It’s the greatest parenting advice I’ve ever received!
And, this advice has taken us into and almost through the college years with our kids.
We aren’t perfect, and they aren’t perfect; but, this wise bit of instruction has kept the relationships we have with our children open and positive.
The incredible advice was given to us when our children were very small.
We were living in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA.
It was during that time that we met some of our favorite people in this world, including our friends Debbie and Christie. Although these ladies were just a few years my senior, they were further along in raising their children.
Debbie had two teenage girls and Christie had 3 kids: one child in high school, one child in middle school, and an elementary student.
At that point; our son, Riley, was only about 4, and our daughter, Emily, was about 2.
As I spent time with these friends, I got to watch and see how they treated their children and their husbands.
I got to see what they did and hear what they said.
They modeled for me so many wise parenting principles and gave me so much great advice.
Although we were just “doing life together” and hanging out, their lives had a profound impact on my future and how I would learn to treat my husband and my kids.
It was during that period that I began to grasp this greatest parenting tip.
Are you ready to hear it?
The greatest parenting tip ever:
Win their HEARTS as little children and keep their hearts through their growing years.
When they are grown up, they will still like you and want to be around you because you never lost their HEARTS.
In short: Do everything you can to KEEP THEIR HEARTS!
It may not sound profound, but let’s walk through it:
As Newborns and Infants….
- They start out so small and fragile and cute.
- They come to us as little bundles of joy all wrapped up with a special little hat and tiny toes and fingers.
- We hold them, kiss them, rock them, feed them, change them and care for their every need.
- Helpless, precious and small, we are their 24-hour caregivers in those first few days.
As Little Babies…
- They start to grin and babble and “converse” with you.
- They rock to music, talk to their toys, roll, scoot, and some even crawl.
- They are needy and precious and many get quite “chunky” at this stage.
- They still need us for almost everything, but they are a little easier to handle.
As Babies on the move…
- Crawling or walking begin and life starts to get really crazy.
- The cabinet locks go on. The plug protectors go in.
- The doors and windows are barred. The sharp edges are rubberized.
- Life is now filled with bumps, bruises, and much exploration.
- They are so cute and busy at this stage.
- They Still need you.
During the Twos…
- They beg you not to leave them.
- Cling to you at the nursery.
- And, oh, they are into everything!
During the Threes and Fours…
- They are so much FUN!
- Ask tons of questions.
- No question is off-limits.
- Love you and everyone else.
- Like to go and do and explore.
- Life is crazy and an adventure.
In Kindergarten and first grades…
- Still sweet and pretty simple.
- Don’t understand sarcasm.
- Still love their parents.
- You can still go eat lunch with them at school.
In 2nd through 4th grades…
- They become a little more independent.
- Still like you to be “Room Mom” and to bring cupcakes.
- Good years. Happy years. Sweet years.
- Lots of great learning taking place.
In 5th Grade…
- Start to transition toward middle school.
- Growing and changing a lot.
- Still pretty sweet at this stage for most middle schoolers.
In 6th Grade –Around Ages 12-13…
- One Night…
- Out of the blue…
- Unexpectedly, they enter this strange and unavoidable place–my friend Rhonda calls:
“The Dark Side”
That sweet kid becomes:
- Moody, independent, not so sweet,
- They all of a sudden don’t like you.
- In one night, you can lose all of your credibility, coolness, and love.
Looks sort of like – “A 2-year-old having a fit”
Sounds like, “Please drop me at the corner so my friends won’t see you with me.”
Sounds like, “Do you have to come in? Do you have to go with us?”
~ Or, “Can you leave the cupcakes at the school office for my birthday?”
~ Or, “Can you not hug me in front of my friends?”
~ Or, “Mom, you are so loud?”
~ Or, “Dad, are you really wearing that?”
You go from “hero to zero” overnight. From best friend to enemy in 24 hours.
That clingy kid becomes the standoff-ish child in a matter of hours.
But, don’t despair, the “Dark Side” is just a season.
It’s just a spot in time when your child will act really weird.
For boys, it is more about crying over things, hitting things, sensitivity, and being upset easily. There are: changing hormones and emotions, wanting to please their peers, and being a little embarrassed by you.
For girls, it’s about changing emotions, hormones, mood swings, drama, being embarrassed by you, wanting to please their friends and lots of tears.
What can we do to continue to hold on to their hearts while they are living over on the Dark Side?
~ How do we keep the lines of communication open?
~ How do we deal with their surly looks and sassy comebacks?
~ How can you start preparing now?
~ What can you do to get ready for this season?
~ What can parents do to ensure they don’t completely lose touch with their kids?
There is hope for you no matter what age your child is!
It is never too late for you to win that child’s heart!
No matter how old you are or how old that child is, you can always take measures to build a bridge to his or her heart!
Would you like more information?
I’ve put together a practical resource for parents of all ages with children of all ages.
It’s called, How to Win Your Child’s Heart For Life.
You can find out more about this resource by clicking HERE.
For now, I encourage you to do 3 things:
1) Take a good, hard look at your relationship with each of your kids.
2) Ask yourself, “Do I really HAVE the heart of this child?”
3) Pray and talk these things over with the Lord.
Galatians 6:9 seems appropriate as I close:
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.
At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”