Two or three years ago, our friends Will and Christel came to visit for Memorial Day. And as a hostess gift, Christel (who always gives the best gifts!) gave me the book Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic. It took me a few weeks to finally get around to picking it up, but once I cracked it open, I was instantly enthralled. And not just ’cause it’s written by a gal with a perfect first name.
Rachel’s target audience is mothers of little kids and believe me, she knows a lot about having little kids! She had 5 kids when she wrote this book and now she has 6 – including a set of twins.
Obviously, that means she really understands what it’s like to be a mom to little kids. One of my favorite parts about the book is how she has mastered the art of the short chapter. This proves she really knows her audience: moms of babes don’t have time to sit and read for hours. So she keeps her thoughts and her chapters concise.
But even though the book is short and the chapters are short, they are PACKED with really awesome wisdom that is both Biblical and practical. Despite the small quantity, the quality is fantastic. Praising a book because it offers a “fresh perspective” on a topic is perhaps the most overused compliment. But I truly believe that this little book offers a genuinely fresh perspective on keeping your sanity while you wisely raise little children.
I have read this book three times now and last Summer, I led a book study on it with women from my church. Many of the ladies who attended were actually grandmothers. They lamented the fact that Rachel hadn’t written this book when they were young mothers (to be fair she was a baby back then!). But we found that the tips that are contained within these pages can easily be used by grandparents and caregivers who wish to thoughtfully control the chaos of life with little kids.
Her perspective and advice definitely comes from a Christian worldview, but I wouldn’t let that stop you from reading it as a non-Christian. It’s not preachy, it’s just honest. Her tips are just so feasible and helpful. Incorporating her principles has made me a happier mom, a more thoughtful mom, and a more balanced, realistic mom.
I could go on and on, but I thought I’d share the three things that have stuck with me most clearly.
1) In Chapter 2 she discusses how we deal with little kids who continually make the same mistakes/ continue to sin in the same areas despite our teaching them over and over to NOT do what they are doing. She encouraged mothers to praise their children on each little step they make – even when it is a ridiculous step.
For example, one of her kids used to take her shoes off every time she got in the car. I can speak from experience and say that this is SO frustrating! When the kid stopped, she neglected to praise him/her for finally overcoming temptation. But while little victories seem silly to us, they are a huge deal to our children! And we need to treat them as such – praising them as much as if they’d overcome a massive gambling addiction.
Even more pertinent in this chapter, she shared how she stopped saying things like “What is WRONG WITH YOU? WHY ARE YOU STILL DOING THIS?!” to her children. When you say that to a child, you are sending the message that these children shouldn’t make mistakes. That they aren’t allowed to sin. That if they wake up in the morning and don’t do everything perfectly, they have failed. But this isn’t true.
As Christians, we believe that sanctification (big word for growing more holy throughout our lives) happens slowly. As long as we are here on earth, we will continue to struggle with sin. She encouraged parents to give their children the tools to be able to handle their mistakes. Instead of blaming them for “never” progressing, she encourages parents not to give up. But to keep on training their children in what is right. Eventually they will get it.
2) As I discussed in my New Years Resolution post, I loved chapter 8 of her book. This is where she talks about watching your language. And this isn’t just a reminder to not cuss in front of babies.
She talks about how the language we use about our circumstances has a strong effect on what we feel about them. For example, when she gave birth to twins, she eliminated the word “overwhelmed” from her vocabulary. Why? In her words:
God gave me this to do. I may not be overwhelmed about it. I can try as hard as I can, and maybe fail sometimes. I can try as hard as I can and fall asleep at the dinner table. I can try as hard as I can and be completely burned out at the end of the day. But I may not be overwhelmed. Actually, i may be overwhelmed, but I may not say that I am overwhelmed! The words have real power over us. If you say it, you allow it for yourself. You give yourself that little bit of room to say, “But I can’t!”
This has been/ will be so helpful to me as I feel “overwhelmed” and “stressed” with little ones/ a newborn. During these crunch times (crunch years!) moms often go limp and say “I can’t do it all!” But the truth is, through God’s help we can handle it. Even when we feel in over our heads. And “deciding not to wallow in that fact has removed one of the biggest obstacles to my work – my own calculations of how hard the job is.”
Along these lines, in chapter 18, she gives wise advice that I followed when Gigi was a baby.
“Get rid of your clock, at least the one you can see when you eyes are rolling around in your head while you nurse.”
Why? Because honestly, who really needs to keep track of the maddeningly small amount of sleep you are getting as a nursing mother. All you need to know is that “You were just up when you needed to be.”
3. Finally, in chapter 16, she outlines how they deal with conflicts between the siblings. I love this paragraph:
If there was a scuffle, both are in the wrong. If only one member of the flashlight grabbers was in the wrong, the other would have come found me to ask for help. If what I hear is two voices raised together in fury, everyone is wrong, regardless of who first grabbed. There is a wrong way to be right and a wrong way to be wrong.
From there she goes on to discuss how she teaches her children that she wants them to value each other over their flashlights/ toys/ TV/ whatever. If there is something that is getting in between them, it is the parents responsibility to fix that. Better to throw away a flashlight than to have kids who hate each other.
“Make it clear to them that you want to see a change in their hearts. Grabby hands come from grabby hearts.”
And then she outlines how they deal specifically in addressing the ‘heart issues’ that their children face. It is very straight-forward and wise.
That’s it for my review! Anyone else read this book? Loved it? Hated it? Have a helpful parenting book you’ve loved even more?