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Finding Joy in Your Children – Survey and replies

 

Over the past year, I have received by a number of counselling referrals where parents were experiencing difficulties with their children. In several of these situations, the parents had tried numerous other counsellors and behavioural interventions but problems remained. It was clear these parents were exasperated and at their wits end. Parenting was not fun. It was not rewarding. It was difficult for several of these parents to maintain a positive emotional investment taking care of their children. There was no experience of joy and I felt this had to be rekindled. Finding joy became the challenge. Upon rekindling joy many of these parents went on to express better behavioural outcomes with their children and they expressed greater satisfaction as parents.

 

I sought to explore the issue and look for other people’s strategies to finding joy in their children. I sent out an email survey to persons representing early childhood education, social work, family therapy and those who provide supervision services to enable access between parents separated from their children. The survey read:

 

OK, this may sound corny, but I find that many parents are mired in conflict with their children (of all ages) and as such, are unable to find joy in them or the relationship.

Therefore, I am looking at writing an article on the topic of "Finding Joy in Your Children".

Your comments or feedback on the topic would be appreciated.... How do you find joy in your children?

Below are the responses I received.

 

Please enjoy reading them. I know I did.

 

Best,

 

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com

 

 

 Replies:

 

1

This question really intrigues me because as a mother of three, now 20, 14 and 9, I have struggled with this many times through the years with each child.  Because they are so far apart, I always have such different issues with each.  However, the one things that I always fall back on is that I realized that each time I had a baby a magical thing happened for me.  I could instantly revisit the baby that my then 11 year old, and 5 year old, used to be.  It somehow brought their preciousness back to life for me and I realized that there are definitely times that it's difficult to appreciate or feel loving toward our children until we revisit the times that it was so easy to love them.    

I also learned that even if they are 5, 11, 14, or even 20, they still want the love, affection and attention that comes from a loving mother.  They like to sometimes be showered with kisses and reminded that they are your "baby" Oftentimes, just this simple announcement makes them melt into me and remember a time when it was easier for them to love me too.  A time so uncomplicated with rules and restrictions and growing pains.  A time when it was just the two of us and a perfect day for them consisted of my undivided attention. A time long gone, even for my nine year old. 

As you know, it is impossible to keep this magic going by continuing to give birth to new babies just as a reminder.  Therefore, I take time to look at pictures, especially if they'll look with me and we'll giggle and bond again as we talk about how cute they were.  Or when I see a small baby, I'll secretly tell them that they were just as cute and that the impulse they have to hug and hold that baby is the exact same way I felt with them.  This seems to reinforce that even though we don't cuddle on the couch and read books together, or spend every minute of every day together, we still have a special bond that is unmistakable.  It helps me remember, and helps them remember, sweeter, simpler times.  From this foundation, we are then able to better communicate, appreciate and listen to one another as we fondly recall the joyful days of when we first met, and fell in love.

2

I find joy

*when I hear her explaining something or just talking to her friends like a wise sage...and her words are things we've discussed and some of her words are actually mine!
*when I see her practicing values like forgiveness or compassion or loyalty.  She may not give her actions those words but the values are ones I've taught to her.
*when she tells me stories of her adventures on the road to her dreams.

I should tell you my daughter is now 22 years old and while my aforementioned examples occurred all through her life (and continue today) I learned early on that parenting is a balancing act.  Balancing the conflicts while seeing the good and always asking "what is to be learned by this experience--for her and I each?"

3

I have found that raising children for the past 25 years has been both challenging and rewarding. Having run the gamut of stages, from birth to adulthood, I have to say that each segment of my children's lives have been enjoyable. Oh, don't get me wrong, there are struggles as well as successes but I think the key is to embrace where they are at and treat your children with respect not as a possession or a burden. For example, if your child has a sense of humour laugh at his jokes and antics instead of demanding he grow up and act his age. If your kids excel in school or extracurriculars, rejoice in their accomplishments and be proud of them win or lose instead of complaining about having to attend the events or meet with a child's teacher. Create a memory for your child of a parent who chose to throw a baseball, do a craft project or play a board game instead of yelling & nagging about the messy bedroom, overgrown lawn and dirty dishes. The work still has to be done but do it together and it will go much easier. I truly believe that companionship and friendship with your children is the key to enjoying. They are each unique and will give enjoyment in different ways. Accept those differences and you truly will find joy in them. I wrote the following & hope you find it amusing.

