One day a screaming tyrant entered your life. Helpless and tiny, this little commando began giving you marching orders. “Feed me! Warm me! Change me!”
Whether you enlisted into motherhood by choice or were drafted by surprise, your hand rocks the world. Your children do not pose the same threat as a commanding officer, but they do let you know what they need. If you graduate from bootie camp without becoming resentful against your new commander-in-chief, you are on track for excellent motherhood. If you try to go AWAL by passing motherhood off onto another person or institution, your heart and your children’s will hurt for it.
Many voices demand you to snap to attention and fall in step with their demands:
Society says, “Love yourself first.”
Industry says, “Make money, not a home.”
Religion says, “Raising kids is for experts.”
Feminism says, “Housewives are out-moded.”
Hollywood says, “Be young, turn some heads.”
Government says, “Give us your kids, we’ll raise them.”
However, if you listen closely, you will hear each of your children say, “Drop everything and just give me about 20 years of your focused attention. I won’t take it all, and I will give back when I am grown if you prioritize me now. Don’t push me away.”
Consider the following points and listen to the heart of your child in each one.
1. Accept me
The mother ewe gave birth to three beautiful lambs. They coughed and wheezed and then started crying for her. She responded to the first one. She took it in, cleaned it up, and fed it. When the other two lambs figured out who she was, they came running to her for warmth, love, and a meal. With a toss of her head she threw them off. They rolled on the ground into a pile of legs and hooves. They got up and came back again as instinct drove them to their point of origin. Again, she threw them off.
After watching this scene for a few minutes, I grew angry at this so-called mother. How can any creature reject her own offspring? Unfortunately, I have seen this within the human family. A mother who rejects her own offspring may not dump them in a ditch and run off, but she is just as hurtful. She dumps them at a daycare so she can get “her life” back. She buries their needs far below her own priorities and ego.
Your child is crying for mom. Children want to know they matter. They do not just want to be another number on a census. They need your time and they need you to love them.
2. Cherish me
Mom, if you say, “I can’t wait until the kids get back to school,” you do not cherish your children. Do you enjoy time with your kids? Maybe you secretly wish you could be your old self again. Homeschool-mom Melanie Hexter, while referring to the challenge of teaching children at home, said,
people aren’t willing to make the personal sacrifices that homeschooling requires. For me to homeschool, I have to lay aside my desires to sleep late, exercise at will, have lunch with my girlfriends, and use my college degree to work a well-paying, full-time job outside the home. I must temporarily lay aside many other worthwhile and sometimes even God-honoring pursuits as well.
While God may not lead every mother to homeschool her children, He does lead all moms to give of themselves to nurture, train, and inspire their young ones.
3. Protect me
A healthy ewe does not let her lambs out of her sight until near puberty. Moms who let their kids play with just anyone’s kids are putting their home at risk. The odds of your children losing their innocence before maturity increase hundreds of times for every situation where you expect someone else to care for their well-being. It is not wise to let your kids socialize with other “church kids” without supervision. Children in the best of homes can invent evil. Do not turn your back until wisdom takes root.
Kids on the school bus or at the park will emblazon your child’s mind with foul thoughts and crude pictures. School children get an education most parents never notice until too late. Unprotected internet use will damage your child’s understanding of sexuality. Television teaches children they are worthless unless they have a designer body and designer clothes.
Do you keep house or keep your home? Keeping house takes little emotional involvement: you sweep, mop, dust, and scrub. Keeping home draws on your spiritual depth to protect your husband and children from all forms of godlessness (Titus 2:5).
You can raise children who never see pornography, never hear foul language, and never experiment with things they should not know about. It is not enough to homeschool your kids or play referee in every social interaction. Inspire them to desire purity.
4. Hold me
The most common form of child abuse is neglect. No one should be left alone. Even a stay-at-home mom can let her baby drown as she socializes on Facebook. Girls lose their innocence while mom chases a fleeting feeling of romance in a novel.
When did you last hold your child? More than change diapers, do homework, and supervise teeth brushing, you have the opportunity to make a child feel special. Do you hug your children often? Are you too busy from them to snuggle up to you?
Society says you should pursue your own identity beyond “just” being a mom. Most career women will look back with regret, as does Raquel Welch, who achieved wealth and fame:
I already had two children in tow and I couldn’t stop myself from wanting to pursue a career and I felt like if I didn’t I would carry a resentment my whole life for not having followed my impulses…. Later I had to acknowledge that there was a price to pay that not only I had to pay but my children had to pay and that was a bitter pill when it came along…. I simply wasn’t there many times when those little children needed me. But I told myself at the time that I was being a creature of that period that I was doing exactly what a woman of my day did.
