Cheerfulness doesn’t come cheap. We have to intentionally teach our children how to cultivate feelings of joy and happiness, so they can learn what it means to rejoice in the Lord. Here are a few simple, every day ideas for reinforcing cheerfulness with your children:
1.Memorize a verse about cheerfulness. Print it, color it, post it, practice it, make it the family motto of the month. “Serve the Lord with gladness” Ps. 100:2.
“Do all things without grumbling” Phil. 2:14.
“A joyful heart is good medicine” Prov. 17:22.
“A glad heart makes a cheerful face” Prov. 15:13.
“God loves a cheerful giver” 2 Cor. 9:7.
2.Back up cheerful commands with cheerful reminders about cheerful verses. For example, “Jeremy, I would like you to clean up the toys now, with a cheerful heart! Remember our verse? We are to serve the Lord with gladness!”
3.Require a smile when they come to the table or ask you a question or want something to eat. A smile is the ticket to any treat.
4.Make cheerfulness competitive. Who can out-cheerful every one in the family? Make a chart, offer a prize, and fire the starting pistol! Crown the winner as the most cheerful child of the day.
5.Cheer on cheerfulness. Encouragement is the easiest and most effective tool in our mommy tool belt. Take notice and praise every cheerful response or attitude that you can.
6.Read Bible stories. Spending time in the wilderness with Israelites will highlight the seriousness of complaining, as well as the mercy and grace of God and of their parents.
7.Be a cheerful mom. There is nothing more important than to get our own souls happy in God each morning (Mueller). We can’t offer our children a perfect example of cheerfulness, but we can point them to our Savior who did. And we can offer them a repenting, growing, example of a woman who is constantly striving after happiness in God.
8.Cheerfulness or Consequences. We must give clear commands and be faithful to correct our children when they complain.
9.Minimize temptation. We covered this in the previous post. Look for ways to remove regular temptations to grumpiness and discontent. An added tip: the simpler a child’s life, the happier they often become.
10.Persevere. Progress may be slow and some days kids and mommy will be anything but happy. But let’s get up and try again tomorrow. “Labor is light to a…cheerful spirit, and success waits upon cheerfulness. The man who toils, rejoicing with all his heart, has success guaranteed” (Spurgeon).
By the time my oldest daughter was ready for preschool, I was desperate for help to deal with all the fussing and fighting that seemed to fill up my girls’ days. How could they possibly find so many things to complain and disagree about in one twelve hour block of time?
I was working harder than ever to train and teach them to obey cheerfully, but the steady drip, drip, drip of grumpiness was constant and I could not possibly deal with every whiney voice or sister spat. After all, I had to take a shower every once and a while.
But as I have always found in my mothering, when we seek God for wisdom, He is faithful to provide. In this case, wisdom for me came one day when I was serving as teacher’s helper in my oldest daughter’s pre-school class.
Here was a group of about 10-15 five year olds, spending several hours together each day, and they were happy! There were very few fights or frowns. What is the teacher’s secret? I asked myself How does he keep so many children happy? As I watched, I noticed that the teacher was consistently moving the children from one thing to another in an organized fashion. There was Bible time, but before the kids had time to get too antsy they were moving to alphabet time and before they got bored it was craft time. The children didn’t have time to be grumpy or discontent.
So that summer I made out a little “summer schedule” for my girls. It wasn’t fancy; I just divided their day up into chunks in order to give it a little more structure. There was Bible time and chore time, and then playtime followed by rest time and more playtime and cleanup before dinner.
My children needed a little more structure. In their case, idleness was contributing to grumpiness. The routine served my girls by eliminating some of the temptations as they played together every day, all day long. They simply had fewer opportunities to be grumpy or discontent.
The point of this post is not that moms must put their children on a schedule if they want them to be cheerful. One of my daughters was telling me recently how her daughter is thriving without as much structure as her boys needed when they were younger. A routine is just one bit of wisdom that served me with my children at that time.
The point is to encourage all moms to seek God for wisdom as to how to create a family culture that minimizes temptation. In teaching our children to handle their emotions, we want to create an environment that reinforces the habit of cheerfulness.
“Believer, here is encouragement. Are you praying for some beloved one? Oh, do not give up praying, for Christ is ‘mighty to save.’ You are powerless to reclaim the rebel, but your Lord is Almighty….Jesus is ‘mighty to save,’ the best proof of which lies in the fact that He has saved you.”
