Building Lasting Relationships with Your Kids
by Leslie Ludy
Every evening, my husband and I have a little tradition. As we are crawling into bed, Eric asks me, “Remember the kiddos?” which prompts me to recount several funny, quirky, and/or adorable things our little munchkins did that day. Like our five-year-old son, Kip, announcing that he had the “peacocks,” which meant he had the hiccups. He also told the babysitter that he had a “mustache” on his arm, which meant he had a rash. (We are still working on his vocabulary skills, but for now it’s entertaining to hear what he comes up with.) Or our eight-year-old son, Hudson, setting up “Hudson’s Toy Store” in his bedroom and doing a high-pressure sales job on every unsuspecting person who enters our home, selling random articles from around the house. There was a great sale going on today; I got a pair of swim trunks, a baby hair bow, and a well-used book—all for twenty-five cents.
Such anecdotes are precious to a parent’s heart. But in the bustle of daily life, we often forget these priceless moments unless we take the time to savor and enjoy them. Our nightly tradition cultivates a deeper tenderness and appreciation for the children God has given us and refreshes our perspective as parents. Instead of only focusing on the challenges of parenting or on a discipline issue, it helps us remember that our children truly are a blessing from the hand of God—not just a duty or responsibility.
As busy moms, it’s sometimes easy to get caught up in the logistics of managing our home and disciplining our children but forget to build lasting relationships with our kids. I remember hearing a time-management message from a homeschooling mother of seven. For the most part, her household seemed to run like clockwork. But when asked if she ever spent one-on-one time building relationships with her children, she replied, “Very little! I just don’t have time for that with everything else I’m doing.”
It made me sad to hear that response. I’m a big fan of order, cleanliness, and organization in the home. But I’ve learned that those things shouldn’t become my end goal. Rather, they should merely be tools that help enable me to spend time on what matters most: building strong relationships with my children and leading them to Jesus Christ.
Titus 2:4-5 says, “Admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers . . .” Becoming an excellent homemaker is of great importance in God’s eyes, but it’s not at the top of the list—loving our husband and children must come first.
We can (and should) show love to our spouse and kids by tending to their practical needs and managing our homes well. But we must also show love to them by spending purposeful time with them, becoming a trusted depository for their hopes, dreams, and struggles, and appreciating the unique person they are becoming.
This is not an easy balance to find. As a ministry leader, wife, and mother of four young children, my biggest challenge in life is keeping all my plates spinning while also spending purposeful time with my kids. But I frequently remind myself that the things that God calls us to, He also equips us for. As I have sought His wisdom for building meaningful relationships with my kids amid the hustle and bustle of daily life, I’ve learned three key principles that I have found extremely helpful:
1.) Embrace Memory-Making Moments
As a mom who loves order and routine, it would be easy for me to spend all my time organizing, planning, scheduling, and cleaning rather than enjoying my kids. But I don’t want to look back in twenty years and remember an orderly home devoid of meaningful family relationships. So each week, I try to be intentional about making memories with my kids. This sometimes requires putting my to-do list on hold while I listen to their little speeches, show enthusiasm for their new discoveries and accomplishments, take time to examine and admire a roly-poly with them, or chase them around the backyard while they giggle hysterically. It’s not always easy to pause my tasks and make time to build relationships with my kids. But I must remind myself that embracing those purposeful, memory-making moments with my children is usually a far more significant accomplishment than checking my email.
Remember that time with your children doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive to be meaningful. Your children will feel valued and loved knowing that you set aside time just to focus on being with them.
The other day I took my girls to a learning store and let them pick out several sheets of glittery stickers and some white paper. Then we took the items to a nearby bakery and worked on creating a “sticker masterpiece” while enjoying the rare privilege of eating a frosted doughnut. The excursion only took about an hour and didn’t cost much. But the girls talked about it for days afterward.
A hike in the woods or a rock-skipping session at a nearby lake can become a memory that will last a lifetime. So can a cup of hot chocolate while reading a book together on the couch. You don’t need a trip to Disneyland to create precious memories with your children. What your kids want most of all is thoughtful, focused, and purposeful time with you.
2.) Slow Down and Enjoy Them
Everyone is always telling me how fast kids grow up. But I believe that if we slow down and savor the moments we have with our children every day, we will not one day feel like the years with them passed us by, because we took time to treasure and enjoy them.
