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8 ways to nurture a child’s soul

I am a nurturer of souls, and so are you.

We moms (and really, all people) have the opportunity to influence the souls of the children in our care. It can feel overwhelming, just thinking about what that means; that we are capable of cultivating a whole life, beginning in the inner most parts of a being. It’s staggering, really, what we are capable of if we are intentional and loving.

In pondering the significance of our influence, I’d like to offer a few ways you can nurture a child’s soul.

Be a sorter of their tangles.

How tender is a young heart, and how easily wounds fester. I’m 32 and I wonder at the wounds in my own heart. I feel more untangled now than ever; freedom is all over me because I have understanding – I’ve lived and I’ve fought for freedom.

My little ones, they don’t understand the fullness of forgiveness and brokenness and pain and injustice. They haven’t lived enough. It’s confusing for them; they just know how they feel. I’m the sorter-outer.

We, us mamas and daddies, we’re the ones who have to keep at the sorting. We must keep on listening, really listening, discerning, and teaching our babes so they can be open to freedom. With compassion, patience, and time we give ourselves to the work of sorting the heart strings so one day they’ll be open to having them tied up new and beautiful.

Make them feel like the most important person in the world.

Our children, just like us, want to be known. They want to be respected. They want to know they matter more than anyone else, because they are ours.

Take the time every now and then to give them your full attention. Give them your arms to lean into. Give them your eyes and your smile. Make them feel like the most important person in the world.

Because in this moment, they are.

Photo by tamckile

Give them permission to not make you happy.

Your children are created uniquely and beautifully, and they have opinions and tastes that often will be opposite from your own. Accept it, and allow them to be free in who they are.

Let them know that they are not responsible for making you happy. Let them know that they make you happy just because they’re yours.

Give them permission to not make you happy. It’s a freeing thing.

Respect them.

I believe that respecting our children is of the utmost importance. I want my children to know that when they say “no” or “stop” that they should be listened to, respected. If I’m tickling my babes and they say stop, I stop. If I go to rub their back and they say stop, I stop (and I don’t make them feel guilty for it).

We should not be offended if our children don’t feel like hugging, or being tickled, or playing ball, or whatever. They are growing into who they are and what they like and don’t like, and we need to respect their boundaries, just as we want our boundaries respected.

They need to know that what they say matters, that we care about their opinions and feelings and bents. It’s not only how we respect them, it’s how we gain their trust. And I want the trust of my children. I bet you do, too.

Let’s listen to our babes and offer them a safe place to grow and learn and stretch into who they are. Let’s respect those little loves of ours.

Be willing to be their best friend.

Oh, how many times I have heard, “You are not your child’s friend, you are their parent.”

I am my child’s parent, this is true, but I’m also trying to be her friend. I’m trying to cultivate our relationship now by accepting her, showing her grace, teaching her, loving her well, listening to her, taking her seriously, being honest with her, and respecting her. My “job” as a parent is to help her figure out the world, and to live well and to love others.

And isn’t it the same as a friend? To share and laugh and learn from each other as we figure out life together? As we go through the ups and downs of everyday, together? As we learn to love and forgive and lean into truth, together?

Yes, that is friendship, and I hope and am willing to be best friends with my child.

Speak kindly to them.

If you find that you are speaking harshly to your children, or yelling at them too much, or you find yourself losing control when you get angry, please get on your knees and choose to change. Be vulnerable, and don’t give up when the change doesn’t happen immediately.

Ask your children to forgive you, and tell them you are a mess some days (we all are). Be honest with them; give them the respect that you would want. And above all, don’t get discouraged that you will never change; you can change, you do have control over your anger.

Kindness is a gift you can give your children. Never stop unwrapping it.

Photo by rolands.lakis

Let them know shame is not invited into your family.

Let your children know that you will never discipline them for telling you something they need to be free of. Let them know whatever it is, whatever yuck has happened, whatever to anything, that they can trust you. Let them know you are there for them, and you’re on their team. And mean it.