We, however, should not be conformed to this world.
As we reject the immodest image of our culture, we should also reject the immoral priorities pushing a woman to be money makers and helpmeet to some other man. Rather than older women telling younger women, “I wish I had not put a career ahead of my family,” we need apostolic women who teach the younger ones “to love their children” (Titus 2:4) by example, not failure.
You have committed “to have and to hold” the father of your children. If you listen closely, you can hear your children say, “Please love my daddy. Pray until you love him like Jesus does. Stay together for my sake. If you break up you will destroy my world. Respect him the way you want me to respect you.”
Even if a family does not live for God, the children grow up more socially adjusted and productive if they come from a stable home. Screaming and threatening between spouses destroy the morale of the home. Loving silence and gentle encouragement go further in your marriage than open confrontation. You chose your husband; choose what is best for your kids.
5. Read to me
Do your kids know as much about the Bible as they do about superheroes, sports stars, or Adventures-in-Odyssey stories? Make God’s Word part of the fun of being a family. Rather than dump Sesame Street and Dora down their throats, use creative and imaginative ways to tell, act out, and pretend Bible stories.
Read in a dramatic voice so they want to listen. Find a version they can understand or use a Bible storybook to keep their attention. They can learn the (sometimes too gory) details later. Reading takes time. Each of your children need all of yours. The laundry, dishes, and dusting will get done before they move out.
6. Inspire me
Your children want to be productive. They want to matter in this life. They want to eat their vegetables and work hard at the jobs you give them. Practice the art of getting them to see their own potential and awaken the desire to do great things.
By yelling, insulting, and criticizing a mother only passes the blame of her laziness onto them. Industrious parents have industrious children—if the kids’ hearts are bonded to their folks. If you and your kids do not get along, no program, schedule, or parenting technique will work.
Study the art of parenting like you would any other executive position. After 40 years in a career, they would give you a plaque and forget you. Any compensation package from corporate America cannot compare to the eternal rewards of joyfully and prayerfully investing yourself into motherhood.
7. Bond with me
Bonding is not about a new trick you learn but about who you become. Just as your body will never be the same as it was before you had kids, neither will your soul. You cannot go back to be the girl you were before children because you chose to become a part of someone else’s life. Not only are you now one with a husband, but you give a part of yourself to your children.
Of the mom who says she cannot control her kids or get them to mind her, Hexter says,
these parents have already lost the hearts of their children. It’s sad to say, but ultimately, they don’t even like their own children anymore. They don’t enjoy spending time with them, and they long for someone else to watch them so they don’t have to. Why? Because their relationship is a battleground. The child has given his heart to someone or something else, and respect for the parent is no more. The parent knows that. The parent is resigned to it. [She] has thrown in the white towel of surrender. “Oh, I could never homeschool my kids” is another way for such a parent to say “It’s too much work to lead our relationship again.”
Just as the Lord never gives up on His children, no mother should throw out her baby with the bath water. Love your child of any age until you share the same love for God, each other, and His mission.
Bonding is the process of you becoming united in heart and purpose with your children. Although they will grow into something bigger and somewhat different than you, they will carry your core values and desires with them in whatever life God calls them to. Control says, “Kid, you are mine,” and has a hard time letting the child become a man. Bonding says, “We belong to each other,” and rejoices in developing mature adults.
Bonding is a lifestyle of taking genuine interest in your children’s unique desires and abilities. Control says, “You should do what I say.” Bonding says, “I share in your success.” To unite with your daughter and son, you have to approach them humbly, esteeming their needs over your own desires (Philippians 2:3-4).
8. Unbuckle me
Do you drive your children crazy? Park the kidmobile and stay home. Stop whipping them through traffic and let them calm down and enjoy life beyond the fast lane. Stop enrolling your kids in every family-dividing program your church or school presents. Spend most of your week as a family.
Sit in the sandbox and build. Climb the tree. Build a fort. Make a feast of mud pies. Ride bikes. Read books. Gather insects. Make popsicles from fruit juice. Open a can of peaches and share it. Invent fun ways to be a family away from the freeway.
Design goals, activities, and family objectives you can enjoy together. Resist the pressure to split your home by sending your kids to every activity they want to be part of. Sleepovers not only separate your family, but too much lack of supervision will cause your kids to have a family of their own all too soon.
