I’ve been thinking about the idea of raising a joy-filled child. How do I cultivate joy in our home in such a way that nurtures my family’s heart?
As I was contemplating this idea, it dawned on me that I actually have a thing or two to learn from my four year old. She is one of the most joyful people I know. Her life is characterized by exuberance and delight, especially in the small things.
Honestly, I personally tend to be a little more melancholy in life. I have to fight for joy and sometimes actively look for it and, therefore, I strive to see the world as she does.
Lessons I am learning from my four year old
• She starts each day with a bright smile and enthusiasm for the day. Mornings have never been my thing. I much prefer to stay up late and sleep late, slowly waking up over a cup of coffee.
But my joyful early riser forces me out of my comfort zone (in the best and hardest ways). So now I strive to get up before she does, which means going to bed earlier and facing the day with a smile on my face (which is still a work in progress).
• The innocence of childhood is breathtaking. Her expressive praise of my beautifully colored picture, her overjoyed giggle at a silly book, or her sweet “I love you” before bed all remind me that our times together are precious and stunning.
There will come a time when life will start to pull her joy away, when the weight of the world may feel too heavy to bear. To help her see things accurately in those times, I need to be cultivating joy in my own heart so that she sees my words in action.
Actively seeking joy in my heart and my home
• Jesus is my source of true joy. While circumstances bring me happiness, joy ultimately comes from Him. I need to remember to thank Him in the midst.
• What tends to rob me of my joy is self-focus. When I look at the world through the lens of self, I either see how others are not meeting my needs or how I am lacking in comparison. Neither perspective is healthy nor do they lead to joy.
So I want to shift the focus off of myself and look for opportunities to serve others. And when I see my sweet girl’s joy waning someday, I want to equip her to do the same when she finds herself looking inward too much.
• It is important to bring my daughter’s character to her attention. I frequently say how joyful she is and how much joy she brings me and Daddy. With this type of communication, I am not only recognizing it myself, but I am letting her know that I see and appreciate that aspect of her character.
Sadly, the adage “when Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” can be true. As moms, we wield a lot of power in our homes. When I’m grouchy, impatient, and controlling with my family, our interactions take a decided turn for the worse.
I desperately want to breathe life into my family, so my intention for this New Year is to seek to be nourished by God’s word so that I may joyfully nourish the hearts of my family.
One of the beauties of parenthood is that we learn from our children while raising them. We harness their strengths and challenge their weaknesses, even as we do the same with our own.
How do you cultivate joy in your own heart and that of your family?
Annie Wiesman is the co-author of “Education Begins at Birth: A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers for Kindergarten.” She is a former kindergarten teacher turned stay-at-home mom who enjoys traveling, hiking in the mountains, and creating memories together with her husband and little girl.