising your voice, make it quieter so they have to lean in and come close to hear you. Diffuse and disarm, instead of escalating situations with your own anger.” I have been hanging on those words ever since. It is not easy, but I can tell you, it is effective. Without flares of anger to cloud my judgement, I am able to make much more thoughtful and strategic parenting choices.
Be attentive. Listen to your child share about what is on their mind and heart. You can love your children well by listening to them, and don’t be surprised what you learn from them. I do believe I have learned more from my children than I have learned anywhere else. It’s remarkable, really.
Look for ways to nurture your connection. Tenderness goes a long way, even when you have to wear your parenting pants. You children need your leadership, but they need it with love and communication. The goal is to journey together—learning and growing in your respective roles—and that happens best when your relationship is built on tenderness and trust.
“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Psalm 127:3-5a
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