A little boy asked one time, “Mama, why is it that you love me more in the morning than you do at night?”
The mother of any normal, noisy, active child will readily understand such a question. One’s early morning intentions are to be a loving mother all day long, but by evening nerves are a little frazzled, one’s patience has worn a bit thin, and one is often more than eager to put the children to bed.
Parents could help their little ones feel loved all day long by taking out some “love insurance” in the evening. After toys are picked up, clothes are put away, and pajamas are on, take a few extra minutes for a special quiet time. Gather your little ones around you and read a story, sing a song, chant a nursery rhyme, or share a finger-play. Then visit for a few minutes with each child. This may sound difficult at first, but soon you will find the children so cooperative, so eagerly anticipating this special moment that the whole thing will take less time than the usual bedtime struggle.
You may discover that the crowning point of this quiet time is a private visit with each child at his bedside. If another child interrupts, he loses his visit that night. Such a thing rarely happens, however. Busy children don’t have time during the day to really talk to parents, but at bedtime, when they’re glad to postpone sleep for a few minutes, they are eager to talk. This is the time for mother and father to listen attentively. Many precious experiences of the day are shared; feelings, both distressing and delightful, are aired; and true communication between parent and child may be enjoyed.
Such visits sometimes produce timely confessions. Just as one mother was about to leave her boy’s bedside, he decided to tell her that under his bed were bananas, milk, and cereal all ready for a midnight snack. The result? He enjoyed his snack in the kitchen with a clear conscience.
You might make it traditional to ask each child to relate his happiest experience of the day. Exercising a bit of hindsight is good for anyone, and this will help a child to live the day fully, in order to relate a happy incident. He will tend to repeat the happy experience. After an especially exciting Fourth of July, a three-year-old girl said, “This has been such fun. Let’s do this day again.”
A bedtime visit—even older children love such an occasion—can often be the key to the door of communication with a child.
If you have one or two children, such a bedtime routine can be fairly simple. But if yours is a large family, it will take some ingenuity to visit each one each night. Perhaps a quiet time could be planned with some of the children one evening (all of the boys, for instance), and then the next night the other children (the girls) may enjoy their special time. How about dad and mother taking turns?
All of this will take a little time, but it could well be the most important activity of your day as far as your children are concerned. Often when a child calls repeatedly for a drink of water after having been put to bed, it is not water but a listening parent that he wants. This special time of your undivided attention will give your children an island of security on which to sleep and a meaningful experience on which to build the next day.
Be sure to take out some love insurance for your children. It is certain to pay countless dividends.
Sister Hoole, the author of three books and numerous articles on homemaking, also lectures widely on this subject. Currently a Primary teacher, she has taught in all Church auxiliaries and served on the stake board of Relief Society. She is married to H. J. M. Hoole, and the couple have eight children. They live in Yalecrest Second Ward, Bonneville Stake.