Sometimes we worry that we’re not loving a child enough, or we don’t feel like we have anything left to give because we’re exhausted. One way we can demonstrate love to our child at any age is through facial expressions. They can support or represent our words—or not. Listen in for 2 questions about your facial expressions.
Episode 3 Resources: Make A Face That Counts
- Matthew 21.22 (ESV)
- Psalm. 16.7-9: (ESV)
- Grab a copy of my book, Becoming A Peaceful Mom ~ Through Every Season of Raising Your Child
- Find me on Instagram @teresadgle
Read Episode 3 Transcript
Remember the first time you held your child and the love you felt? From that day forward, we want our child to know how much we love her. But sometimes, we aren’t sure how to do this, or we worry that we’re not loving her enough, or we don’t feel like we have anything left to give because we’re exhausted.
In the next 2 podcasts, we’ll consider ways to demonstrate love to our child at any age.
If you have a baby, you discover how to demonstrate love as you learn to take care of her. Here’s what I mean: You smile and coo at her with delight (That’s facial expression); You hold her close to feed, comfort, and lull her to sleep (That’s physical touch); You’re together a lot because she needs you a-lot-of-the-time(That’s spending time together).
But, as our baby becomes a toddler, tween, and teen, does she still need us to demonstrate our love?
Yes. Definitely, yes.
You are one of the first people she experiences love from, one of the first people she loves, and she still depends on you and your love more than you may realize. What a privilege and an opportunity. And, on some days . . . what a challenge. Thankfully, God guides, and we learn by practicing.
One way we can practice is through our facial expressions. Our child probably looks at our face more than we look at hers. She looks for love, approval, and direction. In a week, a child receives all sorts of facial messages – at school, among siblings, on the bus, in the neighborhood, at a sleepover, or on social media. Or, no one looks directly at her.
Frequent smiles and positive expressions communicate great value and security. Even when we’re in a challenging season with a child, a decision to smile says, I love you no matter what. God’s love shines through and gives peace to a child. When we smile, we invite nearness. We extend grace. We love.
Facial expressions can be a useful communication tool to support our words—or to represent our message when silence is the wise option. For example, in a public setting, a well-intended word could mortify a child if her peers are present. A discreet facial expression can accomplish our intent and show our thoughtfulness.
So, 2 questions about your facial expressions:
1st question: Do Your Kids Know Your Looks?
Moms and dads can have a “look” for each message. When we were raising our 3 kids, they knew my looks. It doesn’t take long to learn them!
Have some fun with this! During a meal or some other time when you’re face to face, playfully ask your child to demonstrate your looks. Say, “What’s my look for….”:
· I’m proud of you.
· Stop doing that.
· You’ve been warned.
· I love you.
· I’m angry.
· You can do that.
You might learn that your intended facial message is clear, or that your expressions are not distinguishable. To be honest, I was humbled by this exercise but also encouraged and entertained.
Supportive expressions are easy to share:
*A look of delight communicates pleasure – when our child makes a good character decision,
accomplishes something, or obeys.
*A look of approval confirms – “I trust you. You can go do that.”
*A look of support says – “I’m here. You’re going to do great.” to the nervous child who’s about to
make a presentation or attempt something unfamiliar.
*A look of compassion assures – “I understand what you’re feeling,” when our child looks
uncomfortable, isn’t chosen, or doesn’t receive an award she hoped for.
Just as important, our child benefits to know our disapproving or warning facial expressions that say: Think about what you are doing… I’m watching you… Stop what you are doing. These expressions warn and serve as back-up to inspire a child to consider his behavior and avoid consequences. Plus, they lessen the physical drain of repetitive words! For example, if our child is about to perform with her class, and we notice her misbehaving, we can’t go up there and have a talk with her. But, we can give her “the look.” Children feel the security of being loved when we attend to their behavior, even when our expression foretells correction.
2nd question: Do You Know Your Looks?
When sternness or disapproval is necessary, try to make that the only expression you wear. I learned this a painful way.
Our boys were four and five. I told them to pick up the toys in their room, and I left as they began. Within minutes, I could “hear” them playing, not obeying… so I returned to their room and got them back on task. Again, their playful banter filled the hallway between our rooms. Sounds that normally made me smile, made me mad—because they were disobeying. This time my voice filled the hallway, “Boys, you better have your toys picked up before I come back!”
At that moment, I was walking past my bedroom mirror and glimpsed my face. What I saw, was not a motherly look of disapproval, or even a stern look. My face looked mean. …I just stood there a minute, mortified. Lord, I can’t believe this is what my children receive when I get mad. You see, I knew in my heart –my children had received this facial expression from me before. Oh, was I humbled! My children never deserve such a look.
I needed to go follow-through with my boys, but since they were obviously having a great time, I seized the painful moment, to be alone. Feeling guilty and ashamed, I sank to my bedroom floor and thought — God, you saw all of that.
After a few miserable minutes, I whispered to Him, “Lord, I can’t believe the looks I’ve been giving my boys. And I know this isn’t the first time… They are children. I am so sorry. Please forgive me and help me to not do this anymore. I repent of this pattern in me. Please help me give facial expressions that are helpful, not hurtful. Amen.”
Good intentions like, Tomorrow, I’ll do better, depend on self— and most of us have experienced how unsuccessful those tend to be. God hopes we’ll depend on him and talk to him.
Seize even the briefest moments, and go to him. Jesus encourages his disciples in Matthew 21.22, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
God listens. He helps us practice leaning on him, and he shapes change in us. Some days we’re quickly encouraged by the impact of his grace. Other times we realize that deep change may take more time, because we discover we have layers to-pray-through with God.
Over the next few days, I realized that unresolved baggage overloaded my heart. Memories of other occasions when the children ignored or disobeyed me, plus the discouragement that comes with it, stirred-up unchecked emotion. I had not unloaded to God in a long while, so my hurting, angry heart reflected on my face.
The next few days, more memories and feelings surfaced. I released these to God whenever I had a couple of minutes. (for ex) God I give you that time when he talked back. Now I see how hurt I felt. I forgive him. Please heal me.
When our heart is right with God (cleansed and healed), our facial expression reflects His peace that blankets our heart—even in the midst of long days of disobedience and fatigue. God’s powerful love blends with our necessary stern look to communicate correction, not rejection or meanness.
It’s easy to give loving facial expression when we’re happy and encouraged. But disappointment, discouragement, and disobedience drain our desire to give even a smile. God sees our struggle.
In the Old Testament, David experienced long, hard relationship challenges. He learned to desperately depend on God, and this relationship sustained him. His gladness (no matter the circumstance) was in-God, and his countenance displayed this. He expresses this in Psalm. 16.7-9, “I bless the LORD who gives me counsel: in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; My flesh also dwells secure.”
Like David, we can “set the LORD always before” us. With God at ourright hand, we too will not be shaken. We can smile, with love because God is with us and we can trust his love to course through us.
Finally, our children need to see our eyes locked on their eyes often. When we look into theirs, God helps us see what he wants us to see—a child— one who needs our visible love and grace, as God gives us his.
Help us depend on you, that our gladness is found in you and then overflows to our family. Amen.