Raising Joyful Kids: The Struggle And The Secret

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This morning, I had a moment.

Certainly momentary—maybe 15 seconds.

But it was a moment I’ll remember for a very long time.

Our 17 month-old son is always a bit more cheerful after a restful night’s sleep. And last night was a good night.

As soon as I went to get him at 6:30 he was already cheerfully asking for “mum.” After a quick diaper change and his first sippy-cup of milk to start the day, he turned our hallway into a track, running across the house to officially greet “ma-ma.”

Landon entered our bedroom full of babbles and kisses. Sitting on the bed for no more than a minute he jumped down, ran to the bottom of our bed and took a nosedive into the pillows stacked on the floor. After a few more giggles, he confidently stood up near our bedroom door, raised his hand, and jabbered as if he wanted to show me something. So I followed.

With “Muffins”—his affectionate blue teddy bear who goes everywhere with him—in one hand, his sippy cup still in the other, he led me to the picture window in the dining room.

He wanted to look out the window. The sun was rising over the hill, and it was stunning.

I soaked it in. Not so much the sunset, but the 17 month-old little boy looking out that window with what seemed to be big boy thoughts, as if contemplating the full life ahead of him.

Then it happened. As Landon gazed upon the Ozarkian hilltops—his sippy cup on the right side of him, Muffins on the left, and his dad right behind him—he couldn’t have been more excited.

I simply watched on as he crinkled his face into his excitable signature smile, pulled Muffins and his sippy cup into a hug, all the while still gazing out the window.

I stood gazing at him. This joyful little boy, lost in this joyful little moment with Muffins and a sippy cup.

About 15 seconds later, Landon turned around, looked up at me and smiled from ear to ear, breaking into a small little stomp on the floor, dancing uncontrollably. His body trying all it could to show the excitement he felt in the moment.

I joined him in the dance.

The Struggle

About 2 minutes later, after the moment ended, Landon was looking up at me babbling away. I was now on my phone.

Life is busy. I have to work. Christi has to work. Take care of him. Keep the house tidy. Make Landon food. Make herself food. Y’all know the drill.

All the while texts, emails, and push notifications never stop for “moments.” They don’t care about moments. They don’t care about your kids. They don’t care about your relationship with your kids. They only care that you prioritize them right away.

The struggle and problem is these gadgets are now fighting for our time on top of the other household responsibilities. Couple it all together and you have exhausted parents who simply want to get lost in their own version of screen time to numb the stress and exhaustion.

The problem is: When we do this, we model for our kids that life is filled with stress and exhaustion, and perhaps little to no joy.  Our own irritation and anger can easily turn to yelling at our kids when they’re not doing what we want them to, or ignoring them when they’re lobbying for our attention.

We become a model for them that screen time is the best way to deal with life’s burdens.

So we miss more moments. Experience less joy. And all along the journey, our kids are watching.

The Secret

I understand that technology is here to stay. But so are our kids. In order to raise joyful kids, it’s time to stop prioritizing soulless gadgets to the neglect of our soulful children.

To nurture joy in the souls of our children, we have to nurture joy in our own hearts. That’s the secret. Because our kids are watching.

And getting lost in the moments.

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Share the joy! Feel free to comment below some of your own recent "moments" with your kids.

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Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is President and Co-Founder of the Connextion Group. Coauthor of God Attachment: Why You Believe, Act and Feel the Way You Do About God and The Quick Reference Guide to Counseling Teenagers, Josh specializes as a relational bridge builder between the generations. He enjoys combining scientific research with biblical wisdom to provide practical insight and inspiration for today’s families. Josh serves on the teaching team at Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, MO and wakes up each day striving to love others better, starting with his wife Christi and their son, Landon. You can find Josh on Twitter @joshuastraub or on Facebook.