Let them LEAN on you!

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at the recent convention in St. Louis; met some awesome folks, enjoyed good fellowship, and were happy to see some of you there as well. (A special thanks to Phyllis Wheeler of Motherboard Books, and her gracious family, for hosting us on Thursday and Friday nights!)

One of you whom we met was Laurie, and I had to mention her by name because she stopped by our table every day! We even got to meet her husband, which was super except that now I’ve forgotten his name (sorry!). I know that Laurie’s husband was at Marc’s seminar on Budgets and Schedules, and both of them attended my talk on Friday—“Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers, Oh My! Successfully Integrating Little Ones into Your Homeschool.” Though I touched upon many different topics during that hour, Laurie’s husband thought up a really neat acronym to sum up the heart of what I had said in regards to our little ones, our relationship with them, and their needs. I was so tickled by it that I just had to share! Perhaps it will help you to remember some of the things that you can consistently do to help your children feel loved. This is so foundational to successful parenting that we will all benefit from the reminder—no matter what the ages of our children. So here goes:

Your children need to be able to L.E.A.N. on you. Here are some of the foundational things that they require: Love, Encouragement, Attention, and Nurture. Though I talked about these four things specifically in relation to our littlest ones in the context of homeschooling, I’m going to expand on those thoughts here.

Love: The area of my greatest weakness is the whole First Corinthians verse about love being “patient and kind” and “not self-seeking.” I have to admit, I am too easily frustrated with the constant activity, the mess, the interruptions, and the sheer volume of children who all want my attention. Not to mention, I do sometimes get selfish about my time and am apt to follow my own agenda when really I need to be more involved and more responsive to the children. I am a work in progress on this score, so I’m preaching to myself here, too. Every day I try my best…and some days are better than others. However, I’m always willing to confess my shortcomings when they are evident, and make sure that my kids know that I am working on truly being “loving” of them in the way that God wants me to.

Children need to know that they are loved, and our actions truly do speak louder than our words. I’m sure I’m not the only Mom who is glad to let my kids go run around in the yard for an hour or so in the afternoon; the quiet in the house is sooo nice! On the other hand, sometimes I rush them out and I know that they probably get the impression that I really don’t want them inside with me! However, that’s the exact opposite of what the Lord wants me to convey to my kids. He wants me to let them know that they are always welcome to be a part of whatever I am doing. And occasionally I need to be involved in what they are doing—I want to show them that I enjoy being a part of their world. My husband is better at this than I am; he’s the “fun guy” and I suppose I am more functional. So I really have to play doll house with my girls “on purpose” and look and listen when my boys are telling me about their latest project (even if, just maybe, they know more about electrical wiring than I do!)

Displays of affection are never out of place, from a pat on the back to a ruffling of hair or of course a hug and kiss. A private wink at just the right time always is sure to return a smile, and your own smile is a sure way to let your kids know you love them.

But of course we need to use words, too. I try to tell my kids that I love them often and remind them of reasons why they are special to me. They also need to know that God made them as unique individuals and has a special plan and purpose for them. Most importantly, we can remind them of God’s love by pointing them back to the reality and truth of the Gospel and that, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Encouragement: To pick on myself here again, I am one of those people who has a tendency to be critical…you know, glass half-empty. That’s just one more thing that I constantly try to be aware of and improve upon. Instead of focusing on what the children “didn’t” do, or pick out the ways they fell short (whether in their attitudes and behaviors, school work, or quality of work during their daily chores), I purpose to point out where they did well and what they have done that has been pleasing to God.

As well, I try to encourage them in the Biblical sense, according to Hebrews 3:13. We are told to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” I believe that one of our most important roles as parents is to exhort our children with God’s Word and show them how to live, both by our words and our best example, so that they will go forward in their walk with God and not be easily entangled by sin.

