Early in my life as a mom I heard a Focus on the Family broadcast about large families. I remember thinking I would never be as brave as the woman speaking, she was a mom of 8 I think. (I don’t fully remember how many kids she had but it was a huge family in my eyes.) I do remember one thing she said during the broadcast. She said that she would pray each morning that the Lord would give her discernment to know which of her kids needed her the most that day. I have heard those words echoing in my head for a long time.
As my own family grew I quickly felt overwhelmed. It seemed as if I was constantly drowning with all that there was that had to be done. Each child has their own needs and when they are all within 5.5 years of each other things can get pretty challenging. I just couldn’t keep up. I began praying that the Lord would help me know what my children needed most from me that day.
I don’t always pray this prayer, but I want and need to pray it more frequently.
Juggling the needs of a large family is hard.
It seems that each day there are different needs for each child and making sure all those needs are met can be almost impossible. The way you help one child is very different from the way another child can receive your help. As moms we have to be the one to figure out what they need because the child can’t always tell us. This factor often makes things even more complicated.
Some children are introverted and can be perfectly happy working alone or will pull away and shut themselves off when they are hurt. If, as a mom, I am not paying attention I can easily miss that my introverted child is hurting because the extroverted kids are loudly demanding my attention. To add to this, different ages need different things from us. Again, as moms it is up to us to figure out exactly what our children need and when they need it. It honestly sounds like a recipe for disaster doesn’t it?
Learning to be a student of our children.
As a mom, and dad, we have a big job. One primary element of our job is that we need to be students of our children. We need to be paying attention to what they are doing and how they are doing it. We need to know our child well enough to know that they are introverted or extroverted. We need to be a student of our children. If we don’t spend time getting to know our kids when they are young how are we going to know what they need from us? How are we going to best fill their needs.
How exactly do you become a student of your child. First of all I want to tell you what it isn’t. Being a student of your child does not mean that your child is the center of the home. It does not mean that we give into every whim and want.
It does mean that we need to be intentional.
We need to be intentional about spending time with our children. We need to make sure we are putting down our phones, and looking into the faces of our children when we talk to them. We need to take time and work with them on their school. As a home school mom this is a bit easier, but for those of you whose children are in school outside the home I recommend that you make time to really work with your kids on their school work. Even when they are doing well on their own. I have learned so much about each of my children by how they approach their school.
Another way is to watch your children as they play together. Who is the one always taking the leadership role? Which child always seems to be the follower? Which child is more analytical? Who is the one fixing the relationship problems that come up?
Finally, and probably the most important way to be an intentional student of your children is to pray for each and every child. I have found that when I am more intentional about praying for my children I am more observant of them throughout the day. I look for things I can be praying about and I look for ways the Lord is working in their lives. I also look for weak areas that I need to be praying for more diligently.
Keeping communication open.
Keep communication open with each child. Take time to be alone with each and every one of your children on a regular basis. This may look like a regular date night, or it may look like taking time every week to simply go sit with your child outside or in their room so you can make time to talk to them.
I have found a great time for opening communication with my children is at a time I never expected. When we are having a discipline issue that needs to be dealt with is often the time when I can connect the best. I have found that there are many times when I am dealing with something with my 7-year-old and I go into her room to give her consequences. During those times I am often able to find time to sit and talk with her about what is the cause of the discipline problem. It opens communication better than I expected it ever would.
Several years ago we began a date night with our kids. How this works for us is, when we have money I take out one of the children. After I have gotten a date with all 5 kids then it is my husbands turn to have a date with each of the children. I would love if we could schedule these dates each month but we simply can’t afford to do it that regularly. My kids are amazingly patient with us, and eagerly look forward to when their next date will be.
Being a parent is hard, and there are times when it seems impossible to be all that we need to be for our children. God is faithful and he will be with you as you walk this road that is parenthood.
What have you found to be the most challenging part of being a parent? I would love to hear your thoughts.