Because shame says, “They’ll be mad at you, and they’ll blame you, and you are ugly and bad and it’s all your fault anyway.”

Shame is a liar when you know the truth – the truth that you are not your mess or anyone else’s. The truth that you can be free. Let your children be free to be honest with you, and make sure they know they have your open arms.

Show them that you begin again.

We all botch up, everyday, but we don’t have to stay there in the mess. Sure, we can, if we choose to stay hardened, to not apologize, to not accept grace.

But we also have the choice to lay ourselves low. We can feel sorrow and we can get up from the muck. We can enter into real love when we break before others and allow ourselves to be healed; they see the mending and the scars, but they forgive us, as we forgive them.

This is grace and freedom. And with grace and freedom there is no room for tension – the painful, ugly tension that strangles a soul.

You can choose to begin again. Every day is new.

What are some ways that you nurture your child’s soul?

Psst… Sarah Mae’s book, Desperate – Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe, was released this week! The book was written from the perspective of a mom in the middle of the little years and the perspective of a mom who has raised her children well. Find it wherever books are sold (and check out the amazing gifts and giveaways happening this week!).

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. val

    Thank you fits this beautiful post, I love it

  2. Katherine

    I think it is valuable to be angry at my kids, on occasion, and to show them that. I want them to know that people will be angry at them on occasion and that it is okay. They’ll be okay. Anger can be worked through, talked about, dealt with.

    I sometimes feel paralyzed by other people’s anger and am still learning how to be okay when others aren’t happy with me. So I think it’s valuable for my kids to know when I’m angry and (one of your points) that they are not responsible for making me happy, for “fixing it”.

    I hope that makes sense.

    • Sarah @ Your Healthy Home Biz

      I had the same reaction that Katherine did – overall, I enjoyed most of the tips but this is a sticking point. Inevitably my kids are going to have to face off with people who have no reason to forgive them when they do something wrong (boss, friend, etc.). It’s incredibly important for them to understand the consequences of their actions in affecting people’s feelings now in a safe environment where love is unquestioning. It allows them to not only develop the skills to resolve angry situations or prevent them but – on a deeper level – learn that they have an enormous impact on how people feel and they have more power in a situation than they may know.
      And on another angle, it helps them realize that parents, adults get angry and frustrated. It doesn’t become as terrifying to them – but more of a part of life that they have to learn to be strategic with.
      All this being said doesn’t mean you fly off the handle and lose control. It means you sometimes raise your voice a bit and not try to smooth everything over.
      Finally, as someone who has spent a lot of my life like you, Katherine, fearfully avoiding invoking anger and avoiding my own anger, letting my children understand this feeling more is critical.

    • jennifer

      While I agree with love and respecting our children. There needs to be healthy boundaries established. I was unnerving to me there was no mention of the importance of responsibilities, discipline, and healthy rules for children. I respect and love them. Yes. I am their parent, that is my role in their life. I am also their friend. My goal is to rear them with a balance of kindness, love, respect and healthy boundaries. If they do or speak unkindness towards themselves or anyone else I address it in the present moment letting them know it is not acceptable behavior. They want to be lead by their parents. They want us to be leaders.

  3. Gina

    This list is fridge-worthy, for sure. Sometimes soul-nurturing can get lost among my other roles in a given day. Thank you for articulating it so beautifully.

  4. sylvia

    this is an a m a z i n g article, thanks so much for it. just the kind of stuff i need to read. off to check out the book….

  5. Steph

    Beautiful list I could read and reread.

  6. MomofTwoPreciousGirls

    Thank you for putting into words what I have been trying to express to my husband in regards to respecting them. My youngest is not a touchy feely kind of child and when they are playing around he will tickle her and won’t stop when she asks him too (which is weird to me since he despises being tickled!) and inevitably she ends up crying. I always say he should stop because do want her to know her body belongs to her and no means no. Sure she is only 3 now but I want her to understand that and he thinks its silly of me to think like that now. I will show him this because you say it perfectly and for me I need to work on the yelling…I run short on patience and it makes me crazy when my girls don’t listen to what I am telling them. I always feel like shouting is the only way they hear me. It hurts me to do it so I’m sure it hurts them too. Thanks!

