There are over a dozen main areas that we would like to touch on about keeping motivation when your kids are little. I will do a few of these each day as space permits.
First of all, a note about motivation with little kids. It is tough! That’s all there is to it. We live in an immediate gratification society. This is not just in our food and entertainment---it invades every area of our lives. We have come to need immediate feedback or immediate solvency. This has made it especially difficult in things in which the rewards are infrequent or further down the road. And that sums up parenting small children to a tee.
Sure, we get the immediate feedback of their sweetness, their obedience, their cleverness, etc. And I am not saying that those things are not rewarding—they certainly are. However, the long term goal in Christian parenting is raising children to become responsible, loving, selfless Christian adults. And those rewards are w---aaa-----y down the road when you have three kids three and under.
It can feel as though what you do today doesn’t matter that much. It can make us laxed and even lazy. And it can feel impossible. (“I can’t do this anyway, so why work so hard???)
Therefore, we need examples, role models, encouragement, long term vision, etc. to keep doing what we know we should be doing—even when it is easier to take the less demanding path whenever it is offered.
1. Look into your children’s hearts. They are so precious—this will reveal the great need to keep doing what you are doing. Oftentimes, we can’t see ten or twenty years beyond today. We can’t link today’s devotions, talks, or discipline with the whole concept of “raising children to become responsible, loving, selfless Christian adults.” It is then that we have to look into our kids’ hearts and know that we can make a difference in those hearts. And accept each little success as a reward for the job you are doing now---when the two year old stops saying “no” to commands you give; when the three year old says, “Mommy, come see how I made my bed all by myself today,” and yes, especially, when the seven year old says, “Daddy, I want to accept Jesus too!”
2. See the intense years as needful and crucial. These are the years that the foundations of Christian character, self control, and spiritual development are laid. Speaking to groups, we often hear people say, “I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to really read and discuss the Bible,” or “I can’t wait to be able to have heart to heart talks with teens,” etc. That’s great—to look forward to those training years in a positive way. However, the real crucial ones are often right in front of us. Ages two to five are foundational to laying the groundwork for obedience, respect, and contentment. Ages five to ten are the basis of giving a love for learning about God and living in a way that pleases God. Those early years are SO important. I can’t stress them enough. If you only have preschoolers, change your mindset from the “daily grind” to “daily training.” Truly, what you do today has a huge effect on your kids’ futures.
3. Try to find role models with older children—those you can look to that will encourage you that all of your hard work is worth it. Ray and I thank the Lord jointly and individually every week for the influences that he placed in our lives every step of the way. We are some of those rare people who were actually discipled in an extremely intimate way. We had three couples in our lives when we were first born again who helped us nearly daily learn to live this Christian life. As we had children, we had a mentor couple who came and stayed with us for a week or two each year for several years in a row and taught us to “do what I do” in terms of parenting and faith training of children (and in marriage). We also had other young families who had wonderful children a few years older than ours—and we wanted to be just like them! Additionally, we went to parenting and homeschooling seminars in which the speakers had older children (teens and pre-teens) who were respectful, obedient, character-filled kids. We knew what we wanted in our parenting because we surrounded ourselves with role models. Role models who have children who have been raised in strong Christian homes give us hope that this Christian parenting really can be done. They keep us going when we think that what we do doesn’t really matter. They remind us that our calling is everlasting and crucial. Along those same lines, try to find like-minded parents to have as friends and confidants. Being in a small group with like-minded moms, going through parenting classes together, discussing character training all the time, etc. has helped me immensely in my parenting.
Tomorrow—more tips to keep motivated. Not to keep motivated because someday everything will be perfect—but to keep motivated because Christian parenting is one of the most important things we can do. And because it’s worth it.