Last week I introduced the idea of repurposing, taking something that wasn’t working well and giving it a different reason for existing. Our family has repurposed bedtime, transforming it from a painful just-get-through-it time of day to a time we joyfully anticipate (mostly). Our strategy is simple…family prayer all together, then Ben and I each spend one-on-one time with Lydia or Samuel (we’ll eventually do this with Noah too). We mix it up sometimes so we’re both relating with both kids. However, most nights Ben has guy time with Sam and I have girl time with Lydia. Training our children to be God-honoring adults (or even if you’re not into God, simply functional human beings) doesn’t happen on accident. It takes intention. That’s what our repurposed bedtime is all about.
Right now I’m thanking God that we didn’t wait a moment longer to start these bedtime connections. When our kids were younger it felt like all they ever did was demand attention. Finding a few moments of peace and quiet, away from their requests and constant chatter was challenging. As Jen Hatmaker recently put it, “The baby years are short, kind of like five minutes…underwater.” We know they won’t stay young for long, but as parents we can feel like we’re drowning!
Then they enter elementary school, and the demands are different, but they are overall more self-sufficient. At this point, as a parent, the temptation is to sail through. If we’re not careful, we lose sight of the fact that not far down the road, they’ll be finishing grade school and then even the sweetest children turn into hormonal terrors, building their walls to keep parents out. We can hope for something different, but let’s be prepared for the worst! In the easy years, we MUST capitalize on the most valuable resource that’s right at our fingertips…our children’s desire to be with us and even listen to us.
Plain and simple, parents, by the time your kids enter kindergarten, you MUST carve out regular (daily) time for purposeful connection and conversation. Don’t just try to do it. Organize your day intentionally so that, like brushing your teeth or eating dark chocolate, it happens almost always.
Connection doesn’t have to be hard. In a nutshell, here’s what it’s all about:
- NORMALIZE CONNECTION. If we wait until they’re pulling away in middle school and try to drag them back and make them connect with us it will be weird and too late. Let’s start now so it becomes our norm.
- PREVENT SURPRISES. We have to talk about things that aren’t even on our kid’s radar yet. Obviously we can’t anticipate everything, but some of the biggies include: hormones and emotions, body development, friend challenges and an inclination to pull away from parents. There was a part of me that felt anxious even bringing up these things; I didn’t want to plant ideas in Lydia’s head if they weren’t already there. But then I realized that if I handle them the right way – gently, slowly, with a touch of humor and a whole bunch of smiles and hugs – it sure doesn’t hurt to get them out in the open. I would prefer for this information to come from me first, not her friends, a book, a TV show or elsewhere. In order to be the primary source, we have to speak earlier than every other voice in their lives.
- PREPARE THEM FOR FAILURE. Our kids need to know that failure at all levels (in relationships, in school, in faith, etc.) is normal. They need to be freed from the expectation of perfection and to know that in the rough spots they don’t need to be swallowed up by shame, and that God’s grace is big enough for even the worst they can muster. To top it off, they need reassurance that they’ve got parents who won’t support bad choices because that’s not what’s best for their children, but whose love will stretch to the darkest corners.
- TRAIN THEM FOR SUCCESS. As we talk through the traps and challenges ahead, we must give our kids strategies for handling them successfully. We need to have talked about all of these so much that they know how to respond on their own and/or ask for help.
Proverbs 1:23 says, “Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.” As Lydia and I snuggle in her bed for a few moments most nights, I feel as if I’m joining generations of parents who have followed the example of the author of Proverbs being intentional about training them for the what’s ahead. Will you also make regular intentional time to prepare your young, guiding them along a wise, godly and life-giving path, and ultimately pointing to a Savior who is with us every step of the way?
In the days ahead I can’t wait to share the practical and imperfect ways our convos are rolling out at the Snyder homestead.
Until then, I’m praying for God to work in and through your relationships with your children!