Mothering Little Ones
Principle and Practice
Principle and Practice
Feeling overwhelmed? Like you are on a treadmill that won’t stop going faster and faster? Like you could take your head off and set it down because of lack of sleep? Like you will never get past this stage of life? Wondering if the vacuum will hold up to the abuse of any more Legos sucked up in it? You must be a MOMYS - “mother of many young siblings”! (There’s actually a website with this title with lots of good tips and encouragement. www.momys.com) I’ve been where you are and, believe it or not, secretly wish sometimes that those days were back! Don’t get me wrong; I’m enjoying each stage of my children’s growth. But there is something special about those years when they were all young. My dad always reminded me, “These are the hardest years, but these are the best years.” My oldest is now 24 and my youngest is 14, so I’m not really so far from the way things were just 10 years ago when they were all young. Here are some principles to remind you of what is really true...lest your emotions try to tell you differently. And some practical tips to help you truly enjoy these years more.
❶ Children are a gift from the Lord. Psalm 127:3 reminds us that “children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” So when your four-year-old refuses to obey, your two-year-old gets sick all over the covers for the third time that night, when you can’t settle the fussy baby, when siblings fight over a toy....remember the priceless value of your children. They are gifts straight from God to you. Your home is like a nursery for God, a safe place to train up His future soldiers. He knew exactly which kind of children you needed and would be good at raising. He planned it all out in eternity past and knew each little one even in your womb. They are a gift. And are with you such a short time in light of eternity. So treasure the presents God gives you!
❷We reap what we sow. Galatians 6:7 says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” When we lived in Michigan we had a garden for 6 or 7 years and can vouch for the validity of this principle. We got what we planted (most of the time, unless the deer, woodchucks, rabbits or squash beetles got it first!). Determine what you want to produce in the lives of your children and even your grandchildren. Now is planting time, not reaping time. Don’t be discouraged...harvest will come, but make sure you’ve planted what is good so there is a good harvest. Sit down with your husband and discuss what it is that you want to plant in the hearts of your children. Here are some questions to stimulate your discussion:
How can I help my children realize that the Scriptures are absolute truth?
How can I help them learn to reflect the character of Christ?
How can we direct their hearts toward their father?
How can we teach them to be kind to one another and sensitive to the needs of others?
How will they learn to honor their elders?
After jotting down your answers to those questions and any others you think and talk about, now implement what needs to be done while their hearts are tender and their character easily molded. Make specific changes and then evaluate how things are going in 6 months and a year from now. Yes, our children have sin natures, but who will teach them these good things if we do not? Ultimately, the Lord holds us responsible with the years we have to form their lives while they are in our homes. What we plant now, we will reap later. Most of the time, I find it is me that needs changing first if I am going to find the wisdom and strength to teach them to my children. Help us, Lord.
❸The third principle to remember is “This too shall pass.” The difficulties you are experiencing right now will some day be gone. You may face even bigger ones! But at least, the things you think are difficult right now will pass. A dear older godly lady, Shirley Russell, reminded me of that many times over the years. Now that I’m older, I see the truth of it. She was right! (Thank you, Lord, for the wisdom of the older women at our church!) And keep in mind, not only do the difficulties pass, but the special joys also pass. No longer will you feel the squeeze of your snugly toddler’s love, no longer will you sing a quiet lullaby to a fussy baby in the stillness of the night, no longer will you watch them take their first steps or play their first piano solo or hear their first prayer or Sunday school verse. These treasured moments will be memories. They will pass and you will wonder where the years went when there are no more fingerprints on the windows, or Legos on the floor or in the vacuum, or your boy calls home from college. Enjoy this time. Don’t wish this time gone so quickly. It will be anyway!
❶ Temper your expectations. Remember your children are just that....children. Not adults yet. They don’t think like adults and can’t perform household tasks like adults. I start with this one because it is something hard for me. This doesn’t mean you don’t work with them to learn, but appreciate their efforts and help them do better next time. Praise what they do right!
❷ Teach precept upon precept. This means buying up the teachable moments. It means spending time talking with them, not just to them. Use bedtimes and other quiet moments to share your life’s story, family memories of God’s work in your lives, prayer requests, and special traditions. You don’t have to teach them everything today! Just teach today what you can through the events and circumstances of the day. If we taught or reinforced just one truth per day for 18 years, just think how many that is over those many years. When you change a diaper, give a bath, dress a toddler, feed a child...have a specific song or Scripture verse to sing or quote on those occasions. At our house, diaper changes were times to quote all of Genesis 1; nursing times were to sing “Jesus Paid It All”; bath time was to sing “Gone, Gone, Gone, Now My Sins are Gone”; and rocking time was to sing “A Shelter in the Time of Storm.” Surely, a tiny infant didn’t understand all of what was being said, but his mind and heart were being programmed in the truths of God. Now those verses and songs are special and remembered. Precept upon precept!
❸ Have a plan. Prepare ahead of the difficulties. Come armed with a plan of attack. Step back a few minutes to evaluate. Ask older women for help and advice. Get your husband’s insight. Here are a few tips to help you. Why not try one?
√ Use the crock pot for supper meals. Get it going early in the day so supper prep is not so stressful.
√ Use the playpen to keep a little one safe while you get some chores done for a half hour or an hour. If a young child can still see you and hear you, and he has some toys to play with, this time will not harm him. And it will help you get some things done in short time intervals.
√Use your little one’s nap time to its fullest. Try to plan the tasks you need to get done during that time. Maybe it’s read to an older child or finish up dishes.
√ Keep a list handy of things the little ones can do. Sometimes when things were really crazy, I couldn’t think off the top of my head of something to occupy them. Post a chart of options in a visible place.
√ Teach your young children to enjoy looking at good books. Lots of them. We always had a regular rest time in the afternoon for everyone. Even the older ones who didn’t need a nap, had a quiet time with a stack of books on their bed. “Rest time, best time” we called it. Also, just before Bud came home from work, I would often have everyone find a place to sit in the living room and look quietly at books until he came in the door. This helped me finish up supper prep and calmed our home before meal time. Mmmmm....maybe I’ll try that again now!☺
√ Play happy, quality music that is classical or worshipful throughout the day. Lively, rambunctious music is okay at times, but children can also appreciate beautiful, peaceful music if you train them young.
√ Read quality books to your children. Have regular reading times throughout the day and before bedtime. This teaches them so much: a well-developed appreciation for good literature, an extended attention span, a rich vocabulary and a love for reading that will go with them through life.
❹ Lastly, learn to laugh and delight in your children. This doesn’t mean excusing their disobedience or making them the family clowns and entertainment, but it mean truly enjoying them.
Listen to them, enjoy the delights of their special new experiences, play their little games, see the world through their simplicity. Actually they have much to teach us since Jesus told us that we must become like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Their humility and trusting faith in God is an example for us all.
One of the best things I’ve enjoyed about being in ministry for over 25 years is that I’ve been able to see the teens we’ve worked with grow up and start their families. I delight in seeing them cuddling infants, chasing toddlers and training up the next generation. Hang in there! Hold on to God; seek His wisdom. At this stage of your lives, “look well to the ways of your household and eat not the bread of idleness” for one day your “children will rise up and call you blessed, and your husband also.” (My paraphrase of Proverbs 31: 27-28)
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