My Child’s Heart

Sometimes I think that as a parent I seek out too much information on child rearing.  And so much of it is conflicting that it’s easy for me to get wrapped up in whether I’m parenting right or wrong.

First there’s the argument over whether you should let your infant cry or pick up your infant instantly. Do I nurse or bottle feed? Do I feed my infant on demand or on a schedule? How do I stop toddler temper tantrums? Is spanking my child appropriate? How about time outs, do they give my child too much time to pout? How much TV should I let my children watch? Is it ok to give them candy? How soon can I give them peanut butter? Shouldn’t my child be reading at 3? Do I tell my child “no” enough? Do I tell her “yes” enough? Am I spending enough time with them? Should I be playing instead of cleaning the kitchen? Should I be cleaning my house instead of playing? Am I too indulgent? Am I too strict?

There are hundreds of parenting books, blogs, and articles. I can also get opinions and advice from friends, family, and complete strangers. And people often disagree.

It’s so easy for me to focus on am I parenting “right”. Do my children have the right environment for learning? Do I have clear rules? Do I allow them the freedom to be creative? Am I feeding them healthy food? Am I teaching them to be polite? Do they obey me in public – yes, in public, I’m not embarrassed if they don’t obey me in private. Do we spend enough family time together?

I focus on all of this and forget to focus on what’s really important. My child’s heart. I’m focusing on what I can see and often ignoring what I can feel. Why is my child not obeying? Am I guiding her to a strong relationship with God? Am I honest when I fail? Am I teaching good behavior because it’s good or because it’s socially expected?

I’m not saying the physical things aren’t important. I take my kids to meetings and expect them to sit quietly for an hour. I don’t allow temper tantrums. My oldest takes music and dance lessons. We go to the park often. The kids help me in the kitchen. Two of my kids know their alphabet, and one is almost reading. We eat peanut butter and candy. I often play with the kids instead of clean up the house.

It’s just so easy for me to focus on these. I want to see my kids achieve. I want to see them excel. And I want to see them behave. But really, what good does this all do me if I raise a child who is well behaved, well educated, successful, and self centered.

If I teach my child that life is all about success, looking good, and getting what you want, what have I really accomplished?

I really want to teach my children to seek the Lord, serve God, glorify God, and serve others. And this, I’m discovering, is immeasurably more difficult than just teaching my children to be good.

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