One year, rather than a class on how to teach children, I went to a parenting workshop at the homeschool convention. I would have to say that was, by far, the best workshop I ever sat in on.
The speakers were the Quines of Cornerstone Curriculum. Have you ever heard of them? God has blessed them with so much wisdom. I have pages of notes I took, and every word they spoke was worthwhile, but there was one thing they said that went straight to my heart.
"Right now you are setting the tone for a relationship with your child that will last for the rest of your lives."
Whew-don't feel any pressure now, ok?
Thankfully they went on to share some very practical advice on how to set a good, loving, healthy tone for that relationship. They started out by drawing two hearts on the chalk board, with strings tying them together, like this:
One of those hearts is yours, the other, your child's. When you have a baby that baby comes with pre-packaged heart strings and they're all attached to you; millions of them; tiny little lines of love, trust, and need. That baby is absolutely certain you will care for and protect him, regardless of his behavior.
No other person on the planet will have the influence you do on that child. And, with every word you utter, every hug or slap, every look or sigh, you are affecting those tiny strings. You can fray them or sever them, or you can add to them, making that bond between the two of you even stronger.
Harshness will close his spirit; it will cut those precious strings and your hearts will begin to lose that precious connection.
What we need to do is look deeply into our child's heart-and see him the way God sees him. Remember God made that child-He gave your son or daughter gifts and strengths and a character all his own. Look for those giftings and strengths and point them out to your child. Frequently. Look into his eyes and tell him he is unique. There is no one else on earth just like him, nor will there ever be. God created him and God wants to use him to give and love and serve those around him. Give him practical examples of ways God could use his strengths and gifts in the lives of other people. Tell him you're so very proud of him and thankful for him.
Use your tongue to praise your child; encourage him and build him up. He needs your confidence and your trust. Let him know you trust him to make wise choices, even if deep in your heart you're doubtful. He doesn't need to know that. Most children, (and this applies to teens as well) want to live up to your expectations. Trust your child, but really trust the Lord.
Lay that child in God's arms on a regular basis and ask Him to make that child the person God wants him to be. Ask the Lord to help your child make those wise choices. (Your offspring doesn't need to know you're doing that either. That's just between you and the maker of that child.)
Even during times of disciplining your child you can build him up and love on him. That's not easy to do, especially when all you want to do is call the nearest orphanage and hand him over.
Sometimes it takes incredible self-control to discipline a child in love and with patience because usually by the time discipline is needed, your patience is gone. That's when you lay yourself in God's arms and ask Him to do it. Ask Him to help you teach and train your child without breaking his spirit or fraying even one tiny string.
As you go throughout your days, ask Him to help you love your child unconditionally and strengthen those heart strings. Ask Him for the strength to do that day after day after day after day.....it's only through His strength we can do anything.
One of my favorite bible verses is Galatians 6:9. I have it written out on a card and have had that card stuck on the cabinet in our kitchen for years. I guess it's become my life-long parenting verse:
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.