The world teaches us (quite wrongly I might add) that when a baby begins to toddle, he is becoming independent and we should allow him to continue to move toward living independently of us. Truthfully, as a child grows he is able to function more independently physically, but at the same time has a GROWING NEED for emotional and spiritual guidance. Therefore, we have a responsibility to make a deliberate pursuit of our growing children's hearts. We must not let them go their own way (READ: “separate from us“) making little, if any, effort to strengthen the bonds we had when they were babies. How terrible it would be to live in such a way!
People need to be nurtured, and I believe you cannot over do it. A child needs love, not from a distance, but up-close and personal. They need constant affirmation, consistent loving touch, real conversation, and real relationship. A teen or pre-teen needs your attention and care just as much as a baby, and if you don't give it to them, they will go out and find someone who will... perhaps in the form of a surrogate parent, or more often in a boyfriend or girlfriend. God MADE people for relationship, how dare we deny it of our very children?
Our own experience with teens is primarily a sad case of “love starved young people“, who are eager to have a relationship that is real. Brian and I have been in charge of a teen summer camp for a few years and that is precisely what we see. Here’s a typical picture of what happens in my relationship with girls at camp: First, I learn their names, I tell the girls they are beautiful, give them good morning hugs, and show interest in their lives. Within the first day, for the most part, they start calling me "mom." Many of them sit on my lap while we talk. After a few days, most of them will openly talk with me about their lives. It is sad that there are so many who are desperately love starved, and not surprising that many of them will give their purity away, in an effort to gain the love they haven't gotten at home.
Attentive schooling, although difficult when you have several grades, is really important. I have learned that it is a mistake to give my older children an assignment and let them have at it (As in, "read this chemistry book this year, it will be good. Let me know when you are done."). In doing such, a great opportunity is missed, and perhaps, some critical lessons in your child’s character are lost. A better way is to have an older student orate what they learned in their individual study every day; listening, making note of areas to affirm, making a comment, making corrections, showing approval, and giving a “good job” hug at the end. This approach is more relational, requires more integrity of both parent and student, and yes, takes more time. But, the fruit of such is priceless. My children are the only eternal things in my house (beside my husband and I), why not spend the time? I must keep my focus where it belongs, on my children and their hearts, instead of the self gratifying obsessions that beckon us away.
You needing your children is also a crucial aspect of nurturing. We NEED one another. I need slave help, I need help with the baby, I need help opening plastic packages J. I need their encouragement too, and they realize it. They actually like to be needed, most of the time J. The dinner table is a crucial part of the day for a nurturing mom or dad. It is a great time to enjoy God's provision of food, good cooking and each other. Our family sings together at dinner, we each share something we are thankful for, sometimes we complement the person sitting next to us, all around the table. We pray together, we are silly together, we talk about the day's activities, all done TOGETHER. We believe that table time is one of God's appointed time to teach and disciple your children. If you haven't already heard Doug Philips' sermon on the Family Table, I urge you to acquire it and listen well.
Our nurturing day is not done until we have read to, snuggled with, kissed, hugged and prayed for our children. Not just the little ones, all of them. It is often the time when our older children are most desirous to talk to us. We would miss so much if we failed to take the time to tuck our children in each night. Our day is done, and we are exhausted, but able to go to sleep with a smile on our face, knowing we have done our best as unto the Lord.