In our home, we also encourage our children to encourage each other. When one of the children makes a disparaging remark about another, like, “You didn’t do a very good job cleaning up your room,” we’ll intervene and say, “You know what, God wants us to encourage each other. Your brother did his best work but of course he is younger than you, so it might not be the same as what you are capable of. So instead, why don’t you say, ‘Hey, you worked really hard. You only missed a couple of things—let me help you finish up!’” This process often takes a lot of consistent modeling and encouragement on our part, but it is always nice to hear the children lifting each other up and complimenting each other because we have made that consistent investment of time in character training.

Attention: Sometimes it’s hard to give my children individual attention, since life gets busy and there are many of them. However, it is important! Even if I am in the midst of schooling the older children, I try to keep my little ones accessible so that they know I am “there” for them. Even if I’m technically doing something else, visual attention helps, as well as the ability to provide immediate direction (or re-direction) as needed.

I make sure to look at my children when they are talking to me…although I’m sure there are times when I’m guilty of absently replying, “uh-huh…” as I continue what I was doing, totally oblivious to what they’ve said. It also makes them feel valued when I ask questions about what they’ve said or show excitement by sharing their news with someone else in the family.

We try to make sure we do things individually with each child as well, though it doesn’t happen as often as we would like. Sometimes it’s just simple things, like playing a game of tic-tac-toe or checkers, snuggling on the couch with a book, or having one of the children be my meal-preparation helper so we can talk while we work.

The most important thing I need to keep in mind when it comes to giving my kids adequate attention is just to try to enjoy everyday moments with them. Sometimes it’s easy to get in the mode of “managing” rather than “ministering” to their needs, so I try to make sure to maintain eye contact, smile more frequently, make time for conversation, and look for opportunities to connect with the children no matter what we are doing. It’s okay that life is busy sometimes, as long as we are busy together. I find that it’s when I try to distract the kids with a video too many, or send them off to play by themselves for too long, that they seek attention through misbehavior. I think often of the proverb, “A child left to himself disgraces his mother.” Unfortunately, it’s true! However, proactively giving our kids the attention they need helps keep everybody on the right track.

Nurture: It’s hard to talk about nurture without reiterating some of what has been said already. However, nurture is slightly different. Dictionary.com defines nurture as “to feed and protect,” as well as “to bring up; train; educate.” So for me, nurture has two distinct elements. One is to make sure that my children’s physical needs are met. My little ones get small snacks mid-morning and mid-afternoon even if the older kids no longer need them. I offer water or watered-down juice regularly for proper hydration, try to balance quiet and active times, insure that the little ones get their afternoon naps, and make sure that everyone gets a good nights’ sleep.

Beyond that, spiritual nurture is key. We consistently bring God’s Word into our family’s everyday experiences and try to model living a life that is pleasing to God. When we fall short (which we often do), we admit that with all humility and point our children once again to Jesus, who will never let us down. We are faithful to our twice-daily family devotions and make sure that the kids have their individual quiet times as well. Although these “doings” don’t guarantee that we will all “be” the people that God wants us to be, we believe that we are laying important foundations and developing habits that will lead to godliness, as God works in our children’s hearts to help them desire and seek after Him.

These thoughts most certainly reflect things that you already know; but, again, we all (myself included!) only benefit from an occasional reminder. Our children, and their eternal walk with the Lord, are too important for us to drop the ball in these vital areas. We as parents have moments of disobedience, moments of selfishness, and times when we get discouraged and want to give up. However, we need to press on in this vital calling that God has placed before us. With that in mind, consider how you can help your children LEAN on you today, by providing them with the Love, Encouragement, Attention, and Nurture that they need.

2 thoughts on “Let them LEAN on you!

  1. Wow… exactly what I needed tonight, as I lie in bed wondering how I’m going to ‘do it all’ tomorrow!! Our challenge of homeschooling older kids has the newly added dimension of our two new adoptees… a 14 month old and a 4 1/2 year old who do not speak any English and understand only a phrase or two! Your words are very encouraging — and spoke to my heart about the condition of my demeanor! Thanks for your devotion to family!

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