With four young children, it appears that there is a plethora of information bombarding my inbox to tell me how I should parent. How did they know I needed this?!
“Awesome, another email about parenting. I can’t wait to open this.” – Jayson Brewer
Anyone who has a child, regardless of age, has something to say about some aspect of parenting, and it appears the best way to tell people nowadays is online (preferably in all caps).
You know what I say about opinions? Opinions are like hair, I don’t care if you have a lot or none, just don’t let me find a strand in my food.
Saying something at the wrong time can “ruin someone’s appetite.” It is key to understand when to say something and when to remain quiet. I often think of the verse in James 1:19, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
Which brings me to the topic of intentionality, especially with words. There are so many messages from so many people directed at our children. How deliberate or purposeful are we with our words when we speak truth to our children? How intentional are we to create space to hear what’s on their hearts and minds, to cut through the noise?
Intentionality is something that I strive to have in my parenting, but I get swamped by the thought of failing at this aspect of parenting when I say things just to say things. Or I think, I need to make this moment memorable, I need to say or do something. And it ends there because nothing comes to mind. And with four children, it seems there is someone saying something all the time in my house, so will they even hear me, or am I just adding to the noise?
So, here are a few ways I try to intentionally create space to speak into the lives of my children and to hear what’s going on in their lives.
On Their Birthdays
It was a tradition, as I grew up, that my dad would take me out for breakfast on my birthday. Even to this day, I spend the first meal of my birthday with my father. He would read 1 Timothy 4:12 and speak truth into my life based on this verse. I have continued this tradition with each of my children since they were born. I will not miss this. Even during the peak of the pandemic, we got a meal to go, and we ate it in my car. Conversations at a young age may not be deep, but I am intentionally creating space for future moments.
On the Weekends
My wife and I would swap months to take out one child a week throughout the month. I would have odd months (because I am odd) and she would be even months (because she makes a good pair). It became known as Donuts with Dad and Muffins with Mom. Again, deep conversations may not happen, but we are intentionally creating space for them to speak and to be heard regardless of who they connect more with at their age.
On the Table
Our family eats at least one meal together each day – dinner. That is our goal, at least. When there is dinner on the table, we gather around, and we try to get moments of conversation going. We ask about the highs or lows of each child. We ask if there was anything in their day that made them feel sad or excited. We ask about what they are learning in school. We ask them about their friends. We also try to make sure one child speaks at a time and is not being interrupted.
We also have our family devotions around an evening snack. People have their opinions about bedtime snacks. I could take it or leave it, but what we do most of the time is, when the snack is on the table, the Bible is open. Sometimes I find children missing from their seats and already heading to bed before we are done, or a snack has caused a major disruption because it is all over the place. Sometimes we have a much deeper faith conversation, at least with the older ones, and sometimes all they care about is the snack. Again, it’s about intentionally creating space.
It is about creating space for them to speak and to be heard. To ask questions, to seek answers from you, their parent. Do we execute this perfectly? NO! Are we being intentional in creating that space? That is the goal.
Director of Creative Design