Parenting to a "T"

If I had to pick a letter of the alphabet that would best describe each stage of my parenthood, it would have to be the letter "T".

We went from the task of being pregnant to the tiresome teething at two in the morning. Terrible twos led us to trailing after toddlers. Who needed a tread mill then?  From terror filled trips on toboggans in winter to traversing trails in parks in the summer.  Trips to town for shopping was tense with tantrums and timeouts a tiring test. Trucking kids off to sports team tryouts or scout troop activities. Tracking their talent in theatre or tap dance.  Teens talking on the telephone replaced tea parties & tree houses. Temperaments changed and temptations led to trouble. Teasing, & trials, weather trivial or traumatic gave us triumph over tears and togetherness as a family. We try and we trust demanding the truth and when it's all done we treasure the times. At the risk of sounding tiresome I'll offer one more "T". My years as a parent have been TERIFFIC!

4

Tips for finding joy in your children: let them be themselves; meet them where they are at; maintain regular communication and finally sustain awareness of their current activities and interests.

5

I find joy in my 15 month old by simply observing him! Sometimes we need to remember that they to are often role-modeling for us - especially the simple pleasures of pure fun!

6

I try very hard to "catch them doing things right," which tends to offset the times I have to correct them.  It makes them feel better, and it helps me keep in perspective the fact they are growing and learning...they don't come out of the womb knowing how to conduct themselves, and it's my job to teach them.  Praising them when they're doing the right thing encourages them to do it more, so my moments of correction are fewer and further between, ideally.  So I find joy in seeing the good and watching them bloom under my appreciation of them.

7

I myself do not have children, however I find joy in others.  Mostly my contact with kids is at my visitation centre and let me tell you, these kids are awesome, they are amazingly resilient.

I know this may sound corny, but these are the things that I find joy in all children...their laughter, when they run to and embrace their "absent" parent, their smile, when a little girl twirls around to show off her new dress, their pride in a job well done (while drawing, playing a game, or doing homework), their innocence, and their unbelievable wisdom.  But mostly my joy is in the fact that they have the ability to love so openly and without bounds.

8

I understand that you are writing an article about joy with our children!  That’s wonderful.  I want to tell you about my children, and my joy!

My eleven-year-old son came to me this morning with tears in his eyes.  He said, “Mom, something awful happened.”  I waited.  Nothing.  Finally I said, “Did your shade fall down again?”  He said, “No, much worse…much worse.”  I waited.  Nothing.  I turned the page of the newspaper.  I waited.  Finally he said, “You know that silly putty?  Well, somehow it got on one of the cushions on the couch….”  I got up and went and looked and, yep, there was silly putty on the couch.  I went back into the kitchen and confirmed his observation.  He said, “I’m sorry mom, I don’t know how it happened.”

Well, after I got over the sudden surge of severe annoyance…this gave me joy.  Why?  Because my son cared about what happened, because he deeply cared about the consequences of his behaviour.  He is eleven, so for 11 years he has been developing this wonderful conscience that he now so clearly displays.  This same child feels compelled to give money to anyone who is collecting for worthy causes outside department stores where we may shop. 

My daughter, 13 (going on 18), gives me joy as well.  She is having her first boyfriends and learning to flirt.  She takes innocent pleasure in her effect on boys and likes to share this with me.  It’s such fun doing some reliving on that level.  She is also a very disciplined child who wakes herself up at 5:30 in the morning on the days she goes to school and completes school projects weeks in advance.  My favourite time with her is when she yields to still needing Mom and wants to just hang out.  She enjoys activities at church and complains if she doesn’t make it to services often enough.

My children have been compelling in every stage of development.  Having them in my life changed my life completely.  I am no longer self-cantered, I am no longer self-indulgent, I am no longer lazy.  My husband and I have grown and we have been forced to grow in ways that never would have occurred without the children’s presence in our lives. 

Has it been easy?  Never.  Has it been worth it?  Every minute has been precious.

Good luck with your story.  I know many people who find joy in their children.   

9

You are absolutely right.  When I was mired in conflict with my ex, I was so consumed and so stressed and so... that I was not able to find joy in anything, including my children, who were often just another source of stress.

I learned to appreciate them, and life again, by getting on with my life and putting the conflict filled relationship with their father aside.  Yes, there is still no closure, we are still headed for court, it is still nasty all around, but it does not consume me anymore and it does not affect my relationship with my kids anymore.

