I am currently going through one of my favorite books, Seasons of a Mother’s Heart, with two different groups of moms. One which I lead and one in which I am led by a lady much wiser than myself. Written by my dear friend, Sally Clarkson, this book is my go-to book for encouragement in my role as a mom. I really don’t know how many times I have read this cherished book, perhaps a dozen or more. Yet each time, it refreshes and challenges my mom heart.
The Bible is like that as well. It is a never ending well of fresh water for my soul. Regardless of what I am facing and feeling, I can find nuggets of truth in the Bible that fills the current need of my heart.
The following tid-bits are nuggets from chapter seven of Seasons that I shared with the moms in my homeschool group.
Seasons of a Mother’s Heart
Chapter Seven Review
Perhaps the greatest need of our children (outside of their salvation and relationship with God) is for their parents to show them sympathy. Sympathy is a word we throw around but few understand. It is “to feel with,” meaning to understand, to put ourselves in the situation and take on the feelings of the one in the situation.
Henry Clay Trumbull in his classic books, Hints on Child Training says, “It is unquestionably true that in no way can any parent gain such power over his child for the shaping of the child’s character and habits of life as by having and showing sympathy with that child.”
In this chapter, Sally talks about her four children and how each of them has completely different personalities. Our children are the same way. No two will respond to the same situation or environment in the same way. Therefore, it takes wisdom (obtained by asking God over and over and over again) to know how to deal with our children.
In talking about one child who had a very difficult time with obedience, Sally says, “I can spend so much time correcting them and teaching them all the right rules, that I forget the real goal of my instruction-to win their hearts for the Lord.” How true that is in my own parenting. Sometimes I just want to correct and address the action without pausing to understand the reason behind the action. I know how it feels when someone misunderstands what I’m trying to say or takes something I did out of context and bashes me for it. Not only does it hurt my feelings, it makes me less likely to want to please that person in the future. Our children are the same way. Have you ever seen a child who seems to be angry all the time? I often wonder if that is a build-up of being misunderstood; of too many times being corrected, scolded, disciplined without someone looking them in the eye and saying, “I love you, you are important to me, and I’m sorry your toy was broken, I’m sure that made you feel bad, but still we cannot react in this manner.” I’m not saying that is always the case but many times I do feel children act out as a way for their immature nature to scream for someone to just understand them.
Sally says, “We may succeed in raising children who will follow our instructions, yet without our sympathy they may not follow our hearts. It’s not that hard to force a change in outward behavior; it takes much more, though, to change a heart. Sympathy is the key that lets me into my child’s heart.”
“If I want them to have my heart, then I must have theirs.”
God purposely equips our children with their unique personality traits because He has a purpose for them to fulfill in their generation. Think about the group of disciples that surrounded Jesus during His earthly ministry. They were a diverse group of personalities. Yet as Sally points out, “When Jesus spoke with his disciples He affirmed them according to their strengths and drives.” He knew Peter was boisterous and spoke too quickly. He knew Mary was given to works and Martha was given to worship.
Listen to these statements Sally makes regarding the personalities of our children.
- “The first step to showing sympathy to your child is to accept and affirm the unique personality that God has given to him or her.”
- “God did not make a mistake in giving your child their personality so don’t make a mistake of being critical of it.”
- “Learn to appreciate God’s handiwork in each of your children.”
- “What I have had to learn to do is look through my children’s personalities and into their hearts.”
- “Each child’s personality is strong in some areas and weak in other. Each learns, decides, plays and thinks in their own unique way. Each responds to our parental discipline and rules differently. We have learned that in order to motivate our children to want to obey us, we have to talk to them differently and discipline them differently.”
I have heard so many parents complain about the personality of one of their children. How sad for that particular child. And what we give voice to is often felt in the heart and conveyed through our actions long before we give it a voice. This may be my favorite statement by Sally in all of chapter seven, “In order to genuinely encourage my children, I have to settle in my heart that each personality is good because it is signed “made by God,” and that one personality is not better than others.”
Sally concludes chapter seven by saying, “I know I make many mistakes in mothering. Sometimes I lose my temper, sometimes I am selfish and impatient, and sometimes I am completely unaware of what is happening with my children. I sometimes think I have become so “adult” that I no longer have the capacity to really remember that I once was a child, or what it was like. My children are going to face so many un-sympathetic people in their lives. But when they are in my home, I want them t to always find a sympathetic mother is ready at any time to listen, affirm, comfort and guide.”
What a challenge for us who are parents or who have influence over any children. I remember many adults who influenced me in my years of growing up. I remember the pain inflicted from those who misunderstood me or spoke too harshly when it wasn’t deserved. I also remember those who spoke kindly to me, affirmed me, and challenged me to be better even when I made very bad choices.
How do you want to be remembered as a parent? My heart is stirred by this chapter to spend more time discerning my child’s behavior and reacting appropriately rather than disciplining the action without sympathy.