This has been a really busy week for our family. Besides the regular chaos of practices and homework, we've had dentist appointments, middle school meetings and my husband and I are leaving for a weekend away tomorrow. I've only been home for bedtime one night this week. As I got ready to go to my meeting last night, my oldest asked, "Are you going to be home in time to tuck me in?" When I told her I would not be home in time, her face fell. I assured her that daddy would do a good job of tucking her in and left. When I got home, I found a note for me in her doorway, asking me to wake her up early this morning. She was worried about her Spanish and spelling tests today and wanted to get up early to study. The 3-page note was written after she was supposed to be sleeping. It rambled on about how worried she was and how she needed my help.
Her note and her reaction to my being gone for bedtime for the second night in a row, reminded me how important it still is to make an effort to be home for bedtime. That's the time when both of my kids tend to share what's on their hearts. I hear more about the things that are bothering them at bedtime than at any other time of the day. That last gasp of the day is often the most important in seeing what burdens my kids are carrying around.
There are a lot of nights, when all I want to do is put my kids to bed so I can have a few moments of peace and quiet. Yet, when I rush through bedtime, I miss hearing my kids' hearts. I miss the opportunity to show them how to take their concerns to God or to plan a God-honoring response to a situation they are dealing with. I need to take a page out of God's parenting book, slow down and listen to my kids' hearts.
God does that for us. 1 John 5:14 says "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." Just as we can have confidence that God hears us, our kids need to have confidence that we hear them.
Bedtime might not be your child's time to share his heart. It might be at the breakfast table or in the car. Whenever that time is, we need to be able to recognize it and slow down enough to listen, just as God patiently listens to what is on our hearts.
When your kids are sharing with you, follow these tips to make sure you hear them:
- Put aside what you are doing. Give your kids your full attention. Look them in the eyes and let them know that they are important. If you're in the middle of something that simply can't wait, give your child a time estimate of when you'll be done. Let them know that they are important, and you want to hear what they have to say. Then stick to your word.
- Ask questions. When we ask our kids questions about whatever they are telling us, it shows them that we are paying attention.
- Pray while they're talking. Be asking God for wisdom and the right response to whatever it is your kids are sharing. This way you're prepared when it's your turn to talk. If it's a topic you're completely unprepared for, don't be afraid to ask your child for time to think about your response. Give them a time when you will get back to them with an answer or advice.
- Pray with your child. After you've talked through the situation, take it to God. This way, you're teaching your kids that although you may have advice, God is the source of all wisdom.
- Follow up with your child. Whether it's a few hours or a few days later, follow up by asking your child about whatever they shared. This lets your child know you haven't forgotten what's important to her.
While the things that are on our kids' hearts may often seem trivial to us, they are big deals for them. If we ignore them when they want to share their hearts, then we encourage them to look elsewhere for guidance. Discover the time your child is most like to share their triumphs, their burdens, their heartbreaks and their funny moments. Make yourself available to hear what they have to say. Because that's what God does for us.