On Christmas Day a few years ago I found myself in the kitchen with my girls and simply enjoying being together. This may be normal for you, but I have never been one to share my kitchen very well though it has been something I have tried to work on for many years, even before kids. As we worked together to prepare salads for our Christmas Day open house, I was just overwhelmed with the joy of being together – I enjoyed being with my girls. There have been several times over the years where I become particularly aware of this emotion: I enjoy being with my kids around the dinner table, travelling in the car, or when everyone is being busy with their own projects and we are listening to the same music. And yet, when they were younger there certainly were days where I had to consciously remember to enjoy them.

On Christmas Day I stopped doing what I was doing and told my girls what I was feeling: I love being with you guys!

It is easy to get caught up in the rush of activity and in the intensity of intentionality and forget to enjoy our children. Enjoy the quirks they bring to the family, enjoy the laughter, the simplicity, the delight. There will always be areas where we wish our children would mature – always. We need to be able to enjoy our children along the way, not wait till the end of our parenting days (whenever that may be!)

A few things that stop us from enjoying our kids:

–Their behaviour – when we take our focus off our children being people to get to know and to enjoy, and simply see them as little people who need to grow up, we focus only on the negative behaviour, and not who they are. Yes, their behaviour is important, we do need to teach and train, but they are little people with interests, emotions, and personality.

–Our tiredness – We are never at our best when we are tired. But it isn’t their fault. Yes, they may make us weary, they may make life harder, but we need to look after ourselves. We need to make decisions that are helpful in our tired state, decisions that create an environment where we can be a kind parent even though we are tired.

–Too much to do – Busyness – it sure is the enemy of joy. When we are busy, when we cram too much into our day, we get task focus and forget people, especially little people. Busyness is the arch-enemy of relationships, and if we are to enjoy our kids we need time to build relationship with them.

A few things to help us enjoy our kids:

We can be intentional in breaking the cycle of not enjoying our children.

–Start the day with love. We need to make the first interaction with our children one of love and joy to see them. This will set the tone for the day – not only will they know that we love them but we have set a pattern in our own heart. This means we may need to change our morning routines, it may mean getting to bed earlier the night before. It only takes a few minutes for a cheery greeting, a hug and a little chat but these few little actions can change your day.

–Praise for the good that they do – we should be praising more than correcting though this is a very hard standard to live by. If praising your child is difficult, look for one honest commendation each day. Just one. Then look for two and three … and soon it will be a habit.

–Give value to rest – do you know how you best refresh? I refresh by time to myself and being creative. For 15 years of parenting I had 1 hour after lunch where the kids went to their room and I had some time to myself. There will always be tasks to do – but our tiredness breaks relationships.

–Be realistic when setting goals for the day – kids take time and are messy. We need to factor this into our day. It takes 10 minutes to get out the door, it takes 30 minutes to eat dinner, it takes 10 minutes every two hours to potty train…. These things take time and if we ignore this then we are creating a rod for our own back. We need to fully embrace the season of life that we are in and make adjustments to our expectations.

–Do one fun thing a day – and make sure your kids see it as fun too. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and about – just spend some fun time together. An icecream in the middle of the day, a run under the sprinkler, turn up the music and dance, play with playdough, cook some muffins, splash in the bubble bath.

–Say yes – listen to how many times your kids ask for something during the day, and how many times you say ‘no’ compared to how many times you say ‘yes’. Not suggesting you say yes to crazy, dumb, or dangerous ideas – but maybe silly once in a while. Say yes to running in the rain, say yes to stopping and watching a movie, say yes to an impromptu party for no reason, say yes to a trip to the park, say yes to caramel popcorn, say yes to them helping in the kitchen, say yes to story time.

–Engage with their world – When your child comes and shows you something, get down on their level and take time to look at it, engage with your child about what they find so fascinating. Get to know your children’s delights.

–Stop answering the phone and checking facebook. Everytime you answer the phone you stop being with the people you are with, and you spend time with someone else – even if it is for a short time. Same with any social media interaction. I know we think we are with everyone all the time, but reality is a phonecall breaks our emotional connection with the people we are with – and we do it to our kids all the time. Of course we need to answer the phone, and facebook may have benefits for you – but we need to do these things at the right time. If we are giving ourselves to our kids at a particular time in the day, don’t let other things interrupt.

–Sit when your little kids have a bath. Most kids enjoy the bath – mine loved bubbles. I’d fill the bath up, give them a ridiculous amount of bubbles, and let them play. Bathtime took 30 minutes. There was a long play time, then time to wash, pack up, get dressed. By allowing this much time for a bath, I gave myself a breather – I sat on the bathroom floor and just enjoyed their joy as they played by themselves. Sometimes I read, sometimes I talked on the phone but always enjoyed their laughter.

–Have conversations with them. So often we just want to tune out their constant chatter. I remember asking myself once: Who taught them to talk! But if we can change our attitude to this and see it as an opportunity to engage with them in their world we will not only get to know them, but we will be less irritated. Of course there may have to be a time when mum declares – no talking time! But at the same time we can learn the habit of engaging in conversation.

–Be consistent with your discipline. To enjoy our kids does not mean we ignore training, it doesn’t mean we don’t say ‘no’ or make them think about their actions as they work through consequences. Enjoying our children will be easier when our children do have respect, self control and obedience. We need to be fair, consistent, calm when teaching our kids – always respecting the fact that they too are people and are learning.

To enjoy our children means we have to be present in the moment. The cute little face won’t go on replay, neither will the witty comment of a teenager. When we live in the moment we get glimpses into our children’s lives. Not only will our children get a kick out of our attention and enjoyment – we will be so encouraged ourselves as we build a relationship with them.

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