I guess I started taking that often heard but seldom followed advice and I started taking care of myself.  I joined Parents Without Partners and started having fun in my life, both with my kids in the family events, and without my kids in the parent events.  I met other single parents who were equally as mired in their own conflicts but had put their kids first, at least during the times they had their kids, and enjoyed the time with them.  I met other single parents who were "survivors" and realized people do live through this, so there was hope for me, too.  I met single parents who had little time with their kids but who made the best of it.

And it made me see I was pretty lucky to have my kids, my great kids, as much as I do have them. And it made me see that I was wasting my time with them and my life being upset with their father. I was still letting him control me, even when he wasn't there.

So I changed my reactions.  I took control of my life. I got my own house and made it a home for my children. I left a counsellor who was not helping me and got counselling that did help me.  I changed lawyers.  I decided to make the best of a job that I don't love and start counting the ways it helps me by letting me have more time with my kids and paying the bills for us to live.  I stopped reacting to my ex's button pushing and started putting my kids first.  Now they say, "Daddy is doing this, or Daddy said that", and for the most part I reply, "Oh" and drop it.  No more being dragged back there, even unintentionally by the kids.  I stopped letting other people drag me back there with their irate reactions to my ex's dirty tricks and the flawed legal system.  I started saying "I'm not going to let this upset me anymore" even though I was obviously upset at the time.  Slowly people started realizing what they were saying did upset me and started modifying their comments.  And, with practice, I also started really not letting it bother me.

And, I started missing my kids when they were with their other parent, so I started valuing the time when they were with me.  We discovered things we like to do as a family, I started concentrating on doing things on their level and finding out how much I enjoy it.  I started listening to people tell me how wonderful my children are and looking at them to see it myself.  I fell in love with my children again because I got myself in a place where I could set aside my problems and focus on them and us together.

I learned a new definition of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is no longer letting the other person "get away" with hurting me, as it was for so long.  Forgiveness now, is making that person stop hurting me by letting go of the hurt.  I no longer hang on to the hurt and replay it in my mind a thousand times.  Now I get on with it.  I took practice, and time.  

I have a personal scale that I have used.  I can honestly say now, that if I was standing behind my ex at the edge of a cliff, I would walk away.  I would not push him over because he is not worth it.  And despite what he has done to me and to my kids, he is still their father and they deserve a relationship of some kind with him.

I no longer try to prevent the damage he does.  Instead I've learned to let the bullet bounce off me  and let my children talk out their hurt and feelings in a safe environment.

And I get the help and support I need when I need it. Friends, workshops, counselling, reading, PWP. Wherever I can find it.  It is there in spades when you stop looking inward at how terrible your life is and start looking outward for how you can change and improve it.

I tell my kids many times a day how beautiful they are, how special, how smart, how fun, how much I love them. And I hear it back.  I look at my kids and I see two little miracles.  I surround myself with the things I love about my children - their portraits, things they have made for me, things that I have made for them. That visually demonstrates my perspective of putting them first.  And I see it every day.

Because I left an abusive relationship, my reactions, my stories, the scars on myself and my children, and the (for lack of a more polite word) crap my children are still exposed to are probably more severe than many people's.  But now I work on healing and moving on instead of holding on and letting it fester.  My kids need me.  They need me to help protect them.  Give them fun.  Give them a safe place to talk about what is bothering them, especially what is bothering them with their father.  They need to have fun in their lives because when they are with their father they spend their days plugged into the television.  They need consistency.  They need to know they can count on me. Those things are priority.

The other stuff isn't worth wasting my energy on.  It obsessed me for too long and ruled my life.  For what? I let him continue to control me and continued to lose myself in my process.

My life is what I make of it.  And I like my life now. So do my kids.  Our lives aren't perfect, and we have our struggles.  But we are certainly happier that we were before.  Both before we left and before I learned to let go.

11

I find that often people will have children for selfish reasons.  i.e.  To feel fulfilled or to see what a child could bring to their lives.  I must admit, to some degree, I was also guilty of this.

Over the past few years, I find that the true joy or happiness I get from my children is just seeing them laugh and being happy.  Seeing the joy on their faces when they accomplish something for the first time or seeing the determination when they are unsuccessful at certain things.  I also find great joy in looking over the years, from the day they were born until now, and seeing how quickly they have grown and progressed.