9. Play with me
You can be religious without being real. Your kids should know you are human. Let them see you laugh. Let them see you enjoy being with them. What good is it if you pray all night and fast for two weeks if you do not enjoy time with the children God gave you?
No mother can call herself godly if she fasts and prays yet hides herself from her own flesh (Isaiah 58:7). Humbling yourself to the point of being your children’s best friend can be a greater sacrifice than fasting. God will honor it more. He’s not looking for sacrifice as much as humility (Psalm 51:16-17; Micah 6:8).
10. Feed me
The wonderful mother of my children noticed a health-starved family in the grocery department. One of the children said, “Hey, dad! Look at the pineapples. Can we get a pineapple?”
“No. What kind of pizza did your mom say to buy?”
“Hey, dad! Look at the watermelon! Can we get one?”
“No,” dad says. “I’m trying to find a pizza.”
From a couple displays away, mom shouts, “Pepperoni.”
Dad says, “I don’t see it. Where?”
“Hey dad, look! Bananas. Can we get some bananas?”
Mom says, “It is right in front of you.” And the desires of the children fell on deaf ears.
Kids love to eat right. Why let your family become addicted to sugary, imitation, artificial, and processed products which give only energy but not health? A loving mother feeds her clan fresh, God-made foods to improve their health and revive their spirits. Their needs take priority over her convenience.
When you bow your head as a family and thank the Lord for your meals each day, are you confident He can bless the food you have prepared? You might be asking for a miracle. Transition your family slowly to a better diet so you can honor God in all you do. Take the best care of the bodies he has placed in your care.
11. Pray for me
I have heard many mothers express how devotedly and deeply they pray for their backslidden children. While we encourage mothers to weep for their lost children, a young mother can pray with just as much fervency for their children who have not yet made life decisions. My mother did this for both my brother and me, and we never left the church.
Prevention outweighs any cure. Rather than buy the philosophy that your kids can walk away but they will come back again, agree with your husband in prayer that your children will not experience the horrors and scars of backsliding.
Although you pray in secret, do not be secretive about prayer. Let your children wake up to the sound of your prayers in the morning. Let them come to you expecting prayer for their injuries instead of a silly kiss. Oma Ellis tells of her kids who came to her for prayer and saw miracles because of their simple faith in the God of their mother. Joy Haney would pray in her toddlers’ playroom and let them crawl on her back or mess with their toys while she interceded for them and others in prayer.
12. Teach me
While some mothers see parenting as simply something to endure until the kids are out of the house, others see this art as a chance to change the world one life at a time. Hexter says,
I’ve seen parents who are discontent because they are no longer leading their families; instead, the kids seem to be forcing the direction of the family. The children determine meal menus and mealtimes, pick friends, select bedtimes and TV shows, determine their own social calendars, and generally are in charge. “No” is a word these parents do not say very often to their kids because the children long ago decided not to respect parental authority. Instead of a “yes, Mom” response when asked to do something, the child is more likely to give a “Whatever” response to the parent.
Most moms avoid trying to teach their children anything because they cannot overcome the emotional and social gap.
Many children grow up in homes with parents who could teach them so much, but they would rather shape their choices and worldview around the opinions of immature peers. They follow modern popular culture instead of mom’s Pentecostal Christianity.
Teaching a child at home is not about education as much as it is about participation in their lives. Rather than letting your child become bonded to some pagan philosophy or heretical religious views, win them to the Lord as you win them to yourself. Hexter unloads the practical side of winning your children’s hearts back to your own:
I repeat some very sound advice I once heard: “Get back their hearts. If the first year of schooling at home for a child coming out of public school means no academics, that’s fine. Spend the year getting back their hearts.” It’s not too late, even if the children are in high school. Read with them. Learn alongside them. Learn about them, what makes them tick, what thrills them. Do things together. Go places together. Get back their hearts for the sake of your long-term relationship. 
13. Disciple me
Kids, like adults, do not respond well to lecturing. They imitate what they see. If you are a disciple of Jesus in your attitude, attire, actions, and alliances, they will be, too. If you tell them to live right, your life should illustrate it.
You can pollute your home with gossip and negative talk about church members and preachers. How much more enjoyable it would be, however, to raise kids who love the church and speak highly of all those in the household of faith. Though raised in a preacher’s home, my wife never heard her parents speak ill of anyone in the church or any minister.
Take the initiative to talk to your children about morals, ethics, and integrity. If you make your daughter dress modest but fail to explain why, she will become a hypocrite who finds ways to bend the rules. If you show her the joy of purity and explain to her how to keep men from thinking evil thoughts about her, she will may become more motivated for modesty than your rules could ever accomplish.
