At the moment I’m reading a lot of books on different philosophies of schooling for kids and how to deal with challenging children. I’ve read so much over the past few years and it’s been eye opening for me in raising my kids. I was a nanny for a few years and also worked as a preschool teacher’s assistant but nothing prepares you to be with kids 24/7. You just don’t get to go home at the end of the day, take a bath and forget about crazy children that are now crazy with their own parents. You also don’t get sick days or vacation time.

My son has given me a run for my money in ways that I couldn’t even imagine. He’s all boy and I grew up with no males around whatsoever. Even the girls I played with growing up were all girls from single parent homes. Dads were just no where to be found, not even on weekends. I have to always remind myself that a lot of my son’s wild antics are a result of testosterone flowing through his body and there are seasons of life where the surge is upped 10 fold. He’s been in a surge of testosterone for about the past three years. He’s an amazing child and I was just saying, last night, that I’m fascinated by him and how mature he can be at times. What makes him so hyper is also what makes him so smart. He’s a very curious child and he loves to figure out how things work and move; he touches and manipulates anything he can get his hands on. He has to touch to understand and I’ve always encouraged touching but when we’re at someone’s house with white carpeting, white walls and glass coffee tables I know where entering a world of pain. Oh, I don’t even go to places like that anymore. It’s not worth it.

I’ve read and reread books to help me know and understand my son and some have helped in my understanding of who he is and why he acts the way he does. What I’ve found though is that there is a lot of material out there that will really stress the importance of shaping your child’s character at a very early age. I’m not at all opposed to that but I’m not certain that our kids are reduced to hollow vessels that need molding and shaping. They are humans made unique and totally different than anyone else and they just happen to have immaturities and no filters for danger (or filters for saying things that embarrass their parents). So we have to teach them but is it really our job to “shape” them? It’s been off-putting to me to find so much material that stresses the need to discipline and train when there is a lot more to children than this. I agree that this is one aspect of parenting but I’m not certain teaching good/right behavior is the main objective to parenting. Let me explain:

I’m not opposed to discipline (Lord knows my kids are in need of finding the train tracks to guide them) but this is not all the toddler years are suppose to be about. It is also a time when they are sponges that WANT to learn, touch, feel, play, scream, discover. They are hungry and we as parents have this amazing opportunity and short window of time where they are living free from deep seated insecurities and fears (the teenage years are reserved for that) to help them develop a love for living, a desire to learn, a need to delight in relationships and the ability to see the whole of life that will carry well into the rest of their time living. It’s not just about shaping their character. That is only a small portion of what these years are for them. Also, it’s really exhausting to deal everyday with discipline issues and power struggles rather than enjoying time with our kids. The power struggles will automatically happen but the joy won’t just happen. We have to see it and choose to experience it. I’ve had to rethink a lot about how I see my son in order to delight in him.

There is a famous writer on family topics (whom I won’t mention) and his take on raising children is that our little ones are unaware and selfish and we need to train them and discipline them to become giving and loving adults. A lot of his books are written with the theme of strong discipline. For me it’s not really a question of whether or not people choose spanking or time out as a form of punishment, it’s about how we see our children in every day life; seeing them as amazingly curious learners with immaturities or seeing them as vessels that are born totally selfish whom we have to train to be good?

I believe it’s just easier for children to choose selfishness in most situations and it takes repetion for them to choose to be giving and to share,  but compassion is rooted deep within my children and it always has been. They have done silly things like hit babies on the head with a plastic toy  but often it was just to see what would happen and the head was the closest and biggest thing they were looking at. You should have seen my son’s face when he was a baby and I gasped because he bonked another child on the head. It was like a deer in the lights, “What? What did I do?” Ok, then there have been other times when he’s hit to be rude but it’s rare and we always deal with the situation when it comes up. But I find that he is a very caring and compassionate child who loves to play with other kids. There are things he needs to learn but for the most part he knows how to share (he doesn’t always do it but he does know) and how to play well with other children. He also really loves pets and nature. He doesn’t just go out and destroy everything he sees or hit every kid he comes into contact with. Most children don’t. Most children love life and learning and they need the space to be themselves while being guided through their immaturities.

I didn’t even have to teach my kids how to be compassionate, they just are. They are loving little humans who happen to have moments of selfishness (sometimes seasons of selfishness and anger) and when they do we deal with it. But mainly I’m amazed by how much they love life and want to be involved with each and every day that they are awake. My son doesn’t touch things because he’s selfish and I don’t need to deal with his curiosities as though they are a flaw in his character. In fact I have to be very careful that I don’t squash his desire to learn just because it’s frustrating for me to have him getting into things all the time.

