Want Happy, Healthy Kids? Lead By Example.
"I just want my kids to be happy and healthy."
This is a worthy desire. Let's lead by example!
Being a mom of a three-year-old, I realize I am in no place to give parenting advice. But I do want to pass on a sound suggestion from another wise mom who has gone before me. At our Revelation Wellness Retreat, I heard a mom talking about how she wanted her kids to be happy. Another mom invited her to show her kids by example, and I thought that was so revolutionary I had to share it with you.
Our role as a parent is to "bring [children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). The best way to instruct our children is to follow the Lord ourselves. And I believe Jesus is not just the source of health and happiness, but He is the way.
Moms, as you want the best for your kids, so does the Lord. Jesus wants your joy! You have permission to pursue health and happiness in Him.
Happy Wife, Happy Life
Happiness is not just going and doing what you want (although yes, mom, you do deserve a night of foot rubs, Netflix, and chocolate), but the root of happiness is being grounded in the Lord: she is like a tree planted by flowing streams that bears fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever she does prospers (Psalm 1:1-3).
You may not think the word happy is even biblical, but as the book “The Sacrament of Happy” demonstrates, “the Beatitudes typically begin with the English word blessed, but the original Greek word blessed is translated from is makarios, which can also be translated 'happy' or 'fortunate.' That means happy is not only a holy sacrament, it’s a covenant state of being for God’s people."
Nobody expects you to have a permanent smile on your face. That would be creepy.
Happiness is not an external look but an internal state. A happy soul is not affected by circumstances but enjoys unceasing communion with the Lord.
As prayer makes ordinary gifts holy, His presence makes dull things delightful. He can make you laugh during a diaper change at 3 am...and sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying, am I right?
What makes you happy?
For me, it's being with my family, reading and writing, and leading physical and spiritual exercises (among others, like baby animals and pizza). Being a mom is a 24/7 job, but writing requires undistracted thought space, and personal training requires an undivided focus on my client. These are not toddler-friendly pursuits.
One day, I sullenly reported to my husband that I could not train a particular client because it would be in the afternoon when I'm with Ellie, and I reserve school mornings for writing. He suggested I hire a babysitter.
I never even considered it. A babysitter? But doesn’t that mean I’m not doing my job as a mom if I need to outsource care?
No. It means I find someone I trust to look after my daughter until I come home to her again. So what's with the mom guilt?
Guilt can be one strategy Satan uses to keep us from the Lord’s work. And as C.S. Lewis said, “joy is the serious business of heaven.” It’s important to let the Lord examine our heart and see if there is any offensive way in us, but false accusations have no claim in our life.
Now when the babysitter comes, Ellie is happy because the sitter will indulge in every whim of her expansive imagination. I get to do what I love and come home to the one I love and be fully present with her. I think that makes us both happy.
Healthy and Whole
“May God Himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul and body--and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (Message version)
God makes us healthy to be fit for the coming of Christ. And healthy living is not the act of avoiding disease but stewarding the physical body God has given us, in sickness or in health.
Sometimes keeping yourself and your family healthy means dropping the kids off at the gym nursery, and other days, it means inviting your kids to work out, grocery shop, and serve others with you so you can actively teach them in the moment. They may not like it. But they will appreciate it later.
I remember my mom taking my sister and me outside to play tennis in the summer, and complaining of the heat more times than I made contact with the ball.
When my daughter cries and nags me to go home after we have pulled a measly handful of weeds at a community garden, I understand my mom’s pain. Sorry about that, mom. But thanks for bringing us with you anyways. I would be happy to go out there and play tennis with you now! And this time, I’ll bring Ellie.
I’m grateful for a mom who pursued what she loved and took us along for the ride. I’m a personal trainer today because I grew up with the best personal trainer I know.
Get the Family Involved
Happiness and health do not come naturally. Happiness is a whole-family-effort.
What are you so passionate about that you'll burn up inside if you don't do it? Do you want to paint? Hike? Sit in silence?
Whatever it is, express this desire to the family and work up a plan together. Your husband will come alive when he sees you bloom. I'll bet you will want to serve him and your kids better, too.
Link arms with your spouse (or another partner), find your health and happiness in the Lord and let you kids follow you.
"Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” Proverbs 31:28
The word “blessed” here means “to go straight, go on, advance.” When your joy is in the Lord, your children will rise up and call you blessed. Someday they will say, keep doing what you’re doing, mom. I’ll be right behind you.
Reflect and Respond
Are you following the Lord within view of your children? Reading the Bible with them, dancing to worship music, and bringing meals to neighbors are a few ways to show them what it looks like to live with Jesus every day.
How does contentment in Christ help you love your children better? What's one thing you can do today to show them how to take care of their body and soul?
Is there a woman in your life who has influenced you in the ways of health and happiness?
What about her inspires you? Make sure to tell her with a letter or a phone call. She might pass it on to the women who encouraged her.