Taking the Time to Get to Know Our Children

mom-and-girl“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

My daughter and daughter-in-law introduced me to Loving the Little Years, by Rachel Jankovic. It’s a book for moms with little kids. My kids are not little anymore. In fact, in less than three weeks, I will be a retired homeschooling mother (ready and waiting to take on the new duties of homeschooling grandmother).

But I loved this book. I actually had my flashlight out, reading it in bed after the lights were out, I was enjoying it so much. Eventually, we’ll post a review of it here on the blog (as soon as Johanna or Katelyn manages to find enough time around their little ones to write the review for us), so I will resist the urge to tell you why every mama with little children should read it. But I do want to share a quote from it today. Speaking about having several young children (she had 5 children ages 5 and under when she wrote the book!), Rachel says:

“Another way that we try to counteract the bulk effect and treat our children as individuals is simply by realizing that it is not their fault that there are so many of them…Dry erase boards and chore charts are all well and good, but they do not change the fact that what you have on your hands is children, not an organizational problem. When Scripture says to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, it is not talking about finding the most effective way to organize them…Christian childrearing is a pastoral pursuit, not an organizational challenge.”

I love her insight. It is so easy to get caught up in the logistics of feeding, clothing, and cleaning a bunch of children; we can sometimes forget that we are caring for precious souls that need loving more than organizing.

To truly “pastor” our children, we need to spend time with them. We often need to stop, sit down, and listen. We need to open their bedroom door, plop down on the bed, and ask a few friendly questions. We need to make a mess in the kitchen together, play a game while the others nap, snuggle on the sofa together with a good book, and ignore what our to-do list says we shouldbe doing. This is our most important work.

Here’s a challenge for the next few days:

Perhaps you already do this, but if you don’t, commit to giving at least fifteen minutes of individual time to each child. Ask God to help you think of ways to do this. What will you do? When will you do it? What will the rest of the family do while you spend this time together? Be alert, too, for spontaneous unplanned opportunities when the child obviously would like your time and attention. Take advantage of those opportunities to tell him he’s more important to you than your tasks. Put the dishcloth in the sink, pull up a chair, and listen while he talks. Use those fifteen minutes to get to know that child better.

Here are some ideas to get you started (these are addressed to mothers, but dads could obviously do the same thing):

  • Work on a project together – drawing, sewing, model airplanes, shooting baskets, making cookies, etc.
  • Go for a walk together. Take a treat along, or take your cameras.
  • Save an errand to do when you can leave most of the children home with Daddy. Then take just one child along with you, and include a treat as part of the outing.
  • Eat dinner with the family, and then take just one child out for ice cream afterwards while the rest of the family enjoys a special treat at home with Daddy.
  • While everyone else rests, pull a blanket over some chairs and have a naptime campout in the living room.
  • Play a game together while Daddy keeps the rest of the gang busy.
  • Read a book together.
  • Teach him or her a new skill. Take the training wheels off the bike and run down the street alongside your novice biker. Show her how to embroider or knit. Coach her as she makes a batch of biscuits for dinner.

Share what you are planning to do, or tell us what you did do! It’s good to encourage each other, and to “provoke one another to love and good works.” Investing time in our children is good work. Let us know how it goes!

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  1. Thank you so much for posting this! I have been thinking lately how to stop my crazy days and to focus more on my children. I have 4 children right now ages 8,5,1 and 5 months. I have been so busy with two babies. As soon as my daughter (5 month old) takes a nap, my one year old wants me to hold him. This doesn’t leave me much one on one time with my oldest son or my five year old son. And you would think that being we homeschool I would have all the time in the world. This has encouraged me even more to just put everything else aside and spend some quality time with my older boys. I need to just let things slide more, let the dishes sit a little longer, and let the house be a little bit more messy until I have spent some one on one. Thank you so much for encouraging me! I think tomorrow we will be having ourselves a blanket fort in the living room…maybe a couple of cookies to go with it.

