I’m sure it seems a bit silly to point out we need to know our children. And yet, I think it is harder than we might initially think. I truly believe keeping babies – even newborns, wait, especially newborns – on a routine helps you to know them as well as you can. When things are predictable you begin to know their tired sounds, their fussy sounds, and their hungry sounds. Cues that everyone else might miss you begin to pick up on immediately. Then, as they go from babies to toddlers you begin to see glimpses of their personality and what makes them come alive.
From toddlers to preschooler to child to tween to teen and on. They will grow up and become the person God made them to be. I believe it can happen that children and their parents co-exist without their children really knowing them. It’s like the parent who always tried to get their son to forget about painting, to study law and play baseball.,Then, halfway through the first year of law school, acts shocked when the son drops out and goes to an art academy.
Why is it so important that we truly know our children?
1. To help train them for the future.
If you don’t know your children’s strengths, weaknesses and passions how can you possibly prepare them for the future? Children respond differently to both happy and stressful situations. One child may bravely jump into the fray and others are very reluctant to give their opinion or attract attention to themselves. By helping nurture and train to your individual child’s own personality and temperament you’ll help prepare them for the future. Like my friend’s daughter who spent the party in another room alone to recharge, we need to teach them how to deal with themselves. If they have a quick temper, they’ll need to learn how to control it. If they are fearful of failure, they’ll need to be given plenty of opportunities to try, fail, get back up again under the comfort of your own home. Natural spenders will need to learn to save and natural savers will need to learn to not always be tight. Knowing your children will help you prepare them for adulthood well.
2. So you don’t “miss all the signs.”
If something traumatic happens in the life of your child and you are paying attention, you will notice it. Because I’m with the children day in and day out, I can notice something is amiss long before my husband does. It isn’t because he doesn’t love them or spend time with them, it’s because I’ve put more time in and can tell when even a little thing is off. I don’t care what the doctor says or doesn’t say, whether a tooth is showing, or whether they are saying “I’m tired” or not, I am pretty good at figuring out what’s going on. If, God forbid, there is a case of abuse or bullying they are scared to share with you, if you know them then you’ll be able to figure it out. At least you’ll be able to know that you must dig deeper. If your children start drastically changing behavior then that’s a warning sign you need to look closer. The better you know them, the sooner you’ll pick it up.
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3. So they feel accepted for who they are.
Just like we can’t change our husbands or our friends, we can’t change our children. Oh yes, we can mold their characters and help them make better choices by guiding well, but we can’t change their God-given personalities. When you hone in on your child’s love language, you make them feel loved for being themselves. This is especially important if you have one child who is different from the rest. Three rambunctious children and one quiet reserved one, perhaps. By singling out each child and giving them the love and attention they need – not just equal attention amongst siblings – then they will feel truly accepted. I know my son loves physical contact so if we are reading a book and I hold him, that is often enough. My daughter needs one-on-one time and if she doesn’t get it, she lashes out at her other siblings. Is that okay? No. Is it simply a symptom of something deeper? Yes.
4. To help them find their sweet spot.
In day-to-day life, if you know your children, you will see areas in which they excel. Some may be great writers, artists or leaders. Some may be able to take apart and put things back together with surprising skills. Some will have excellent memories or tell fascinating stories. The more you know your children the more you’ll be able to draw out their talents and passions and help cultivate them. Why have your child in 4 extra-curricular activities they don’t give a rip for when you could put the in one they really do? It’s okay if you hone in one a particular skill or passion and forget about some others. The marketplace and colleges actually do prefer some expert knowledge or “lopsidedness” as opposed to being well-rounded. Why? Because you don’t want the engineer building your bridge to be well-rounded, you want them to be an expert. Who wants their pastor to be great at skiing, but not even have read the Bible all the way through? Know them, learn their passions, and help fuel the fires.
I want to know my children. I want them to know that I know them and love them. I want them to know themselves and to feel good about themselves. I believe that the more effort we give to loving our kids and finding out who they really are, the more the entire family will be enriched. Meaningful conversations, not simply “how was your day?” Talking about dreams and planning together instead of rushing back and forth from one thing to the next. From birth we can begin to observe, catalog and get to know our children’s physical needs. Then later their personalities, desires and passions. No matter what they might say, they want us to know them. They want us to know them and love them, and what a privileged position we are in to be able to do so.
I enjoyed this article – I don’t think it’s something that, as mothers, we can be reminded of enough; especially while trying to keep up the routines, check-off the mental to-do lists, be the friend, the wife, the daughter, etc.
Sometimes I find myself getting in the mindset of being the ‘keeper’ or minder of my kids and not much else.
I keep them safe, provide (mostly) nutritious meals and make sure that all the appointments, play dates, educational and spiritual boxes are ticked, but sometimes forget to be mindful and/or intentional about constantly re-discovering (because let’s face it – at this young age their brains and personality’s are constantly being shaped and molded by all the new stuff they take in) and nurturing my own child.
The more mindful I am of this imbalance, the more I am convinced that some of the routine has to change or some of my/our commitments have to be cut – so that I can be an invested nurturer – not just a loving minder.
I loved what you said at the end about lopsidedness. A good reminder of the adage that goes something along the lines of: “A jack-of-all-trades is rarely a master at one”.
Thanks for writing!
Rachel Norman says
Great thoughts, K! And you are so right that the quest to do it all often leaves the most important things undone!