“The most satisfying flower you will ever grow is a child who matures into full bloom.” Wise Ol’ Wilbur
The most important gardening you will ever do is in the garden of your child’s heart. With spring here it’s time to consider ways to produce a bountiful harvest! With tender, loving care, gentle pruning and diligent attention, you plant a garden that will last a lifetime and continue to benefit generations to come in your family.
There are five stages to producing fruit in your child’s life:
Preparing the soil—Before you can plant good seeds in your child’s heart, you must possess those seeds in your own heart. The more we develop mature fruit in our own lives, the easier it will be to develop character in our children. The truth is that you cannot expect more of your child than you expect of yourself. You must strive to be the person you want your child to become.
Planting the seeds—Wouldn’t you agree that the seeds of honesty, patience, self-control, respectfulness, courtesy, friendship, kindness, love, joy, patience and gentleness would be the first seeds to cultivate? (Galatians 5: 22, 23) Plant those seeds through daily scripture reading as a family. Teach your children how to serve each other…allow your six-year-old to serve juice at breakfast for the two-year-old. Teach your children to keep their things picked up, not so their room will be clean, but so that no one will come in and trip over something. Help your children develop an others-centered perspective on life, looking for ways they can serve others rather than looking for ways others can serve them.
Protecting the growth— We need to spend more time making our children strong in the security of the roots of their family than we do worrying about the pests that will try to invade their little hearts and turn them cold. We can give our children the fortitude to fight off the pests. Children need to know who they are. They need to know that they are loved unconditionally. They need to know that you have accepted the sacred honor of being a parent and that you will do your best to perform the holy duty of raising His children!
Pruning the branches—Discipline, one of those words we don’t like to talk about today. Repetition as a discipline is the growing secret of all successful parents. (See last month’s article.) Without discipline children will rebel. With too much discipline and not enough love, children will rebel. The balance? Discipline from a heart of love that makes certain every night before your child closes his eyes to sleep that he knows God loves him, and you do, too.
Patiently waiting—The most difficult stage of gardening—checking daily for trouble spots, especially in the latter stages of growth (teen years) as we watch the garden mature. Statistics are startling at the difference that the family dinner table makes in the lives of children, especially teenagers. Even if it’s just you and your child, make the mealtime a time to share with all electronics off and the focus on conversation. One-to-one eye contact. This is the time to listen with your eyes, your ears and your heart.
Overwhelmed? Don’t be. This is a lifelong process. Stay the course with the gardening in your child’s heart and you will witness the development of a beautiful, handsome blossom that began in the hand of a loving, patient gardener with a plan and a purpose.
Jill Rigby Garner, character education and parenting expert, and nonprofit founder, is also a dynamic speaker, award-winning author, and the publisher of character education programs and books for students, educators, and parents. Through her speaking engagements, Jill motivates her listeners to action. A former single mom, Jill’s passion fosters transformative change. Jill is a highly regarded expert and has appeared on the CBS Early Show, CNN, Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, a monthly segment on local WAFB, and over 350 radio shows across the country. For more information, visit www.mannersoftheheart.org.