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How is a child's heart like a Sea Anemone?

We all have a voice. We all need to be heard.

In Psalm 127:3 it teaches us that “children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.” They are treasures that we have for only a fleeting moment of our lives. Our God-given job is to grow them into men and women of faith. Discipline and correction are important parts of parenting but these tools are not effective on their own.

Relationship as a tool

In Biblical Parenting Coaching, one of the most valuable and powerful tools we have is that of Relationship. A solid relationship with our children allows their hearts to open and to blossom. When we are in close relationship with our children, they feel safe, important, and loved. This security gives them the desire to please us as well as the courage to take appropriate risks and move forward in life. There are no words for how important a solid relationship is between parent and child.

Why listen?

This is where having a voice comes in. We are born with a voice and a need for that voice to be heard. Even as an infant, we have thoughts, needs, and desires. When babies are heard and their needs met, they can calmly go back to enjoying the experience of life. When they are not, enjoyment stops and we all hear about it!

Isaiah 42:20 says “You have seen many things but you pay no attention, your ears are open but you do not listen”

When someone’s voice is not heard, they go one of two ways:

· They get louder and louder. This direction often results in people who are unaware of others and are seen as obnoxious or overbearing.

· They go inward. People who go inward tend to feel invisible and often spend their lives trying to numb the pain that results from this.

Nothing changes about this need to have our voice heard. Newborn or ninety. I’m sure you know adults that have spent so much of their lives either trying to be loud enough to feel they are of consequence or who have given up and go further inward with each passing day.

I think it's fair to say that none of us want either of these outcomes for our children. That’s why one of the most important things we can do for our children is to listen. When we listen to our child intentionally, they come to trust us with their hearts on a new level, and our Relationship blossoms!

How Do I do this?

True listening takes the hearer to an even deeper place. Really listening is energetic and takes conscious effort as well as focused involvement and practice. Listening to hear your child’s voice takes action. We need to take our listening from our head to our heart in order to touch theirs.

Some ways to effectively listen from our heart:

· Try not to think of what your response will be

· Do nothing else during the time you are listening

· Avoid offering advice or pointing out the flaws in their thinking

· Mirror back what they’ve said so they know you have been deeply paying attention

· Show empathy to where they are and where their thought processes are whether or not you understand

This is not always easy when we have our personal agendas we’re focused on or when we get caught up in everyday life. But is it really that hard? Your children are people. People who need to be heard and who need to feel close to you in order to truly be who God intended.

A heart like a sea creature?

Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller at the National Center for Biblical Parenting liken a child’s heart to a sea anemone. When it is open it is beautiful to behold and can take in the nutrients it needs from the environment around it. One small poke, though, will close it up tightly and will take a long time to open back up again.

This is exactly what our child’s heart is like. When it’s open, we can be close. They will care about pleasing us and they will be able to soak up all the nutrients they need. One snarky remark, angry exchange, or thoughtless “mhm” when they are telling us something that matters to them and that beautiful heart shuts right back up. I can promise you this though: it takes a lot longer for a child’s heart to open back up than it does for that little anemone!

What we need to do is work harder to keep that heart from closing off in the first place. There are many ways to do this but the easiest and most effective is to listen. Actively, intently and with the desire to learn: listen.

What’s in the way?

No parent is perfect. We will have times where our children approach us with things dear to them that we will not notice. Sometimes we are not even aware that they are there. It's impossible to be there for our people 100% all of the time. However, if our habit is to stop and listen, the occasional misstep will not mean so much. If we don’t acknowledge this difficulty and forge forward regardless, our relationship with our child will suffer and they may not want us to listen anymore. They may even stop trying.

The relationships with our children as well as the way we nurture them have everything to do with their ability to be open to the things we have to teach them as well as to the love we have to give. Many parents overlook this and find themselves wondering:

· Why is everything a battle with this child?

· Why doesn’t my child tell me anything?

· Why doesn’t my child want to do what I ask?

· Why is everything a battle with this child?

· Why doesn’t my child share my faith?

Now what?

Jeremiah 29:12 promises “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Shouldn’t we be intent on doing the same for our children?

Take a deep breath. Look at your child not just as a mouth to feed or a force of nature to control. Instead, see them as the Child of God that they are. Let the food burn, the laundry wait, or your text conversation to be on hold. Look them in the eye and listen. Especially when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t think you can.

For a parent to truly be heard by a child, a child needs to feel heard by their parent. We all have a voice that needs to be acknowledged. When we feel listened to we grow in confidence and are willing to move forward in our lives. Our children are treasures. Gifts from God. Our influence on them is fleeting. Take the time and energy to listen to your child’s voice and open their heart. Then stand back and watch God grow your relationship to a place you never dreamed possible!

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