Kids do not want religion; they want relationship with the Lord. Do not bind them to traditions with no biblical explanation. Teach them the principles of God’s Word and the beauty of a life lived to God’s glory. If your daughters grow up seeking God’s favor and not guys’ attention, you have accomplished a significant task as a mother. If you inspire them to share their faith to others and lead their own home in righteousness, you have expanded the kingdom of God.
14. Lead me
You can lead your children best when you get on their level where they can see you. Challenge them with your life. Let them see something in you to live up to. Do not get on their level in maturity, but get on their level in humility.
To find out if you are leading your children, try this: announce that you are going to make a cake and see if anyone volunteers to help; announce that you are going to make some play dough and see who wants to get involved. If you are controlling your home, they will do what you threaten them into. If you are leading, they will do what you suggest.
Leadership expert John Maxwell describes people as having various spheres of influence. Some people could care less what you do or say. Others are interested in something if they hear you are trying it. Your children should want to hear what you are saying because they know you care about what they say. They will automatically follow your interests (even if just out of curiosity) if they know you care about theirs.
Do not raise kids who do what they are told. Lead them to think to do the right thing without being told. Lead them to gain favor with others instead of being insufferable bores and obnoxious talkers. Let them learn your meekness, gentleness, and care for others. These principles might take you 20 years to perfect. Each of your children is worth all the effort.
Hexter identifies the root of most home conflicts, saying that “children aren’t following the parents because the parents aren’t leading them anywhere.”  Either you shape your daughter to be a mother and prayer warrior or society will shape her into idolatry. Give your young men a sense of purpose or leave them to themselves and let them bring you to shame (Proverbs 29:15).
15. Train me
Kids learn by doing. When you make a fruit salad, involve your children. Let them get their hands messy. Relax and let it be fun, not a stress-filled enterprise. Let them learn the joy of being with you. Let your daughters learn how to run the kitchen with you. Do not just tell them what to do and leave them to the chores. Do with them. Work as one, and raging teen hormones will not drive you asunder.
John Maxwell teaches a principle in leadership he discovered in the life of Jesus. Mother’s can use this strategy, too. It goes something like this:
- You do the project while they watch;
- You do the project together;
- They do the project while you watch;
- They do it on their own;
- They do it while their children watch.
You train a dog by doing the same exercise over and over until he gets it. Train your children by cleaning their room with them until they see it as a joy, not a chore. Reward them for extra effort, efficient thinking, and trying hard (even if they do not succeed). Initiative, not monotony, makes home a colorful place.
16. Punish me
You cannot love your kids into perfection. To understand God and justice, they have to understand punishment. If they confuse punishment with rejection, you probably chastise in anger. Do not reject the child, just ungodly attitudes and behavior.
Let your heart embrace the spirit of punishment as fulfilling God’s order, not venting your stress or rage. Rage will scar a child emotionally and enters the realm of child abuse. You want to break the will, not bruise the skin or break the spirit. Never make your children dread their dad’s arrival by saying, “Your father will deal with this when he gets here!”
Rebuke the boy for hitting his sister the same way you correct his sister who provoked him with her snide remark. If a child makes a mistake, do not treat him or her the way you would a rebellious child who knew better. Mistakes need patient instruction. Disobedience needs direct confrontation.
Start each day with a sense of hope. If yesterday was a foul day, do not let it cloud today. Your kids have already forgotten. Let the first words you speak instill joy and hope each morning. Teach them to love life by forgetting their wrongs and talking about what is pure, lovely, and good report.
17. Save me
Women have carried the shame of the first mother who was deceived into sin. You can redeem her mistake by letting your children eat the fruit of righteousness. Reverse the curse by teaching them a life of faith in God and holiness in spirit (I Timothy 2:15).
You will find no greater joy in motherhood than to know your children walk in truth (II John 1:4; III John 1:4). Help them experience the joy of living in forgiveness, the liberty of grace, and the power of the Spirit. More than just get them baptized in Jesus’ Name and filled with the Holy Ghost, impart to them a love for truth so they never depart (Proverbs 22:6). Train up children who will live the faith, not just retain a “ticket to heaven” theology.
As you join hearts with your child, you will become aware of his or her rate of development and emotional maturity. Never pressure your child to perform by saying something as foolish as, “Why don’t you pray like your sister?” While some children need a direct approach to get their attention, others need patience until they open up to the Lord.
