I have a son who is currently age 9, and a daughter who is 6-years-old. To be honest, they are not always a joy to be around (but, then, neither am I). To me, having a joyful family does not require having “easy” kids. I remember taking my son as a preschooler to the library story time, and wistfully watching the other kids doing the motions to all the songs and sitting quietly in their mothers’ laps during the stories. My son refused to do any motions or sing, and wiggled all over the place during story time. It’s so tempting to look at other children and think, “If only my kid were like that, our home would be so much happier.” Of course, that’s ridiculous, because all kids have their little quirks (and most of us grown-ups do, too!). God created all children unique, and mine in particular have a double dose of uniqueness. But I wouldn’t trade them for anything, because their quirks are what make them special – and they’re pretty darn funny. I’ve always said that those of us with “different” or strong-willed kids (in my case, both) may have a tougher time parenting, but we have the best stories!
So if a joyful family isn’t reliant on having easy-to-raise kids, how is it possible? First, by remembering that your child is “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for [him/her] to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Our kids are uniquely created to do specific good works that God has prepared them to do. My job isn’t to mold them into my image, and whenever I try I am setting myself up for misery and failure. But when I ask God to help me see my kids through His eyes, He helps me relax and enjoy them for who they are. So instead of getting upset on my son’s fieldtrip to the zoo with his class because he wasn’t as excited about seeing the animals as he was about finding 101 ways to play with his water bottle, I laughed at my budding engineer who sees everything through the lens of a scientist on the verge of discovery. God graciously gave me the image of “The Absent Minded Professor” as an insight to my son, and I’ve been able to enjoy him and help him along the path God has placed before him, as a result. Joy in the family comes from understanding one another and loving each other as unique creations. Part of our journey to a more joyful home includes homeschooling our kids, because we recognized that the traditional public school system was not a good fit for the way God designed them.
I also believe that a joyful home is one that takes into account the importance of mistakes and failures in the learning process. If we protect our kids from experiencing consequences for their bad choices, it may seem like our lives are temporarily easier and, therefore, more joyful. But every parent who has ever given in to the demands of their toddler, only to invite bigger tantrums later on when the child insists on always getting his or her way, knows that this kind of short-cut to relief only brings a bigger headache later on. A joyful home takes hard work and consistent parenting. We have to surrender our pride and let our kids make mistakes when they’re small so they can learn from them and, hopefully, not make those mistakes when they’re older and consequences will be more severe. By the same token, a joyful home is one where consequences are given lovingly, without anger, so the child will be filled with remorse for their decision, not with anger at Mom or Dad for being unkind. (Transparency check – I’m still working on this one!) Instead of getting discouraged when our kids screw up, we can view their mistakes as opportunities to teach.
If this sounds like “Love and Logic” to you, it’s because we are big believers in this concept, outlined in the books by Jim Fay and Foster Cline. It works with any child – even strong-willed kids like my daughter (yes, we’ll pick on her too). In my Joyful Family posts, I plan to share some of the tools we’ve learned from these books, as well as our parenting successes and failures (because, let’s face it, we all make mistakes, and I don’t claim to be a perfect parent). I hope to be an encouragement to you, especially if you have a child who is difficult to understand. Chances are, whatever you’re going through with your kids, I’ve been there. I don’t have all the answers. Only God does. So I will do my best to not only encourage you with lessons He’s teaching us about our kids, but also encourage you to seek God’s wisdom for your own family. Every time I’ve faced a roadblock in parenting – from potty-training to homeschool decisions – I’ve sought God’s wisdom, and He has been faithful to guide me. I know He will guide you too, as we seek together to have a joyful family and home.