It’s easy, as a parent, to place our expectations on our kids like a heavy lead blanket. Our kids will take our expectations upon themselves because they love the hell out of their mamma and pappa. They’ll try to be just what we want them to be because they love and need our approval and acceptance, it’s like food for them. “Easy Tiger”, is what I have to keep telling myself. “You are not dealing with naughty, selfish kids that need to find the light. You’re dealing with children who have the light already but sometimes do selfish and immature things. Make sure you keep it burning bright within them. Show them how to always love the light and keep it lit as long as they are breathing”. That’s what I have to remember.

It’s actually easier for a parent to resort to just training our children in the ways of discipline and self control than it is to teach them how to remain who they are with their own God-given DNA while learning how to use their gifts wisely. That’s the hard part. Anyone can teach a child to share or a dog to fetch. It takes a lot of deep love and mind numbing patience to nurture little people as they grow into big people. But we can do it because the grace is available to us. Amen! So be it!

Here’s to enjoying our children!

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17 thoughts on “Nurture

  1. I liked this part: “You are not dealing with naughty, selfish kids that need to find the light. You’re dealing with children who have the light already but sometimes do selfish and immature things.” Good stuff.

  2. Tracie, just minutes before reading your post, I was just having a conversation about these things with a friend of mine. You articulate yourself so much better than I do, and I am glad your words are written down here.

    I also wanted to say that I think Oliver is one of the coolest little boys I have had the pleasure of meeting. I am really glad that he has you for a mom.

  3. I think that people writing all the books try to make parenting into a science when it is really an art form. Each child is different and will need different input from the parents. Some of it is willful disobediance which should be dealt with right away, but most of it is the way they learn. Some are tactil, some are oral and put everything in their mouths, some are super verbal. I think parenting is a process of civilizing your child, “Yes you may drink out of that tall drinking fountain, but no you cant spit the water out all over the wall or your brother just for fun.” (Although I can see why they think it would be fun:) With lots of stuff they don’t know it’s not ok if they want to interact in society till you tell them. Its more a moment by moment art form than rigid structure.

    • Nicely said, Rachael. I still think there have to be the times when they can spit the water out. But yes, not on the wall indoors where mom has to clean it up. Yet we do the tub and outside. Art form? Nice. My son is definitely tactile and I’m definitely not so it’s taken a lot of patience and understanding for me to allow him to thrive in who he is.

  4. Here is to enjoying our children! I really needed to hear your thoughts on raising children. I had a very stretched day as my patience was pulled till the rubber band snapped.
    It is so good to have those reminders of what our goals are as parents. One of mine(same as you) is to preserve who my children are and to strengthen them as the grow in to adults.
    Thank you Tracie! This topic was so well said.

  5. I’m late to the conversation, but wanted to comment. There’s so much to read, so much to learn when it comes to parenting! I am finally at a place where I consider it a relationship more than a duty or job. In seeing my kids as relationships in my life, my perspective on character development has been altered. Behavioral outcomes aren’t my focus any more, rather right relationship…this drawn from the fact that it’s what God’s focus is with us.
    I love what you touch on here about what’s inside our kids…are they little wrong-doers or little learners? Lately I’ve been reading a new book called “Loving Our Kids On Purpose” by Danny Silk. (I highly recommend it) No methods here, just an attitude toward parenting I find truly encouraging- that parenting doesn’t have to be terrible, doesn’t have to be a battle. I really want my kids to walk in freedom as we understand it in Christianity. That means starting from a place of freedom, giving them the opportunity to make good decisions and be the owners of the outcome. Just as you see your kids growing in compassion naturally, there’s some good stuff in our kids. It’s all in how we see them isn’t it?
    Good post, and I’m glad to share the parenting journey with you!
    p.s.- what have you benefited from reading over the years?

    • Lori, that’s funny you mentioned that book – he’s one of the pastors here at Bethel and definitely has some good parenting insight from what I’ve heard! I’m excited to read his stuff down the road.

    • well said, Lori. I remember having this conversation with you as well. That was some of the inspiration for me wanting to write this. In my journey with my own children I have had a lot of advise from well meaning people about how to ‘deal’ with my kid’s behavior and how to train them. Then I’ve been out in cafes and seen the other extreme of letting your kids run wild but again, I know the intent is unleashing their identity. A fine line. One book that really helped me with my son was “Your Spirited Child”. Some of the characteristics described him like they were in the room watching him. I felt that finally someone identified and also celebrated this type of amazing, wild and spontaneous child like mine. It wasn’t just fluff either. Not just telling me to let him do what he wants. In fact there wasn’t a lot of that in it. There was more help in getting me to understand and delight in him and the love for who he is actually helped me to know how to either discipline or to let things go. What I mean is that the understanding for him guided me in making my decisions in how to ‘deal’ with him rather than dealing with scientific behavior, if that makes sense. There are other books but that one stands out for sure.

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