Oh man. This is a big topic, but let's see how far we get today.
Remember, we started out this series by saying that Sanctuary is a three-legged stool. It is held up by Peace, Order and Beauty...and without these three elements working together, something will always be missing.
Having a sense of peace (or peacefulness) is really the foundation for everything.
I think we could all agree on that. At least until children come along!
They are so noisy and messy and have their own opinions, and suddenly there is conflict between parents over everything from which formula to use, to when to allow eye shadow.
But for today, I want to simply talk about cultivating a peaceful heart in your child. By this I mean, helping your child be at rest when appropriate, feel loved even when he's not very lovable, and learn to deal with adversity. That's a tall order.
The good news is: you have eighteen years to work with.
So if you are frustrated that your eight year old "doesn't get it," relax. He has ten more years under your care to keep developing. (And sidenote: who among us was perfectly mature at age 18? We shouldn't expect that our kids should be, either.)
Here are six ways to cultivate peace in your children.
1. Start early.
Babies and preschoolers need un-entertained time to play and think on their own. Let them stare off into space. Let them be bored. Don't fill every waking hour, or each car ride, or every moment in the grocery store line, the waiting room or Big Church, with games on the phone or ipad.
We are in a very tough place for parents right now. Moms used to give a baby her keys to jingle, now she hands over her phone. Please, please (and I know this is hard), let your child occasionally experience frustration and boredom over not being entertained.
Teaching your child to embrace Quiet is the first step in establishing a peaceful heart.
2. Share your faith, and be real about it.
Walk the walk. When you mess up, admit it. When they mess up, be gracious. Remember that our Christian walk is all about grace, and even in discipline, it is important that your child knows you are on his side. This is especially true the older they get. There is nothing more frustrating or embittering to a teen than seeing a double standard at work in his parents.
Peace comes when you journey in faith together, in honesty.
3. Set a tone of respect.
It might sound crazy to you, but I actually had very few household rules. But my main rule was this: "You may not say "NO" to mommy." Followed by "No sassing." Now, obviously, this required me to think twice before asking for obedience. Maybe this sounds harsh to you, but actually it was it was hardest on me because I had to follow through. As children left the preschool years, we practiced (just like any skill) how to disagree, or appeal a rule in an acceptable way.
Respect must be required. You must give it, and you must expect it.
4. Give your children tools.
Teach them, by practicing with them, how to ask for something without whining. And in about six years, they'll start to get it, haha. So often we say things like, "Stop arguing!" But we don't show them how to have a respectful discussion. We say, "Stop throwing a fit," without giving them an alternative to express frustration. We say, "Don't interrupt!" but then don't give them an acceptable way to get your attention. We say "Don't worry about it," and then don't kneel to pray with them, to show them what it looks like to give our troubles to God.
Remember that they are apprentices, and as such, it will take years of on-the-job training to learn social skills and attitudes that foster peace.
6. Guard your gates.
You can't control what happens in the outside world, but you can control what comes inside your house. If your gut tells you that a person (a family member, a friend, a child's playmate etc) should not be let in, don't let them in. Not to be creepy, but this is the world in which we live.
I believe we should guard our children's innocence as long as reasonably possible, and not expose them to media, music and situations that just aren't appropriate. I've been astounded by people's movie selections for their kids, and things like taking eight year olds to rock concerts and families to places like Hooters. Not to be old-fashioned, here, but what the heck?
You are the filter for what comes into your home. Ask for wisdom and discernment.
5. Affirm, affirm, affirm.
Even when your middle-schooler refuses to talk in a "normal" voice for year. Even when your high-schooler seems lazy and uninterested in being a productive member of society. Even when your daughter decides not to talk to you for awhile. One of the best things you can do is picture your child as an adult - which she WILL BE one day - and "see" that she will have grown past the rocky spots of today. Tell your children daily how blessed you are to be their parent, and that you can't wait to see how they'll grow up. Let them know you are on their side, even when they aren't acting all that lovable.
The day will come that they will cringe at their adolescent past and thank you for loving them through it. What a gift you are giving them.
Well, again...I've gone much longer than I hoped.
But my point today is that peacefulness is not something that just "happens."
No one just gets lucky and accidentally has a calm household. Hey, raising a family is chaos on wheels, man. It takes commitment to see peace as something worth pursuing. It's worth staking a claim for, and fighting for.
Cultivating peace gives children a sense of rest and calm in a world that is busting in on every side to take it away.
Make your household a place of peace, and your kids will always love coming home.
What do you do to create peace in your family life? I'd love to have a good discussion today!
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