I’ve been praying about how I should respond to perpetual bad news and asking God where I fit into it all. We all fit into the problem and solution, but where and how? These thoughts have been stirring in my heart and this week I am writing about how we and our families can bring change in our broken world.
This isn’t me preaching and teaching what everyone else should be doing; this is a personal reflection made public to bring about discussion and sharing of perspectives to help me and us grow in our capacity for love and compassion for one another.
We can change the world by investing in our families.
Mother Teresa was paraphrased as saying, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
Even as Mother Teresa spent her life serving and comforting people suffering from poverty in India, she knew the power of home and family to bring change to the world. It’s surprising to me that her response to the question of how to promote world peace was something that we can all do without leaving our homes. Of course, she wasn’t suggesting that we stop with that, but home and family is the epicenter of change for better or worse.
Our families need to be our first priority. We want to raise children who will multiply hope in this broken world. But broken people bring more brokenness. We need to constantly evaluate the path our family is on and make changes when necessary. This is why I resigned from teaching this year, because motherhood begged for more than I was giving.
Not everyone needs to resign from their careers, be a stay at home parent, or homeschool in order to make their family their first priority. The truth about good moms is that they are as unique as the children they raise. Each of us will travel through life a little differently.
As a parent and a teacher, I’ve observed that children typically overflow with what they have been filled with.
What is poured into them is what they will pour out to others. Our responsibility is to provide, monitor, and filter what they are filled with. This requires us to be aware of what our children need and do our best to supply it.
What do our children need? Well, other than the obvious physical needs of food, shelter, and education, they also have social and emotional needs. As a primary grade teacher, social and emotional development were a main focus in my classroom. Now that God has brought me home for a time, they are a big part of my home classroom as well.
Our children need to know and receive unconditional love.
This term is used a lot, but sometimes we don’t really think about what it means. Love can mean a lot of different things, but I get my definition of love from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Let me be transparent with you: I struggle to truly love my children sometimes. That is, if I believe this description of love to be true, then I have failed many times to love anyone consistently!
I’m not always patient or kind. Although my fuzzy memory serves me in this area, there are some cases when I keep a record of wrongs. I don’t always trust that my kids aren’t trying to sneak something past me.
Unconditional means wholeheartedly, totally, and without limit.
Unconditionally loving our children means that they are shown love without condition. They need to feel safe in their imperfections. They will make us mad. They will disappoint us. They may even break our hearts. But can they trust us with theirs? Will they catch us speaking about them with frustration to our friends, or do they know their reputation is safe with us?
This hits home for me. Of course, my children know I love them, but as they are growing up (too fast!) I need to tend to our relationships and reaffirm my love for them as they break away from my way and build their own.
Our children need to face the music when they mess up.
It’s so important that kids learn how to take responsibility for their actions. I think this can be one of the most painful parts of parenting. We want to protect our kids – even from themselves. But sometimes they need to feel the burden of their mistakes to learn one of those good ol’ life lessons.
I remember one time when my 4th grader stole some candy from a grocery store. The store was an hour away from our house and I didn’t find out about it until we were home later that night. This was an extremely inconvenient situation for me. The next day I took my daughter out of school and back to town to confess to the store manager. The most frustrating part in the end was that the manager reacted to how cute and sad she looked and said that it was OK!
This was a disservice to her. She didn’t really have to face the music.
The following year we dealt with her stealing again from a different store, but this time I went to the store owner and talked to him before I brought her to see him. I told him to make sure he wasn’t easy on her and to let her know how disappointed he was to learn that she had stolen from him. I didn’t want him to look at her and see a child, but see a future adult.
When I brought her in to talk to him after school, he was very stern with her. He said, “I’m disappointed. I never thought you would steal from me!” He didn’t yell, but he communicated how serious he felt about the situation. She apologized and the relationship was restored. She talks to him and shops in his store every week all these years later.
I liked the second approach better, because it is not OK! Wrongdoing should be forgiven, but not excused. Our children need to learn to take responsibility for their actions while they are very young.
Our children need positive examples.
Children are visual and kinesthetic learners by nature. They learn by seeing and doing. What do they see their parents doing? This is what they will do. How do they see us treating others when life isn’t going right? This is how they will treat others.
Our habits, attitudes, and words need to model the expectations we have for our kids. They look at us to see a living example of how they should treat others. We need to remember that more is caught than taught.
I fail in many ways, but one of my strengths is that my husband and I don’t yell at each other. We disagree, but we’re not inclined to yell about it. One of the blessings of this good habit is that I can tell my kids that I want them to talk to each other with the same respect Daddy and I have for each other.
We’re looking for ways we can be a better example to our kids. My husband and I look for opportunities to serve in our community and church. It’s important to us that our kids grow up with a compassionate worldview. We want them to make their world a better place and so we know that they need to see us living up to our expectations of them.
There are things that our children are picking up from us as they watch and join in with how we live life. So we must be intentional in our actions and interactions.
Our children need community.
Building a community of positive, trustworthy adults makes parenting easier and enriches the lives of our children. I remember when I was small, my parents attended Bible study each week. The other kids and I loved Bible study nights because we got to stay up a little later than usual on a school night and play with friends. Our parents were all friends and worked together in many areas of parenting: coaching softball, carpooling, babysitting for date nights, etc.
Building a community of positive adults and good friends creates extra safety for our kids. They have extra accountability because there are more “eyes” out there in the world keeping track of them. Our kids need to have those “non-mom” types that are responsible enough to give them good advice when they begin venturing out of our reach.
I’m thankful that God has given me a few younger mom friends that are also friends with my daughters. They need this kind of safe adventure.
I’m also thankful that God has given me friends who are generations older than me that pray for me, smile at my stories, and let me know that small things are just small things. They give me perspective.
We are wise to strategically build a community for our children to grow in.
Unconditional love. Responsibility. Positive Examples. Community.
These ingredients must be poured into our children to the brim and then they will overflow. When they are full of hope because they know unconditional love and a strong sense of responsibility for themselves and others, our children will be vehicles that bring hope to others in this broken world.