12

I thought this morning about why people have joy -- what it is.  Bubbles in a tub is a happy, joyful occasion. . . but doing difficult job well provides joy at the end, too.  It occurred to me that there needs to be a mission statement as to the purpose of parenting so that I am not so much looking for happy moments, but joyful moments for me and my child as the mission is fulfilled.

The Bible makes a statement, "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful;  yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. . ."  Hebrews 12:11

The greatest, and most long range joy I have had in raising my children is to see them become faithful friends, good citizens, loving parents, productive workers, good financial managers, unselfish individuals who serve their neighbours.  This long-range joy took the short-range responsibility of disciplining my children -- which didn't seem to be joyful at the time.  But afterward -- as my son is now 30 and my
daughter 22 -- there has been peaceable fruit:  no drugs, no recklessness, no jail, no abuse, no laziness, no sexually transmitted diseases.  They are both spiritually prosperous, highly regarded persons of integrity.   This has brought me my greatest joy, and given them joy as well.

13

I find the little idiosyncrasies that I have passed onto her, which I shared with my dad;  like how I used to love it how he tucked me in so tight I felt like a mummy.  She says, "Mom, come tuck me in like Bampy did when you were little!".  Or, she will say, "See you in the morning" in the same singsong that Dad and I have in the past.  There are so many of them, but they all stem back to how much I love my dad and how affectionate he always was.  I always knew he loved me.

14

My children are now adults but I can tell you how I especially find joy in my grandchildren. I negotiate with the parents that I have each of them separately. They love being the only one whether it is something as simple as a walk or as organized as a trip. I have heard from parents that when things start to get a bit contentious, they use this same technique - one to one time.

15

Having 3 (very headstrong) boys (men now), when they were teens, I used to go into their bedrooms after they were asleep and just look at them and remember when they were babes curled up in their cribs. I also thought of times when they gave me laughter and tears of pride.  I knew down deep that they would grow into responsible adults who not only would be my sons, but my friends.  That got me through some rough times - did not resolve conflicts, but did give me a better perspective and some patience the next day.

16

Gary, just all the simple things... I often tell my children that God blessed me with the three most incredible gifts in this world.   I take pleasure in watching Sarina sleep, playing hide and go seek with her, marvelling at her incredible courage, making her breakfast Saturday morning.  I let her know how proud I am. With Celia, I watch with incredible pride at the wonderful young woman she has turned out to be.  Recently I saw her graduate from grade 8.  She was radiant in a soft pink gown, a light application of lip-gloss, her hair in an up do.  I had to chuckle that she didn't give in to complete fashion because she wore flip-flops under the gown.  With Danny my son.  At the age of 11 nothing is more important than food.  I enjoy cooking with him, and watching him eat.

I take pleasure in the simple opportunity of seeing them.  I enjoy playing outside in the rain and splashing in puddles with them.  I am grateful for each the opportunity of being a referee, a doctor, a cook, a maid, a chauffeur and everything else a mom should be.   There are so many things that I appreciate with my children.  The greatest joy is the gratitude for having them in your life and knowing it with every breath.

17

I would say one of the ways to find joy is to accept the individuality of each child; comparing children &/or demanding that one approach life like their other siblings fuels conflict.

18

One of the things I do to find. . . or maybe a better word is "generate" joy between me and my granddaughter is to sing to her.  If she finds a bug, I repeat the words she has said or exclaimed to a familiar tune such as "Old MacDonald."  When I leave her a message on the phone (she is 2) I sing it.  She loves my messages.  It's not so much that it brings me joy as the fact that joy is generated between us. I have colourful teacups. . . the fancy ones.  They can be found often at yard sales -- so this is not out of reach for anyone.  But Paula and I would regularly have tea parties.  Outside or inside -- just mini-vacations with her and me.  We learned to talk and listen to one another during those times.  They were fun then, but the joy that has been generated is long lasting and has spanned the years.  She is a 22 year old journalist now -- has been on a mission to Amsterdam, and is a beautiful and successful young woman.  But our favourite connection is still over a cup of coffee where the most important things are said. When my children were little -- and now with my granddaughter, Irene a tub full of bubbles -- and all the spoons and bowls they want in with them was great fun.  They are warm in the water, and are getting clean, and mom can rest for a while -- as well as playfully piling bubbles on top of the little ones head, or making a bubble moustache.  Lots of laughter is associated with bath time.  Even when they are very little -- an inch of warm water in the tub and an infant on his back splashing around is restful for momma, and a joyful for the baby.