  2. Such an encouragement! I, too, have four children (ages 8, 6, 4, and 3 months). I am laughing to myself thinking, “I don’t even have time to read the book!” (I homeschool too and live in a third-world country where we serve as missionaries so everything takes longer!)

    However, the message is true for all of us. We need to take that special time for each of our kids. That 8, nearly 9-year old in my house is going to be heading off to college in the blink of an eye, and I don’t want to miss the time I have left with him. Thank you for the reminder.

  3. I only have two children, so finding time for each of them is not a big challenge for us. It’s just a matter of taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. For example, later this week the little one is going to a birthday tea party. During that time, I’ll take the big one to our favorite ice cream place. I find it much easier to have a long conversation about Star Wars when I am away from home!

  4. Megan Bumgardner

    I learned this valuable lesson from your materials several years ago. It has really helped build relationships with my kids! Thanks for sharing your God-given wisdom!

  5. I have ten children. Yesterday as I was in the midst of schooling the two younger ones, our 20 month old baby needed my attention. I took him some cars to play with and as I dropped them on the living room floor, he grabbed my hand and pulled me down, saying, “C’mon.” He wanted me to play with him. I called into the kitchen and told the other two to do what math they could without me while I played with Michael Ray. My oldest child is 27 years old. I KNOW the years pass too quickly and I wish I had taken more time just to capture those precious moments.

  6. I am a mother of 4 (6, 5, 4, & 2) and find spending quality *individual* time with the girls to be a challenge. My husband’s schedule doesn’t allow for him to take the other kids while I take one very often. Recently I read “If Teacups Could Talk” by Emilie Barnes, encouraging each of us to take time out for tea (or hot chocolate, or lemonade, etc.). She spoke of how making that effort to slow down really prepares us for developing close relationships. I want to have a tea party with each of my girls, by themselves. What to do with the others while I do this is another question! I’d love to hear any suggestions…

  7. Kylee, when our children were little, we had a quiet time for an hour every day. After lunch we would usually go for a walk, then we’d read together for awhile, and then everyone headed for their own bed. The little ones slept, and the older ones had to stay on their beds and do something quiet — reading, listening to tapes with headphones, writing stories, playing with a quiet toy, etc.
    Of course, not EVERYone stayed on their beds ALL the time, so some of my time was spent training them to do so, but in general, this gave me a quiet break in the afternoon. This was an opportunity for some time with individual children, or for my own reading, sewing projects, or napping.
    If you don’t already do something like this, it might take a little time to establish the quiet time, but this might be one way to give you some time for individual tea parties with your girls.

  8. I have five children and this is definitely a must.

    I have had those same thoughts of my children being individuals and treating them that way, rather than a collective bunch of children. They are each different and thrive on different things; learn different ways; speak different “love languages”. They cannot be put into a “one size, fits all” box.

    Thank you for sharing this with us today. 🙂 I will put forth the effort to be sure we are getting that time in.

  9. What a great post! I’ve been needing some evaluation in this area. I’ve been encouraged by God as an individual child and I felt so blessed and loved. I need to take His example to my children so they feel like an individual and special child. 🙂

  10. I also have 4 children (6,5,2 and 6 months) and my husband works long hours so it is mostly just men for long stretches of time. I have to admit that I don’t often do the alone time thing because it tends to be a time of conflict where everyone wants my attention. But I am reminded of the dedication in the beginning of “Cheaper by the Dozen,” which went something like, “to dad who only raised 12 children and to mom who raised 12 only children.” I do really want to be able to give our children that kind of attention. I will definitely try to focus on that more.

  11. I have four children. When my son (the baby) was young, I allowed each of my girls to stay up 30 minutes after everyone else went to bed for “special time with Mommy.” As my son has grown, I have been bad about not doing that special time with each of the children. I need to re-institute that and this blog post has encouraged me to do just that!

  12. Gina,
    Great idea I am starting that tonight! I have a 6,5,2, and 1 year old so it is so easy to just “get through” the day but what a great way to end the day w/ special time spent one-on-one.