It’s so easy sometimes, especially when it seems we are spending our days putting out one fire after another, to forget what a sparkling precious time the preschool years are.
In the midst of begging our little ones to try raw broccoli, wiping up spill after spill, and answering two-gazilion questions, we need to stop and remember what precious gifts these children are to us.
Two of my grown daughters have worked as preschool teachers. Since tiny tots have always been celebrated in our home, they were unprepared for the detachment, even disgust, that other parents expressed towards their small children. Every day my girls would cuddle these tiny ones in their arms, soothe their fears, and clap at their accomplishments. It was shameful to them that, at the end of the day, not a few of them did not want to return home; and it seemed as though the parents would have gladly given them up!
Little ones are challenging, but they are also the charm of life; better than movies or food or any other hobby we could conceive. Their little antics are what makes our days special, what makes all of the work worthwhile! Why pass up on all of the blessings wrapped up in such tiny, cute packages and allow others to have the fun of watching them grow and explore?
God gave children to parents, not to “teacher,” and He gives us the ability to become the “stars” in our children’s lives! We are who they need when they are sick, or sad, or lonely, or bored, or happy. They look for us to notice them, to enjoy them, to always have open arms to hold them when life seems too big to handle.
Never mind the trends that speak to us and cause us to doubt that we can do an adequate job; God has equipped us with unique gifts for the children He has given us. It is His plan to have small ones grow up and mature in families, not in institutional groups:
God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land. Psalm 68:6The toddler and preschool years are so often seen as something to “endure,” but this is not a Biblical perspective, and in Gospel terms, it is also foolishness. In these early years a foundation is laid for the different stages in a child’s life; the elementary year, the adolescent year, youth, and young adulthood. The seeds we plant when a small person is two, three, or four years old will someday reap a harvest; will it be golden and plentiful, or dark and barren?
So, even thought it is also important to have a nice, healthy environment for our children (clean clothing, healthy food, etc.), it is just as important to nourish their hearts and souls. When we decide to spend our time and energy investing in our tiny ones, we find that the emotional bonds we cultivate begin to feed us and heal us.
This is according to God’s kingdom principles, “A man reaps what he sows.” Galatians 6:7. and, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” Acts 20:35.
There are some principles I have operated by that have helped to keep me on the track when it comes to my own toddlers and preschoolers:
- My children get first place over friends, relatives, recreation, hobbies (actually, my children are my favorite recreation and hobby!)
- Little ones are not an interruption. Phone calls are interruptions, emergencies are interruptions, bill paying is an interruption, but my children are an extension of me–Jesus said I am to love them as I love myself.
- I am perfectly willing to stop what I am doing to cuddle, soothe, listen, and rejoice with them at any time, day or night with a joyful, willing heart.
- I purposely look for ways to connect with them; ask them what they are playing, listen even when they are telling me all about dreams they have made up.
- I limit phone time, Internet time, television viewing, reading, etc. so that during their most alert hours of the day I am “there,” paying attention to them.
- I “share” books with my little ones. This is much more than just reading; we talk about the pictures, the colors, the concepts. This usually sparks questions and sometimes leads us to look up answers to questions, sometimes, in the books on our shelves, sometimes even with a YouTube video of a certain animal or an explanation of how something is made.
- I take every opportunity to applaud their accomplishments. It is my goal for them to see us, their father and mother (and sisters and brothers), as their greatest fans!
- I purposely teach them new skills such as how to blow their noses, brush their teeth, blow bubbles with gum, tie their shoes, and how to button and zip their clothes.
- I teach them self-control and obedience and set clear, consistent boundaries. Believe it or not, this is part of the way I “delight” in them. I am alert to negative patterns of thought and behavior that could overtake them and hamper them as they grow. When discipline is approached from the pure motive of wanting to help a child reach his/her ultimate potential in God, there is less frustration, and the discipline is administered with confidence and mercy.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31We read Bible stories together and talk about Christian concepts such as prayer, sin, forgiveness, God’s creation, giving, faith, worship and praise. It is within this framework that they experience true security, since they are given the sense that God is in control of the tiniest things, and that He is taking care of all of everything that is too big for them to understand.
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 11:18-19