I love little children. They are cute, funny, spontaneous and full of faith. But there are times when that love for youngsters can be tested. A favorite “old story” at our house happened many years ago following the Sunday night church service. A visiting family was going to be staying the night with us. There were two or three little ones, I can’t remember exactly, but the memory began just as we were unlocking the house for entry with our guests. Their little guy, about 4 or 5 said to me as he was pushing the door open and scurrying inside,
Hey Lady, where’s the toys?!
What ensued afterwards was little ones running through the house, overturning toy boxes and chests, emptying their contents and having the most fun a child can have while in a stranger’s home and discovering new treasures.
This was a whole new experience for me, and I’m sure I needed a lesson in graciousness, but all I remember was the sigh of relief when the battle of toys and home was over and we were left with the quiet dust of the invasion the following day.
Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE children, and I try to always have things on hand for little ones to play with, but the issue came when the parents seemed too relieved to have their children busy with something other than needing their attention (or so they thought). They were pretty much oblivious to the destruction and havoc that their offspring brought to a complete stranger’s household. I’m sure those children were precious and I know Jesus loves them, but me? I wasn’t feeling it. Oh, I don’t want to sound harsh, but it was like the invasion of enemy troops. Our home was open territory. There were no restrictions, no guidelines from the mom and dad, no parental looks that give a warning without words, saying, “Stop what you’re doing.” No, the children were on their own, and we were put in a place where we had to step in and draw the line in the sand. Ugh.
Every parent gets weary of the day-to-day demands, the need to correct and rein their children in, but taking time to let down your guard is not only dangerous, it’s putting other people in a very uncomfortable situation. It’s making it hard for others to really love your children. You see, it puts them in the place that only you belong, Mom (and Dad, if you’re reading). Someone besides you will be the one to have to say,
“Please don’t step on my feet; that hurts.”
“Could you please play with the trucks outside, instead of on the coffee table?”
“Children can get hurt if they climb up on the ladder in the store; you really better get down, .”
“My bedroom is off limits. Could you please come out and play in the family room with the rest of us?”
Step up, parents and make your child a blessing to be around by guiding them before these scenarios cause someone else to need to speak up.
Often, parents watch their children being the “wild child” and think it’s cute, or that they’re just “doing what children do,” which is true, but Scripture says,
Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul. Proverbs 29:17
They act that way because they have an old sin nature, and God gave them parents to give them guidelines and restrictions, to teach them what is acceptable and what is not. So how do you help others love your children?
- Talk to your children before you leave home or before guests arrive. Tell them what you expect in simple 1, 2, 3 format. They need to know what you’re expecting of them, what is okay and what is not. For instance,
- When we get to Mrs. Jones’ house, please stay in the same room I am in.
- I have brought a bag of toys for you to play with, so there will be no need for you to touch anything at her house. Play with those unless Mrs. Jones offers you something at her house to enjoy.
- If you need to speak with me while Mrs. Jones and I are talking, come and put your hand on my arm and I will acknowledge you, but wait until then to speak to me or I won’t hear what you’re saying.If you’re going to a store or restaurant, the same principle applies.
- You must stay in your seat while we’re at Cheddar’s.
- You may not climb under the table or change places with someone else.
- I have a snack for you to enjoy while we wait to be seated and served.
- Don’t ignore bad behavior at home and then expect your child to be obedient in public times. Deal with the situation.
- If you ignore your children fighting or misbehaving and the people you’re with don’t seem like they notice, don’t be fooled; they notice. Deal with it. This is another area that should be addressed beforehand. They should know what the consequences will be.
- Practice good manners at home. “May I please?” “Excuse me…” “No thank you.” Table manners, speaking manners, greeting manners – they’re all important and can make the difference between a child who is learning manners and one who is demanding and rude.
I began with a sour example, let me end with a sweet one. I’ve had many opportunities to have children in my home for one on one time, meals with their parents and even overnight. One family had several little children, both girls and boys. They looked to their parents for the go-ahead when desiring to go outside, ask for a toy, or enjoy a snack I provided. They sat at the table for meals, obeyed when their parents stopped them from poor behavior, were thankful for any small gesture that was done, and responded sweetly when either of their parents had to correct them. Were they perfect? Of course not. There were messes to clean up when they left, but they were done so with joy. Oh, and they left something behind – love in our hearts for each one! They made that so very easy, thanks to the loving leadership and training that came from their mommy and daddy.
Moms, I’ve been there with my girls when they were home, even dealing with some very embarrassing situations, but every parent needs to ask the Lord where we need to do a little more training, a little more teaching and preparing so that the presence of our family will bring a smile and a heart full of love because they got to spend time with our children.
Refresh others by allowing your children to be a blessing.
What makes you love being with someone else’s children?
With nothing but love and care,