  7. Jami

    Beautiful article!

  8. Amber DeGrace

    This is so sweet, thank you!

  9. Muriel

    Love the bit about being their parent and their best friend and that it isn’t one or the other. 🙂

  10. Susan

    What a beautiful article and so true!

  11. Johanna

    Great list, Sarah Mae! I totally agree and have to often remind myself.

  12. Liz

    This is awesome. I had to share it.

  13. Nina

    I agree pretty much with this whole list, from respecting their ‘no’ to listening to not promoting shame (I’ve read that guilt is actually the better emotion, since guilt is a feeling that the *action* was bad, whereas shame is a feeling that the *self* was bad). I still don’t think parents should be friends, considering that friends aren’t wholly responsible for kids or don’t have to discipline, but I get what you mean: take the good parts of being a friend and enjoy that with our kids.

  14. Shannah

    Exactly what I needed today! I am going to print this and re-read it daily if i need to, I will also be looking into this book! I find this post after several weeks of feeling frustrated with my son. Everytime I ask something of him he gets angry with me. In return I get angry, frustrated and lose my head and then he responds with more anger. It obviously isn’t working for us. It is a constant work in progress for me not to let him push my buttons, for me to keep calm, for me to remember that he is following my example.

    I will be read this daily if i need to and I will be on my knees.
    Thank you for this post.

  15. Alisa

    Words of grace and freedom. Just what I needed today. Thank you!

  16. Jon

    Really enjoyed your article today. Moms and Dads have a vital role to play in children’s lives that only we can play. Thanks for all the great reminders and encouragement for active parenting.

  17. Cher

    Love your post today. I am a mother of three beautiful adults that are all thriving on their own, and believe they have been nurtured by the best – ME. Now I am lucky to have the chance to do it again, when I’m with my grandchildren. As grandma’s we have the time and are so much more patient with our little ones, that I just get to marvel at their little minds, their accomplishments, challenges, and HOORAH moments! Thanks for this, I wish this could be taught as a “Must-do” class for parents with kids in school. This was beatifully written! 🙂


  18. Holly

    I would disagree with the use of the word “friend,” and instead use “mentor.”. I hope to mentor my daughter if our personalities are compatible for that. And in different seasons of her life she may need a mentor that is closer to her age or has had different experiences than me. I know from experience that it’s hard when a parent treats you as a friend and confides about their struggles, it is too much for a child to handle. Obviously as they grow you might be able to share more but I guess I’d rather look at it as being their mentor not friend.

    • April

      Yes!!! I love your use of the term “mentor!”

  19. Lex

    Perfect. I’m a new mama, desperate to not screw this up (haha), and I may have to print this for my ‘frige.

  20. Poh-Lin

    All I can say is thank you

  21. Andee//Nature of a Servant

    “Let them know shame is not invited into your family.” Love this. I am deep in Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly”. This enforces what I’m trying to live.

  22. Kavita

    I like this article very much. I am a mother of a boy even a angry boy. At times i feel helpless to handle the situation but this article will surely going to help me. Thanks sarah

  23. Parameswari

    It reflects my life

  24. Amanda

    Thank you for this article! It is so beautifully written.

  25. Jennifer Tammy

    I LOVE this piece (and really most everything I’ve read on the Art of Simple).

    I am one of those parents who now advocates “I am not my child’s friend,” but that’s not because I’m against nurturing the things you describe. For me, being my child’s parent comes above and is so much deeper than any friendship. I have ended friendships over less than what my child has put me through; I love my friends, but I wouldn’t make the same sacrifices for them as I would my child. Being my child’s parent is a bigger privilege than being her friend will ever be. I hope that I can earn the place as her confidante and someone she enjoys being with, but that’s not about being her friend. It’s more of a balance, to be sure, but it’s what’s best.

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