Do you tend to be attracted to books or posts on how to mother better? I know I do. I’m curious to know if anyone has successfully implemented the strategies laid out in these books. I’m not knocking them, of course (hey, I read them, after all!).
But I’m curious whether these books were birthed from families who were so successful in their particular methods that maybe they were convinced it would work for everyone (or most everyone)? Because let me tell you, I have yet to implement any one method successfully.
Many parenting books focus on bad behaviors and how to modify them. They offer step by step instructions and formula’s that must get results, or the parent is doing something wrong. But these books lack a vital component: knowing the heart of your child.
As a result, I’ve learned to focus more on behavior then connecting with the heart of my children. Maybe mothering is not so much how to as it is to know. It’s easy for me to fall into the trap of focusing on behavior modification. I don’t just want my children’s behavior to be modified. It’s not enough and if it were even possible, we wouldn’t have need for a Savior.
So what is possible?
What does mothering look like when we take our focus off the behavior and shift it to their heart?
As children of God, He calls us into relationship with Him. In fact, our relationship with God was so important to Him, He made a way for us to remain in relationship by taking care of our sin since we couldn’t do it alone. At all.
Do I now expect my children to perform when I can’t even do it myself? My mothering has been reduced to a list of do’s and don’ts. While there is definitely a place for that, it’s not the starting place.
It starts with being in relationship with my children; building a real connection with them. By understanding their own hearts, their own fears, their own desires, their own convictions and leading them to repentance so they can be restored. Jesus reached out to the unlovely because of love. He chastised people who were so focused on following the rules, they missed God in the flesh! They missed out on being in relationship because they didn’t see their need for a Savior.
Are our children missing out on God because they haven’t learned about their need for His grace?
Our children’s behavior can be unlovely at times–just like ours. But we cannot lecture or punish them into perfection. We must lead them to the cross of Christ. Only Christ can turn hearts toward repentance–to Himself.
And there are some things that God has instructed and asked of us as mothers. We are absolutely called to discipline our children, but how much more will they receive it when their hearts are turned toward ours and towards Christ’s because of that relationship?
Mothering by Heart
Mothering by heart means knowing our children’s hearts and pouring into them as Jesus poured into His disciples and those he encountered who wanted more of Him. Not knowing them from afar, but connecting and interacting with them. Not just filling their heads with knowledge but by living life, playing, creating, and working together.
There is a practical way to walk this out, but it requires that we listen to the rhythm of their hearts. When a child lies, why are they lying? Punishing them for lying may not be enough to purge it out. What is the underlying reason for a child to lie?
Sin will always be a part of us while we’re living this life, but that doesn’t mean we allow it to have it’s way in us, or our children. When we deal with a behavior from a child, it’s typically a maturity issue, not always a sin issue. Children are learning as they grow what is right and what is wrong. They are learning how to express themselves acceptably and respectfully.
Our children require a lot from us at every age and every stage, and when we fail to meet those nurturing needs, they often respond with negative behavior. Sometimes, we are the ones who need the chastisement because we need to set things aside so our children’s need of us can be met.
Motherhood requires a pouring out of self, every single day, consistently. It isn’t just a one time deal in order to change behavior. Bad behavior is often a symptom of something deeper. A need unmet. Misunderstanding or miscommunication, etc.
Mothering by heart requires that we seek out what these deeper issues are so they can be changed.
Do you struggle with merely behavior modification, too? What area do you think you can reach your child’s heart on a deeper level?
Some real, down to earth books on mothering I recommend:
(These are affiliate links– thank you for your support!)
Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson
The Mom Walk by Sally Clarkson
The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
The Ministry of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
Ten Gifts of Wisdom by Sally Clarkson
Discipline & Discipleship Webinar by Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson