Editor's note: This article by Alison Wood originally appeared on her blog, Pint-sized Treasures. It has been reprinted here with permission.
Discipline. Consistency. Training.
That was what all the books said I needed to do to be successful at parenting. But those books lacked the most important tip of all — winning your child’s heart.
After I became a mother, I sought the Lord for wisdom. Every. Single. Day. After a few years, I thought I had this mom thing down, but deep inside there was a bit of worry. This journey of motherhood was not an easy task, and there were no “Mom 101″ classes to be found.
I so desired to be the best mom ever. I did not want to make any parenting mistakes — but I certainly did.
Most of all, I wanted my kids to grow up to be amazing Christians who stood firm on their faith and didn’t budge.
After three kids, I soon became aware of the fact that many parents were not happy with how their kids turned out. After seeing so many kids grow up and turn away from the teachings of their parents, I became scared and fearful for my own kids’ futures. I also began searching. I needed some answers for my parenting journey before it was too late. Surely someone had an answer to this seeming epidemic of wayward children.
While traveling with my hubby and munchkins up north, I noticed a certain pastor’s family. All of his five children were now adults. What struck me about his family is that all five of those children were serving the Lord.
We were attending the church he pastored for special services and all of his adult children showed up — all five of them. They each had married and were now raising their own kids. I observed their marriages and their relationships with their kids. They all seemed happy and there was an obvious close-knit bond between parents and kids and even siblings. I decided I had to know the secret.
When the pastor’s wife was had some free time, I went to her privately and said, “I’m a young mom, and I need your wisdom. I want my kids to grow up to serve the Lord and have great marriages and family relationships. What do you think you did as a parent that helped make this happen in your kids' lives?”
She was so kind. She smiled and paused. After several quiet moments of deep thought she replied, “Alison, don’t worry. You are doing a great job with your kids. Keep it up, and don’t give up.”
After a few more moments, she continued to give me some mom-to-mom wisdom.
“We made God and church a priority,” she remarked. “We never went on vacations on Sundays, and our kids knew we would never skip church. We also prayed a lot for our kids.”
I thanked her for her advice and went home.
The next evening she brought her kids to me and said, “Alison, after thinking some more about your question, I thought it would be best to ask my kids. So here they are!”
Her daughter, who was already married with kids, told me this:
“My parents won my heart.”
Wow, those words struck a chord with me.
She went on to say that her parents always spent time with them. They took camping trips together and made loads of memories. The kids always felt like they were a priority in their parents' lives.
The timing of this advice was perfect. Just about two weeks before I met this family, my husband had pointed out a verse of scripture to me.
Solomon, a man of great wisdom, wrote these words to his son: “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways” (Proverbs 23:26).
Such a small verse of scripture could be easily overlooked, but it all made sense to me that day. I needed to win my kid’s hearts. Realizing this was a great need in their lives was just the beginning. Now, I had to figure out just how to win it. Over the past nine years I have earnestly sought to win the hearts of my children. Here are some key thoughts on winning your child’s heart.
Thoughts on how to win your child’s heart
- Interaction. My son Joshua loves sports, so what do I do? I go outside and play basketball with him (before our dog ate the basketball, that is.) He also loves to read, so we talk about all the fun mysteries he has been reading lately. My daughter Anna? She’s a smart, witty girl. She likes to talk about older girl stuff. We also paint our nails together, shop together and read blogs together. Abby is my writer. I read all her stories and listen to her tell me more stories. Charity is my sweetie pie. She just likes me to listen to her talk and talk. She also likes me to walk her up to a small shop near our house and buy her some candy or popsicles. Mary-Lynn loves "LaLaloopsy." We watch "Lalaloopsy" together and play together. She also likes to play outside, so I watch her ride her bike. Isaiah is my train boy. We play trains on the floor, on the bed and on the porch. We also watch Thomas the Tank Engine shows together. Whatever my kids enjoy, I learn to enjoy it with them.
- Traditions. Starting family traditions with your kids will keep you close-knit. These traditions could be Friday night slumber parties, fall decorating on Labor Day, snow ice cream cones, Christmas tree hunting on a certain day, birthday traditions and so on. Try to stick with your traditions and be prepared for some amazing memories.
- Sacrifice. It is going to take time out of your schedule, money out of your pocket and you saying, “No” to some favorite activities in order to invest in your child’s life and win his heart. Choosing to be at your child’s soccer game instead of a girls' night out will speak volumes to your child. Choosing to spend your money you saved up for a new living room set on one of your child’s dreams will be well worth the investment. Things can wait. You only get to raise your kid once.
- Praise. Are you always criticizing your child to others? Even if it is only your parents or best friends, your kids still hear this negativity. You are only hurting your relationship with them, and you will only push them farther away. When other moms are spilling the beans about their kids misbehavior, don’t chime in. If you do have to correct your child, do so in private. On the other hand, praise publicly. Never shy away from thanking and praising your child. Your child desires someone to love and cherish them — be the one who fills that desire.
May your mothering journey be one that’s full of heart — yours and your child’s.
Alison is a mom of six kids, writer for online and print magazines and blogs about parenting, marriage, frugal living, recipes and inspiration at Pint-sized Treasures. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.