I often use the phrase “enjoy your children” as a tactic to improve the child’s obedience and the parent’s tolerance for disobedience. But let me say that I enjoy my children–not because I want them to obey but because they do. Let me make that clear, the work we have done on obedience is what enables me to enjoy my children.
We all go through phases with our children. When they are babies, we are completely enamored. Our children can do no wrong, and they are the most beautiful creatures on the planet. Then, they hit about 18 months and things start to go awry. It’s when they hit that “terrible two’s” stage that we parents are challenged to assert our authority and effectively direct our children and teach them important values. Their assertion of independence must be counterbalanced by our teachings to respect others, respect our things, and respect authority.
Now that my boys are older and much of this work has been done, I can say that I genuinely enjoy my children. And it’s clear to me that I enjoy my children not because they have outgrown the terrible two’s or simply because they are older. I enjoy my children because they are beginning to internalize and reflect the values we have taught.
Just tonight, Lucas and I were being silly and joking around with each other while we waited for the shower to be free. It was that small moment, amid the sometimes chaotic bedtime routine, that made me realize how much I truly love these kids. And I love them not because they are my offspring. I love them for the people they have become. They are funny, smart, friendly, creative, affectionate, confident, lovable, loyal, and spirited.
Don’t get me wrong: we do have our challenges (especially with William’s sensory issues), but we are now entering an era where the fun times outweigh the challenging ones.
We have begun homeschooling this year. It’s a journey I never expected of myself or for my children. However, we came to homeschooling naturally, and we are loving it so far. But what strikes me is that when I mention homeschooling to many moms, they ask me how I can stand to be around my kids all day. I often wonder how these moms can stand being away from their children for so many hours in the day!
My kids feel the same way. When we were first discussing the idea of homeschooling, William said to me, “Mommy, I want to homeschool because when I go to school I don’t get to see you.” What a way to melt a mom’s heart!
The Ezzos discuss this shift from leading by our authority to leading by our influence and relationship:
“Knowing what to expect and when to expect it is the key to the healthy balance between leading by authority and leading by influence. It all comes down to this simple principle: External motivations that once governed the child’s life are replaced by internal beliefs that rule from the heart. Moral maturity emancipates the child, allowing him to direct his own behavior in harmony with family values,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 95).
And it is only from our teaching of family values that we can ensure that they will rule from the heart in a way that we appreciate. Notice that we don’t simply wait for them to get older and outgrow any selfishness or a lack of self control that may guide their actions and emotions. We actively teach our values so that when they reach the age that selflessness and self control becomes more easy to attain, their moral warehouse is full, and they draw upon the values that we have instilled.
So put in your work while they are young and you will reap the rewards in spades!