Every parent who has ever told a child to clean up the Legos or go take a bath, has heard these words, almost always delivered in a tone of voice one could call “classic whine.”
My motherish reply might sound something like this: “I don’t care whether you feel like it or not, you are to obey Mommy.”
But according to Scripture, I should care how my children feel about picking up their toys or taking a bath or doing whatever it is I tell them to do. Scripture cares a lot about how we feel about obeying, and as a parent, I should too.
God commands us not only to give, but to give cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7). We are not just to serve the Lord faithfully, but serve him with gladness (Ps. 100:2).
I am called to teach my children not only to obey, but how to obey cheerfully. “Cheerfulness” is one of the best places to start teaching young children how to handle their feelings.
Now, when a child is two, you are often working just to get them to pick up a toy at all, much less do it cheerfully. But by the time they reach pre-school age, or even before, a child can begin to learn how to obey with a smile.
When we were little, my parents taught us to obey “immediately, completely, and cheerfully.” Sticking with those themes, we are trying to teach our children to obey “all the way, right away, and with a happy heart.”
Notice the key role “cheerfulness” plays in this triumvirate. It isn’t obedience without it.
If we allow our children to cultivate the habit of sharing grudgingly or cleaning up grumpily or holding our hand resentfully, we are teaching them (however unintentionally) that feelings don’t matter.
But if we teach them to say “yes” in a cheerful voice and obey with a smile, we are not only showing them how to obey but how they should feel about obeying. And if they do it enough times, they eventually will!
Our goal is not to churn out a generation of Eddie Haskells, hiding devious hearts behind sickeningly sweet smiles; but rather to raise a generation of “wise sons” who learn to heed our advice to “direct your heart in the way” (Prov. 23:19).
We are not trying to mask unhappy feelings but cultivate cheerful feelings.
The more that our children obey with a smile and a cheerful attitude, the more they will begin to feel that smile and feel happy to serve.
It is in these mundane, seemingly unimportant moments, when we tell our children to put away the Legos cheerfully, that we are preparing their hearts to follow the Savior with great passion and affection, to serve the Lord with gladness (Ps. 100:2).
Recently I asked my kids what they wanted to be when they grow up. I got mommy and missionary, soccer player and sports writer. Sophie said she wanted to be a hair dryer, but I’m pretty sure she meant hairdresser.
As parents we spend a lot of time shaping and molding our children into what we want them to be. We talk a lot about what they should do with their life, and we share important lessons about what not to do.
But as Christian parents we are also to train our children to feel as God created them to feel.
We often overlook this important aspect of parenting. We don’t talk much about how our children should feel when they grow up, do we?
But feelings are an important part of who God created us to be. God is an emotional being and the Bible is a passionate book. Try reading more than a few lines of Scripture without bumping into a feeling. You can’t do it.
We are called to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all our soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30).
We are told to “be wretched and mourn and weep” over sin and judgment (James 4:9).
We are exhorted to “rejoice always” and “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:16-18).
As Christian parents, we have a grander goal than managing our child’s emotional outbursts: we want our children’s feelings to explode with affection for God.
We want our children to passionately love the Savior, tenderly love others, and serve the Lord with gladness (Ps. 100:2). We want our children’s hearts to be filled with God-glorifying emotions!
But just as we teach and train, educate and instruct our children to be what we want them to be, we must also train them to feel as God has called them to feel.
We must train up our children in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6) and this means we must direct and shape their emotions (not the other way around). If we ignore this critical aspect of our child’s training, I fear we will have failed to fulfill our whole duty as parents.
Only God can take our child’s heart of stone and give her a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26), but he has given us a job to do as parents. He has called us to diligently teach our children how to love Him with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their might (Deut. 6:5-7).
As our children transition from the toddler to the elementary school years, this is a critical time to focus on their feelings. How can we do this? Ideas for training a child’s emotions in a godward direction are coming up next here at girltalk.
“Why do you tell your child a thing twenty times?” asked some one of a mother. “Because,” said she, “I find nineteen times is not enough.” Now, when a soul is to be ploughed, it may so happen that hundreds of furrows will not do it. What then? Why, plough all day till the work is done. Whether you are ministers, missionaries, teachers, or private soul-winners, never grow weary, for your work is noble, and the reward of it is infinite. The grace of God is seen in our being permitted to engage in such holy service; it is greatly magnified in sustaining us in it, and it will be pre-eminently conspicuous in enabling us to hold out till we can say, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” ~Charles Haddon Spurgeon