19

I don't think that your topic is corny at all!  I find it highly relevant to today's parenting.  

I find joy in my children in several ways.  I find time to observe them from a distance so that I can see, from a bird's eye view, their pleasure at play. Each day I play at least one game with them that they enjoy (our current favourite is an alien card game).  My favourite way to connect with my kids and find joy in them is through shared reading experiences.  Reading aloud from a vibrant picture book not only enraptures them and engages me in a dramatic way, it also reminds me of when I was read to as a child.  Connecting the blissful feeling I had as a child while being read to with the current joy of sharing that with my own children is one of the best feelings I can imagine.  

20

This is an interesting concept. I have undertaken the question with many of the parents that I deal with. I will tell you Gary it is a question that stifles a lot of even the more concerned parents (sorry for dividing good and bad parents). It isn't a question they have ever really asked themselves and they kind of feel on the spot when I ask them so their answers are usually skewed. I have noticed a common ground for a lot of the moms. They (for the most part) find the calm serenity of their child sleeping to be one of their biggest joys. They often say that patting the child's back or playing with his or her hair is a great stress reliever. The men usually enjoy the playtime they spend with there child. wrestling, playing ball etc. I have to pick and choose the parents I say it to but I sometimes like to explain how the manner of play that they use with there child is a mirror image of how the child will play at daycare. Sometimes the wrestling transfers from the home to the daycare. Can the child be blamed? I think that it is a touchy situation. I guess that with some fathers any interaction time is good, but if a father doesn't realize that it is important to teach their child appropriate means of play then I have to educate them in a non condescending way. then I look at the fact that it is important for the child to be exposed to all the different elements it is god for them to learn that there are boundaries. Home and daycare are two separate boundaries that have a different set of rules. 

21

What a great idea...I am beginning to think that we have some kind of strange link...Oh well, it is about "connections"!!!  I remember when I used to do "Crisis Intervention" for the Juvenile Court System, that the issue of "joy in children" often arose.  A family (parent or parents) would arrive with their child, full of stress and anxiety.  Often the issues were more about typical development (parent and/or child:-)).  I would ask the parent(s) to list what they "liked" about their son or daughter.  They would look at me in shock...Couldn't I see the problems they were having; how could I even ask such a question as what do they "like" about this troublesome child????  My first suggestion was often an "assignment" about remembering the joy they felt at this child's birth; the excitement they felt when they reached those early developmental milestones.  I would attempt NOT to minimize their concerns, but rather to get them to realize that this "troublesome" child was that same child and simply "liking" them was okay even if/when there were problems.  It was as though they needed this permission.  In some cases, the issues were serious, and they simply were so overwhelmed (perhaps at Maslow's bottom rung), that they forgot what they liked in an effort at survival (theirs and the child's).  In these instances, I would have them list their child's "favourites", interests, talents and abilities, friends, etc.  They often would come back noting how valuable this exercise was in helping them to 'know' their child again...

It is interesting that this same issue comes up with early childhood professionals (caregivers and educators).  They become very stressed over the behaviour of a child and "forget" what they liked...or to engage with that child other than around his/her behaviour.  They look for "positives" but have to be reminded to simply attend to this child for "being".  Often their desperate call will tell me everything problematic about this child...and nothing regarding the child's interests, etc...I instruct them to get back with me after doing two observations:  First they are to let me know everything about this child other than his/her behaviour; i.e. family, culture, interests, joys, fears, favourites, pets, learning style, personality/temperament...etc.  Then I have them do this self-observation:  
Engaged        Orders/Instructions        Non-Engaged (child's attempts which are ignored)

They are to mark when they actually engage with a child (listen, converse, make even brief contact that is not an order or reaction to behaviour).  They mark the order column when giving an order: Don't, Stop, No..etc.  and Non-Engaged when they realize the child has tried to talk to them or get their attention.   Of course, an "halo effect" develops but they still "get it" usually.  Some of the learning that has taken place doing this exercise has been profound.  When a supervisor does this observation on staff, he/she has noted what children may get the most "engagement", who gets the orders, etc. One comment I sometimes get at the beginning is that child is doing something "for attention".  I get really shocked looks when I suggest that this is the child who must "need" their attention...attention not connected to their behaviour "good or bad".   

Well...I've gone astray.  But, to make your point.....  YES...do something around having joy in individual children, expressing that joy and how, perhaps...it will relate to joyful, confident children...

