I am trying to remind myself that my children are people, not projects. Here are the ways I'm doing that.
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I made a list of problems to address. There were a few issues I was having so I did some research and came up with a few peer-reviewed strategies. I gathered some supplies and knew what outcomes I wanted. I broke down the major goal into smaller daily tasks and I was pretty sure three weeks would do it — but added in a week for wiggle room. At the end of the day, I mentally reviewed all the problems that had come up and established ways to fix them.
Unfortunately, this was not a new project I was tackling for work; no, this was how I was approaching raising my children!
I’ve noticed I fall into this rut of seeing my kids as projects to tackle rather than people to love. And that’s a problem. It’s fine to have goals for your kids, certainly. But, instead of seeing their individuality and delighting in them, I was noticing their deviation from my projected outcomes for them and their inability to “get with my program.”
My program has involved fixing their behavior issues, but also living in a place of relative order and calm, and also taking care of my relationships and volunteer work and other commitments.In fact, I have realized that all of the focus on their behavior is just a way to make me feel like I’m connecting with them and parenting them well—but it doesn’t require me to give them my full attention or time at any point in the day.I half-heartedly and distractedly spend time with them so that I can half-accomplish everything else on my plate.
All of this hit me solidly on the head when I was doing an examination of conscience one night. I could see that I was very focused on how I had failed to love friends and strangers well, specifically asking myself how I failed to see and love Jesus in these acquaintances. But, when it came to how I loved my own family, I just blew off the question “Do I see Jesus in them?” Sure, I did, and maybe I wasn’t loving them well, but they didn’t matter that much—I see them all of the time.
Then it hit me. If I need to see Jesus in the random stranger at the store, then I definitely need to see Him in my husband and kids—especially because I see them all the time!
Holy moly, how had I been missing this?
I have the opportunity to love these people so well. And I get chance after chance to become even better at loving them daily and hourly. That one phrase, “Do you see Jesus in them?” has stuck with me ever since.
I’ve collected other people’s tips on little tangible ways to delight in my kids, to savor their uniqueness, and to help them feel known and loved. Trying to implement some or all of these tips at different times is helping me remember “you’re a person, not a project” as I love them and see Jesus in them. I wanted to share what I’m doing in case you tend to approach parenting like this, too.
Greeting them with delight
Saying things like “Good morning! It’s so good to see you!”
Spending 10 uninterrupted minutes with them in an intentional way
Working on a project together while taking, or reading books together and discussing the stories or pictures as we read.
Especially when they’re little …
Doing things I enjoy with them, and choosing to not do things with them that I hate.
Complimenting them on specific actions at least once a day
It’s easy to criticize or correct, but making a point to say something complimentary each day.
Calling out and/or saying their names with joy and not frustration
Instead of only calling my child by name when I am reprimanding him or her, I try to make sure to use his name lovingly throughout the day, too.
Ending each day on a positive note
Making a point to do this at bedtime with a pleasant (and pleasantly executed) bedtime ritual ends the day on a wonderful note.