Sometimes we moms can become so busy and overwhelmed that we overlook the built-in “laughter therapy” that God has given us right in our own family. When I am juggling a lot of tasks, discipline issues, and responsibilities, it is not easy to take time to delight in my kids. But kids are hilarious. They say funny and precious things nearly every day.
One of the ways to appreciate these moments is to listen when children are talking, instead of just “zone out” and respond with a distracted “uh huh.” For me, this is much easier said than done! Often in our home four little voices chatter at me simultaneously. I try to make a habit of getting eye level with my kids whenever they are trying to tell me something specific, such as a detailed description of their playtime antics, or a crazy dream they had. Looking them in the eye helps me focus on what they are saying, and shows them that I value their thoughts and ideas. It helps me pay attention and take time to notice the cute and quirky statements that come out of their mouths and the way their personalities are developing.
Of course, it’s not always practical to get down on their level, look them in the eye, and listen intently to our kids. But as much as possible, I try to pay attention when they talk, respond with enthusiasm and interest, ask questions, and take delight in their thoughts, ideas, and accomplishments.
Whenever one of our kids says something funny or unique, I try to write it down on my computer before I forget it. Then during our nightly ritual of remembering the kiddos, I recount these things to Eric so we can both get a good chuckle out of them.
Remember that God hasn’t given you children merely for the purpose of training and disciplining them, but also so you can enjoy them and delight in them. Taking time to appreciate the uniqueness of your children will help them feel even more special and loved, and it will add a refreshing splash of humor and sparkle to your motherhood role.
3.) Show Sacrificial Love
Motherhood is filled with opportunities for sacrificial love. Sometimes it’s a major sacrifice—like turning down a much-desired career or ministry opportunity in order to put our kids first, or staying up all night nursing a sick child. But other times, it’s in the smaller, everyday decisions when we must be willing to get out of our comfort zone for the sake of our kids; to put aside our own selfish wants in order to do what’s best for them.
For example, I’m not much of a “come on over to our place and hang out” kind of mom; but my son, Hudson, loves to host themed parties for his friends. I’ve made the deliberate choice to get out of my comfort zone and host several lively kiddo parties at our house this past year, as a special blessing for my son. Being an introvert, this is not always easy for me. But I remind myself that the special memories that these parties create for Hudson will last much longer than the temporary mess, noise, and chaos I must endure.
I’m not very gifted in the area of arts and crafts. Actually, that’s a huge understatement. Most craft projects completely overwhelm me as I stare blankly at the directions for twenty minutes trying to make sense of them. But my four-year-old daughter loves to create. So I’ve become purposeful about doing creative projects with her several times a week, despite the fact that her artwork usually turns out better than mine. (When I say I’m not artistic, I’m really not kidding!) I know that it means a lot to my little one that I am willing to do these activities with her despite my lack of skill.
These are just a couple of small ways in which God has challenged me to put aside my own preferences in order to bring joy to my children’s hearts and show them, even in little ways, a glimpse of Christ’s sacrificial love. I’m certainly not a finished product in this area. God always seems to be pinpointing new arenas where I need to replace selfishness with sacrificial love. But by His grace, it is my desire to get out of my comfort zone as often as He prompts me to, so that I can love my children the way He loves me.
Not long ago our family was in a restaurant, and Eric and I were helping each of the kids color while we waited for our food. The waitress commented how unusual it was to see a family doing something together while eating out. “Normally Mom and Dad are texting or checking email on their phones, and the kids are playing games on their iPads. Families don’t talk to each other anymore,” she told us sadly.
How easy it is in our modern age to be around our kids, and not really be with them! I’ve been guilty many times of checking my phone when I should have been engaging with my children. Positive memories are not made when we merely spend time around our kids, but when we focus on them. So ask your kids questions, listen to their stories, and engage in conversation as you spend time together. (And turn off your phone if it helps you focus better!)
When you look back on the years you shared with your family, you will not remember the way your pantry was organized or how many friends you had on Facebook. What will stand out are the memories that were made when you took the time to cultivate lasting relationships with your children.
So by God’s grace, let’s make these precious years count.
Leslie Ludy is the bestselling author and speaker with a passion for helping women become set apart for Christ. She and her husband, Eric, have published over twenty books with well over a million copies in print. Her newest book, Set Apart Motherhood, offers Christ-centered solutions for the daily challenges of motherhood. Visit Leslie at www.setapartmotherhood.com.
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