Children need training and discipline. But you know what they need more?
A couple weeks ago, I took my eight-year-old daughter to the Secret Keeper Girl Crazy Hair Tour. It involved a whole lot of hairspray and glitter and preteen girls screaming at the top of their lungs—all things I otherwise try to avoid.
But this was special one-on-one time with my firstborn, and sitting in the auditorium with her, whispering in her ear, holding her hand, it was like God opened my eyes to see her in a new light. She is growing up and into her unique personality. She is lovely and confident and faithful. She loves Jesus. She loves her mom.
And I wonder what I’ve done to deserve that.
Because up until that evening, I realized, I’d gotten into the habit of doing life with my kids, but not actually breathing life into them. And my older daughter gets the added pressure of being, well, older—so really isn’t it high time she figures out how to pick up her paper scraps and put her shoes where they belong. Most days I follow her around the house barking and jabbing like a cattle prod.
Don’t leave those books there. I just cleared the table.
Please stop cracking your knuckles, it’s a terrible habit.
Do your homework—then practice piano then study your verses then help your sister in the shower and NO, there’s no time left for making bracelets before bed. Can’t you see we’re on a schedule here?
Then by the end of a long day, I’ve done nothing but poke my precious girl in the back with commands, corrections, criticism and complaints.
I have treated her as a creature to be tamed rather than a tender soul to be nurtured.
And my heart aches.
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young,” (Isaiah 40:11).
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He gently leads us, the parents, and he carries our children close to his heart. He doesn’t poke or prod, bark or bite. He guides us with kindness, patience and affection.
Shouldn’t our kids deserve the same from us?
Last week, I chose one day to lay off my kids entirely. No barking, no commanding. No mindless correcting. I just let them be who they are, without their mother’s constant input. And you know what? They were a joy to be around. We laughed more. We hugged longer. And the house did not fall apart, can you believe that?
I’ll tell you what did fall apart.
The tension in my shoulders. The sighs in my lungs. The frustration in my voice—it all dissipated and blew away.
Because it turns out nurturing is a lot more enjoyable than taming. And all it took was this one simple shift in perspective.
I am a shepherd, not a cattle prod.
And so are you.
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