I stepped into “Little House on the Prairie” reruns when I visited friends’ homes during childhood, it seemed. People in these homes blessed each other with words of affirmation:
“Beautiful picture, honey. I can barely wait to show grandma.”
“You remembered to put away your books. You are so responsible!”
“I appreciate that you called home to say you’d be late. That meant a lot to me, that you cared.”
Raspberry kisses, tummy tickles, and high fives interspersed these blessing words. I watched these dreamy interactions unfold and harbored more than a little jealousy.
Back at my home, dad yelled and mom withdrew into stony silence. I hated his yelling and her silence. Often I slipped into my bedroom and covered my ears with my hands to muffle the hate words. I tried make my parents happy. From age 8 or 9, I washed floors and tubs, dusted and vacuumed, finished my homework without reminding, and played with my older brother, Ted. My presence made little difference in making my parents happy. Ted’s presence seemed to irritate them. A bonafide IQ of 148 and report cards with Cs and Ds–he had trouble finding a place of belonging at home or school. It seemed, we were side tables in a white clapboard, one-and-a-half-story house in a Chicago suburb. Just furniture. We had no voice. When Ted turned 16 or so, the drug scene lured him. I tried to fit in with the “popular” girls.
Perhaps the influence of an unhappy childhood is one reason I became a counselor. My work as a biblical counselor permits me the privilege of helping children and teens know God’s care, love, and purpose in their lives, whether happy or sad and painful. It’s encouraging that very often a child’s pain evaporates like a puddle on a hot summer day as the child (or teen) and the parents choose to love God above all. (Matthew 22:37)
As God transforms hurting hearts, the results sing an hallelujah chorus. Thoughts, actions, and emotions as well as beliefs come together and reflect the heart of Jesus. Did you know Jesus welcomes little children? Our wonderfully radical Lord invited them to come near.
Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ Luke 18:15-17, ESV
The truth: Children do matter. Toddlers or teens, they deserve our love. Real love. Christ-like love.
Real Love in Good Times, Bad Times
What does real love look like during good times at home?
Conversation at the dinner time, playing board games, going for walks, godly and loving instruction, listening. What would you add? How do godly parents best show love to their children? How do show love different from your parents?
What does real love look like in bad times?
Apologies, forgiveness, consequences, discipline. What would you add? Were your parents overly strict according to the bible’s teaching, too lenient, or just right? How did their parenting style affect you personally? How did it influence your own parenting?
Reality is a phenomenal teacher. When a child does his homework, he gets the satisfaction of good grades. When a preschooler bites a 3 year old at the playground — yes, I am a mom of a former biter — she is escorted from park immediately. When a teen refuses to clean her room — I have one of those too — her cell phone goes in timeout. The bible is the best instruction guide. Here’s one example:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3, ESV
Another great resource is Growing in Wisdom by Dr. Ron Allchin, D.Th. This bible study for dads and sons–moms and daughters are enriched by it too–covers pertinent topics like edifying speech, hard work, dating, and the like. Here’s a link to the book. You can get the PDF as a free download or you may purchase it for Kindle or as a paperback. All money from book sales helps Biblical Counseling Center meet its ministerial needs.
Real Love in a Crisis
What does real love look like in crisis?
Crisis is confusing and filled with anger and sadness and fear. A child in crises often feel desperate, sometimes hopeful.
Many, many years ago I hunted for a four-leaf clover. I had to find one.
After all the yelling and silence, my mom and dad divorced. My mom spent the days in her bedroom, where game shows and soap operas numbed her pain. My dad slipped into shadows of my existence. So it was up to me to fix it the problem and get my parents remarried. Right? In my childlike thinking, it was my fault that they divorced. If only I could make my dad smile. If only I could stop mom’s worry.
The crazy thing is, I found a four-leaf clover that day. Cross my heart. I cupped my family’s future happiness in my small hands and wished: “Four-leaf clover, made mommy and daddy get married again so we could be a family and happy. Please.” Have you made a wish on a shooting star or tossed a penny in a wishing well?
Here’s the sad truth, sad for an 8 year old: Wishing on four-leaf clovers doesn’t work. They remarried a year later but were as unhappy as ever. I thank God that school provided the structure I craved, and the As and Bs proved I could do something right. In my twenties they divorced again.
Real Love: Messy!
Do you know what made the huge difference?
Finally recognizing that while I cannot change my family of origin, my husband and I can rewrite the script for our children. With God’s help, we can leave a legacy of real love. We mess up, of course. Just ask our kids. Real love isn’t perfection; it’s hugs and tears and laughter and “please forgive me” in the middle of mess. It isn’t stepping away, it’s stepping toward and resolving problems, making time for togetherness, and trusting in God.
Resources for You!
DOWNLOAD: Here’s Dr. Ron Allchin’s book Growing in Wisdom. This PDF is a free resource.
COUNSELING: Is your child going through a tough time? Consider biblical counseling as a compassionate, effective, and Christ-honoring way to help you and your hurting child. We have male and female certified counselors at four locations in greater Chicago. Contact us for more information or to make an appointment (in person or by Skype).