Tuesday, January 23, 2018

NURTURING as a Parent

Last week you may have seen the story in the news about the California family with 12 children, ages 2 to 29, who were discovered in horrendous conditions.  My heart broke, and it weighed on me all week.  How can any parent treat their own children in this way?  Oh, my goodness!  There must be some serious mental health issues with those parents!

So, I have been thinking, what does a nurturing parent really look like?  Does it come more easily to those who are people-oriented than those who are task-oriented?  I think for some it does, but some people-oriented people pay more attention to people other than their own children, so that is not an automatic answer. 

Task-oriented or People-oriented?

I am more prone to being task-oriented than people-oriented, and I must discipline my focus at times.  I had an aunt who wouldn’t let her kids mess up the house at all.  I let our children make huge tents in their bedrooms, in the family room, and occasionally connected all down the hallway.  What fun!  After two or three days, they had to come down, but by then we were all ready for a little order.

Nurturing Defined

The dictionary defines nurture as to care for and encourage the growth or development of something.  Synonyms include tend, raise, look after, support, rear or foster. (Google) More than just having fun with your kids, I think of a gardener tending seedlings, raising them up until they are ready to be transplanted outside when the weather and conditions are right.

What Does it Take?

To nurture our children, we must take time with them.  We have to listen to them.   (For more on how to listen as a parent, see pp. 283-286 in my book, Intentional Parenting: A Guide for Christian Parents.)  If they are not talkers, we must draw them out, ask leading questions, help them express and explain their feelings and needs.  We must be affectionate.  We should hold them when they are small, hug them and pat them on the back or shoulder when they get older.  This may seem awkward when teen girls begin to develop.  Dads may feel self-conscious with their daughter’s budding womanhood, but young girls don’t understand that.  Have them sit by you on the couch and put an arm around their shoulders.  Dad still needs to be the most important man in a teen girl’s life.  Adjust the boundaries, but don’t stop being affectionate. 

Nurturers care for children and family members when they are sick.  We hurt with them when they are hurt – and tenderly bandage them up.  We listen when their friend lets them down.  We root for them as they fight to conquer the challenges they face.

Nurturers learn to speak each child’s love language.  (See The 5 Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.)  They try to make sure their child’s emotional tank is filled in the way that touches their heart the most, whether it is physical touch and closeness, words of affirmation, gift giving, acts of service, or quality time.

Nurturing in the Bible

Scripture talks about how natural nurturing is.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.”  (Isaiah 49:15 NASB)

In the story of the two women arguing over the baby before King Solomon, the baby’s mother was willing to give up the child so it could live rather than have the baby divided by a sword. (1Kings 3:16-27)  Her love and tenderness identified her as the correct mother. 

A friend of mine who was a nanny for several different families found that children who are nurtured by their own parents (even though their time was limited) presented fewer behavior challenges, handled life’s difficulties with more confidence, and were all-around happier people.

Dads Can Nurture Too

And it is not just moms who nurture.  Just like God is the husbandman (gardener, farmer, shepherd, etc.) who sees to the growth and development of all that is under his care, fathers have a natural desire to do the same.  They watch to see what a child’s natural bent is.  Athletics?  Computers?  Engineering?  Accounting?  They help find ways to encourage each family member’s growth and development.  It was my husband who made me teach the kids to do chores.  I felt it was easier to do them myself, which was true.  He said that would not serve them well when they grew up.  He said, “Anything they can learn to do, I want you to teach them.”  I took a deep breath and embraced the hard work ahead of me.  Now that they are adults, people often comment on how capable and impressive they are.

Nurturing takes time.  This is a tall order for single parents.  It is hard for busy working moms.  Move it up your priority list.  Your care and tenderness are an example of God’s love for all his children.  Enjoy this natural, lovely part of parenting.

For more parenting help go to www.IntentionalParenting.us or consider my book, Intentional Parenting: A Guide for Christian Parents.  There is also a Small Group guide with discussion questions for couples or groups.

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