Why is it that kids are always better behaved for other people than they are for their parents?
Everyone with kids has a story about how their wild, ill-mannered child comes home from a play date and the other parents rave about how wonderful he was. Brought the plate to the kitchen, said please and thank you and willingly included the younger siblings of his friend in play. Yet at home does nothing but fight with siblings, demand and leave a wake of destruction everywhere he goes.
What gives? Why do our children save their good behavior for others and torment us day and night?
I'm not going to answer that question today although there are many answers and implications not just for our children's behavior away from home but our own as well.
Today I am going to talk about our role as the other parent. Having the opportunity to encourage and lift up a friend who isn't at a stage of parenting where they get to see the fruit of their parenting the way you get to when her child is a guest in your home.
This past week I went to the mall with my mom and Isabelle for lunch and a little shopping. Isabelle wasn't horrible but she definitely got it into her head that she needed to control the flow of the afternoon and the two of us battled it out for supremacy as we walked around the mall. At one point my mom said to me, "she isn't like this when she is with me or with Julia (my sister-in-law)". She told me what a delight she was with them. It is just me she feels the need to go to battle with. Somehow knowing that made me feel like I was doing something right even if it didn't feel like it at that moment.
Yesterday after church our children's pastor, Liz, was telling us what a treasure Isabelle is in Sunday School. How she always volunteers to pray in class and how her prayers are always beautiful, on-topic prayers rather than just prayers for random things that pop into her head as many prayers are at this age.
I wanted to cry right there on the spot. Isabelle generally does not pray at home. In fact when I go to pray with her at night she often will refuse to sit for me, will get out of bed and try to do something else or will start singing a song. Dinner prayers are a similar experience. Yet in that moment I knew she was listening and I knew God was answering my prayers for Isabelle even though I didn't get to see the answers myself. The whole thing was an encouragement to keep praying for her, keep praying with her and keep talking to her about our faith in Jesus.
On the way home it got me thinking. My mom and Liz just shared the comments in passing but they had a big impact for me. I wondered how many opportunities I might have to encourage moms in that same way that I miss. Do I always tell my friends how wonderful their children are when they are over?
It is so simple yet could be a whole ministry. How many people need encouraging? Actually it is a whole ministry. Encouragement is supposed to be a spiritual gift so I suppose for some people it comes naturally but I don't think that means the rest of us are off the hook. We need to be looking for these opportunities to bless and encourage others as well.
Who can you encourage today?
"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Hebrews 3:13