22

Every relationship has conflict to one degree or another. The key to reducing conflict is effective, precise and respectful communication. This is very important when it comes to our children.

I have found that I can reduce the amount of conflict I have with my boys, ages 11 and 14, by telling them exactly what I want them to do, as opposed to telling them what I don't want them to do.

When my instructions are clear and the positive consequences that will come from following those instructions are articulated, I get full cooperation from my sons.  I talk to them in language that is appropriate to their developmental level and couch the message in a respectful tone.

It is important to remember that children (especially when they are very young) see ideas as pictures in their minds. If we paint a picture with our words of the ways we want our children to behave, they see that picture in  their mind and that is how they behave.

They have to be able to picture themselves behaving in the way that we want them to, and be able to picture the positive (or negative if appropriate) consequences of their behaviour.

"If you guys unload the dishwasher, put the clean dishes away and load the dirty dishes, I'll take you out for lunch," works so much better than, "If you don't take care of the dishes, I'll unplug your Game Cube."

By taking a positive approach, we diminish conflict and enjoy cooperation.

23

Well I have an easy age to find joy in--my little boy is 3 and I find joy in just about everything he does!  Whether it is hunting for bugs, watching his face when he discovers a frog or a tiny flower hidden in the grass, or if it is just those moments where we lay together and listen to the radio during a thunderstorm.  This may sound corny too, but those are some of the best times we have spent together!

24

What a wonderful question. I find joy in my children through simple daily conversations. I love it when they start a question with "mom, did you know that..." and then they pass on their recently learned tidbit of knowledge to me. It demonstrates a natural curiosity for learning, which I consider vital to loving life. I am also honoured that they want to share their day and learning with me. This is said most to me during dinner, at the table as often as we can, in the car on the way to a lesson of some sort (radio turned off) or on the walk home from school or to the corner store for a treat.

25

Please find below a few examples of when I find joy in my two-year-old son George:

* When I make him laugh.

* When I teach him something new and he remembers it and gets satisfaction from putting his new found knowledge into action.

* When other people tell me how wonderful he is.

* When he goes to sleep as soon as I put him in his cot.

 

26

My experiences as a parent, preschool teacher, early childhood centre director, executive director of a membership organization, and more recently grandparent, tell me that children of all ages are begging for firm, consistent guidelines and much more individual attention that they get from their parents, teachers, and family members.  Like adults, children are too stretched, too many activities, too much school stress, and too little time to think.  

The largest enemy of childhood is, as we have predicted for lots of year, is the media, specifically television.  Sorry, I must run, I'm picking up my grandson from his summer school program and taking him home to have a fabulous cooking experience, after which we will read a book together.  By the way, he is eleven years old and still covets (more than anything) being loved for who he is and spending time with his family.  At the age of five, he suggested that all families should live in one very large house, and always be there for each other.  What a wise idea from a very young child!

27

I find joy in my children...  Letting them decide (what to do, wear or eat) and then seeing how much they learn. Hearing them laugh at really stupid humour (the only reason a sane person would watch "Master of Disguise" is to hear their 8-year-old laugh). Sharing their own joy, whatever sparks it. Best for last: watching them sleep. I still love that.

28

As a mother of five, all of whom were teenagers at one time, I learned that in order to find joy in my children, and to keep from being consumed by conflict...it was necessary for me to not sweat the small stuff, and to choose my battles.  I know both of those expressions are over-worked and seem trite...but they are never-the-less true.  Your son comes home with a blue mohawk?  Ask yourself...what is this hurting?  Is it permanent? Does it affect me or my relationship with my child?  Is it worth battling about?
There were of course certain lines that couldn't be crossed without consequences, but something as temporary as hair (colour or cut) is not worth arguing about.  (now, tattoos or piercing are another story!).  

I also found that allowing my children a voice in not only their privileges, but also their consequences went a long way towards keeping things calm.  It is very important that these things are discussed in advance.  It is hard for a young person to argue that "it's not fair" when the consequence is one that he/she suggested in the first place.

29

I do not have children of my own, but spend allot of time with the children
in my family.  I find that corresponding at their level, really connecting
with them is most rewarding.  They light up when they feel you really 'got
it' (what they are saying or doing).  Watching them laugh, receiving or
giving a hug for no reason, making quality time count.....