Children’s spiritual development needs to be a personal relationship between them and Jesus Christ. If they pray or get baptized just to please you, you have created hypocrites. Inspire them to love Jesus and let Him lead them home.
18. Minister to me
In our evangelistic movement, mothers feel pressure to develop a notable ministry. Too many missionary wives were more dedicated to their cause than their children. Growing up in boarding schools without a mom, many missionary kids suffered feelings of rejection and sometimes physical abuse. Often they turned to the world in bitterness against their parent’s God. How tragic to win the whole world and lose one’s own child.
Kim Haney, wife of mega-church pastor Nathaniel Haney and author of Seeds of Jochebed, a devotional book for mothers of school-age children, describes her prayer-filled quest to learn what God would have her do to impact the world.
I felt as if I needed to be out ministering, leading, helping others, winning souls, teaching Bible studies, doing things for God like some of my other friends were doing. But I also felt tied down and limited by the needs of my five kids. I would sometimes tell myself, “I can hardly wait until they are older.” I sometimes felt as if they were ruining my ministry. I’m embarrassed to admit that I felt that way.
On a prayer walk, the Lord answered her question of “What should I do for a ministry?”
He said, “Kim, if you truly want to please Me, look straight ahead.” As I looked I saw my five sweet kids outside playing in the front yard.…
“I have given you five children. If you truly want to please Me, then they are your ministry.”
I can’t say I got pumped with excitement and took off down the road with a renewed vision and purpose. No, I stood there and cried. As my eyes were opened I felt so ashamed. So ashamed! God made me take a good, long, honest look at myself and at what I labeled ministry. Do you know what I discovered under the mask that I wore as a representation of doing “God’s work”? Selfishness. Self-seeking. Self. Self. Self. Not a drop of it was God. All of these selfish motives were worn under the mask of ministry that I never really recognized it until He showed me.
Until you succeed at making world-changers out of your children, do not seek another burden. God called you to be a mother the moment you conceived. Fulfill His perfect will in your life. Weep and accept this challenge whole-heartedly.
When you humble yourself to love your kids to Christ, you will find unlimited ministry opportunities. At home, you pray for the sick, preach, sing, intercede, cast out demons (or so it seems at times), and worship. You memorize scriptures together, fast together, and share victory reports of what God is doing.
You do not want to dump your kids with a babysitter who lives to Twitter her life away. Do not run off to convert the heathen while your child becomes one. If you cannot involve your children in your ministry, God probably did not call you to it.
19. Help me care for others
Does your family do things that benefit others? Or do they just pursue self-pleasing entertainment? A woman was not a qualified widow if she had not devoted herself to hospitality and serving others (I Timothy 5:10). Your kids should enjoy having company over. Your kids should enjoy opportunities to contribute to the greater good—especially for the church but also for the community at large:
I would also firmly ask, “Where are you leading your children? What is your family’s purpose? What is the point of education, and to what end are you praying that your children mature? Is it toward a self-serving, entertainment-oriented life, or are you leading your family toward an others-centered, Christ-oriented life with an eternal purpose?”… Ask the Lord to lead your family so you can lead your children.
When you truly care for others, your children who are anchored to your heart, will care also.
20. Give me 20 years
Your kids are not impressed by your title, degree, or larger-than-life goals. They do not care if you are overweight or out-of-date. They care that you care. You are their mom and they want to join you in life. Like rejected lambs, children do not understand a mother who pushes them aside. Settle down to be a mom and you will find contentment in God’s perfect will.
After you retire from raising children, you will have the opportunity to again “find yourself” in God’s will and pursue more appreciated endeavors. You will only be a mother for a fraction of your life. Submit your heart to God and enjoy the experience. Give each of your kids a full score of love, inspiration, and challenge.
Many military people retire after 20 years. After giving two decades to each of your children, you will not only be a veteran but a major influence for good in our world. You may find the life of a mother to be so great you will await the coronation into grand-motherhood with eager anticipation.
 Melanie Hexter, “Sacrifices and Homeschooling,” Homeschool Enrichment, #51 May/Jun 2011, 56.
 Nicki Gostin, “Raquel Welch Takes on Porn Culture, Feminist Snobs” Popeater.com, Apr 27th 2011 10:29PM, viewed May 2nd 2011. http://www.popeater.com/2011/04/27/raquel-welch-beyond-cleavage-feminism-porn/?ncid=webmail
 Hexter, 57.
 Ibid., 56.
 Ibid., 57.
 Ibid., 56.
 Ibid., 57.