30

My parents divorced when I was very young and life was extremely difficult after.  I married at 18 and both of my children were born when I was 19.  I raised my children by what I thought "a good parent" would do.  As I encouraged my children they bloomed.  I found great joy seeing my children reach and exceed their potential.  My son is an attorney and my daughter is a human resource director and they now act as consultants to their mother.  I don't often offer advise to my children, they are highly intelligent professionals.  By not offering advise, they frequently ask, then wait to hear what I have to say. 

Wow, when your adult children think you might have something wise to share, that's finding joy in your children!  

31 The subject can be taken as 2 parts:
1 - How do I find joy in them through their eyes
2 - How do I find joy in them through my eyes

1 - There are so many examples of expressions but here is the gist of it. Their laughter, smiles, eyes, a glow, body movements (running, walking, biking, swimming) are all signs of joy. Their looks of happiness after comforting and reassuring them when they feel hurt, neglected, worthless, withdrawn, confused, insecure. Not being afraid to talk things out.  Their looks when you praise them or when they are proud they feel they have accomplished something. Getting a good nights rest when there's no stress within them. Their morning wake up expressions. Their open arms for hugs and kisses. When they use their imagination to make up happy stories (instead of reading books) before going they go to bed When they feel good about reading books

2)
Seeing them:
- happy with lots of smiles and laughter.
- jumping up and down for joy.
- when they feel good not sick.
- with their friends playing.
- with not a care in the world
- running up to me to give me lots of hugs and kisses
- when they want me to fix things (toys, clothes, bikes)
- when I can make them feel better when everything is against them
- sleeping peacefully through the night
- just saying thank you dad for everything you're doing to help us
- calm
- proud after they created artwork which expresses they're thoughts and imagination
- always reminding myself how happy they used to be and trying to bring those times back when we're together
- all the happy memories we shared together
- hearing them read and make up stories
- having fun
- when they aren't idle but want to do things with me
- the unconditional love they give me
- the expressions and feelings when I make them feel a whole let better
- when they know I'm always proud of them no matter what they do
- when I see them as being very smart and can work out a puzzling situation and watching them as they derive a solution

Basically, How I find joy in my children;
- their joy is my joy and my joy is their joy - unconditionally
- their accomplishments are my accomplishments
- they're a part of me and I'm a part of them
- they're a part of my life and I'm a part of theirs
- when we're together
- when we can work things out together despite the odds and be satisfied with the compromise
- when we go to each other anytime and just give hugs and kisses and saying: I love You for just being you (and really mean it, not for the sake of saying it) - unconditionally

32 How do I find joy in my children?

My girls are considered young adults now, but I still have the memories of when they were babies...so innocent, so adorable, so unconditionally loving and I hold those memories of them as young children close to my heart. So that when they're not co-operating or they're causing me heartaches I tell them as my mother used to tell me; they can go anywhere in this world, do anything in this world, they can even commit murder, but I will always be their mother and they can never wipe away my memories of them nor will anything stop me from loving them.

Telling your children you love them in spite of conflict in every day living is a hard thing and should never be used as a bargaining tool, but they need to hear it not just in thought or deed.

I look at them in awe sometimes.  I remind myself that I had a hand in creating and bringing them into this world and they fascinate me to no end. When they come up with off the wall ideas I think to myself they're no part of me in they're thinking, but WOW! They have brains of their own.  There is a poem that I keep to remind myself of this; it goes like this:

Our children are not our children.  They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself.  They come through you, and though they are with you; yet they belong not to you.  You may give them your love, but not your thoughts.  For they have their own thoughts.  You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.  For life does not move backwards, nor tarry with yesterday.  It is as always, moving forward.  Author unknown

Never lose the fascination of your children as thinking, growing, authentic individuals and you will always find joy in them.  That's what I think.

33 1. Their giggles & laughter at each other when they play nice.
2. Spontaneous hugs that sneak up on me.
3. Their angelic peaceful faces when they sleep.
4. When they tell me "You're the best cook in the world" for something as
simple as cereal
5.  The smile with the glint in their eyes when I look in my rearview
mirror.
6.  Their stories about Santa & the tooth fairy that they still believe in.
7.  Their excitement about going to visit someone/vacation & they have their
bags all packed with favourite things (not necessarily clothes).
8.  Their joy in being helpful.

 

34 How do I find joy in my children? I look to God because they are a gift from Him! I listen as intently as I can to them when they are speaking to me. I value them, and they reward me with their growing sense of humor and wit. I always try to remember to laugh at their jokes, and honor their accomplishments no matter how small or brief.

 

Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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