You can't schedule the moments when your children open their hearts and minds,
but you can watch for them and make the most of the opportunity they provide.
*This page will contain links and/or text from Drew's published articles on the topic
of parenting. The first of those, which appeared in the March/April 2004 issue of
Christian Home & School magazine, appears below.
"Because a story is worth a thousand words."
I used to have time to spend with my children. Reading stories, sharing devotions,
and tickling one another to tears were easy to fit into my schedule when I worked
from a home office. But now I spend two hours every day with taillights instead of
tickle fights. Story time is spent commuting on the tollway.
I admit that I used to scoff at parents who struggled to choose between quality time
and quantity time. I silently chastened them for not making time for both.
But that was when I had time to spend. Switching to a commuter's life has thrust me
into the quantity-versus-quality dilemma. I wonder where I can possibly find the
energy and the breaks in my schedule for walks in the park, trips to the zoo, and
fairy tales as I tuck my kids into bed.
I can't choose quantity over quality, or vice versa. There's got to be another way.
Our smallest children had already been tucked in for the night, and only our
8-year-old, Leeanna, was still awake. She was in the living room, clinging to every
last minute before we sent her to bed.
I was winding down from a long day. "I have to go potty" and "Can I have a drink?"
were wearing down what little patience I had left. When I came downstairs, I saw
Leeanna sitting on the arm of her mother's antique rocking chair, and I snapped at
my daughter to get off.
She leapt from the chair, sat down behind the sofa, and began to pout. "I'm just
horrible," her wounded voice muttered.
In the next five seconds I had a decision to make. I still had work to do that night,
and I was exhausted. There was a mischievous 2-year-old upstairs who needed
attention. Outstanding bills were beckoning from the mailbox. But there was also a
little girl in the room who had bared a tender part of her soul.
Years before, I had heard a Christian parenting guru talk about windows in
children's hearts. These windows are brief moments in time when children open
their emotions and identity in a deliberate act of vulnerability. In those moments
children are begging for intimacy, for someone to know them, to accept them,
and--especially in the case of a parent--to teach them. It's an experiment in which
children ask, If I show the deepest part of me to you, will you love me or hurt me?
An open window is a critical moment. The more often I slam the window closed or
the more often I barge through it with hurtful words, the less likely I will ever see an
open window again. And the more likely my children may be to open their hearts to
a different teacher.
But an open window is also a tremendous opportunity. Never will I be closer or
more important to my children than when their hearts are open and vulnerable. A
loving, godly word spoken through an open window has more power to mold a
child's heart than any reward, lecture, or punishment ever will. The great moments
of life where words are planted like seeds, forever to grow fruit in our lives, happen
when the windows of our hearts are open.
When Leeanna said, "I'm just horrible," she signaled that her window was open. It
wasn't a moment I could afford to let pass.
"What makes you think you're horrible, honey?" I asked.
"I keep doing things wrong. I don't want to do them, but I can't stop. I'm just
"Me too, honey," I said. "Me, too. I do things wrong that I don't want to. But that
doesn't make me horrible. And you're not horrible either."
"I don't understand, Daddy," she cried.
"Let me show you a message from somebody else who felt the same way you do." I
opened my Bible to Romans 7, where Paul expresses frustrations with doing things
he doesn't want to do and not doing the things he does want to do. I kept reading
through the first verse of chapter 8: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for
those who are in Christ Jesus."
Leeanna and I talked about our worth not being based on what we do but on the
grace and gift of righteousness through Jesus. I promised that I would walk with her
to help her know the depth of God's unconditional love.
Words spoken through an open heart's window are, as Proverbs 25:11 says, "like
apples of gold in setting of silver." These aptly spoken words grow richly, deeply,
and permanently in the life of a child.
Our 6-year-old, Christian, may not remember to pick up his toys, but he never
forgets to open a door for his mom. Why? Because we once taught him in a
moment when his window was open.
My sons, Christian and Bryan, often tell me what they want to be when they grow
up. But it changes with the moment. They've aspired to be everything from farmers
to astronauts. One day Christian walked past my desk. On the way he said, "I want
to be a daddy when I grow up!"
"Do you know what a daddy's most important job is?" I asked.
He stopped, his eyes wide with wonder. "What is it?" he asked.
"A dad's most important job," I told him, "is to love and honor Mom. And you can
practice being a good dad right now!"
"I can? How?"
"You can practice with your mom. If you open the door for her to let her go through
first, you'll be learning how to honor her."
He's been a faithful doorman ever since.
How do you recognize a window moment? While open-ended questions can create
conversations with potential, window moments are scheduled by divine appointment
When I remember window moments I've missed, I recall how inconveniently they
were timed. When I've tried to say, "Hold that thought," the moment was lost by the
time we got back to talking.
Karice was wearing a sticker that she got in Sunday school. It was in the shape of a
heart, and it had a single word on it. "Daddy, do you know what this is?" she asked.
"Faith," I said, reading the word.
Typical of a 3-year-old, she replied, "Daddy, do you know what this is?"
"It's faith, just like I said. Do you know what that is?"
"No." Her eyes were wide, she gave me her full attention, but I passed the moment
over to attend to something else, and I missed the chance to tell my young daughter
why she wore a heart of faith on her Sunday dress.
I don't want to miss any more of those moments, no matter how inconvenient the
timing may be. When my child opens a window to her heart, I need to take
advantage of it. And so I need to learn to recognize those moments.
1. Their eyes. The greatest clue I know to an open window is in my children's eyes.
When those eyes are wide, focused, and pleading, it's a sign that God has made an
appointment. I can't allow myself to be so busy that I forget to look into their eyes.
2. Their tone. The second clue I've found is the tone of their voice. A question that
begins with why can be a sign of curiosity, defiance, or an open window.
Our daughter Hannah recently asked my wife and me, "Why do you love our baby
more than me?" When Hannah is tired and cranky, she often asks shocking
questions like that. Usually she's attempting to persuade us that her bedtime is only
one of many grievous injustices we have heaped upon her. If her brows were
furrowed and her gaze downward, we might have seen this question as an
expression of defiance.
But her eyes were pleading, and her gaze pierced our hearts. She felt wounded, and
if we were going to salve that wound, it would have to be now. Her window was
open. If we waited till morning, she wouldn't be ready to receive as deeply the love
we were offering.
3. Their God. When God opens a window moment, he doesn't leave us clueless.
There's a brief moment of decision when our hearts will long to relate to our
children. In that moment God gives us a gentle prompting to let his Spirit use us.
Obeying such a still, small prompting is challenging. When I missed Karice's faith
moment, I was too consumed with the urgent to heed the important.
When Hannah asked why we loved the baby more than her, I felt a tug that choked
off my first response and helped me to listen for direction from God. That
split-second obedience enabled God to show me the window moment and point out
my next step.
If I feel the breeze of an open window, one probing question both confirms the
opportunity and helps me respond appropriately.
"What makes you think that we love the baby more than you, Hannah?" we asked.
If her answer would have been, "Because you make me go to sleep and let her stay
up," we probably would have sent her promptly to bed. That night, however,
Hannah's answer was, "Because you hold her and take care of her more than you
do me. You're always making sure that she's okay, and you let me do whatever."
The core of every window moment is a longing for something--affirmation,
direction, consolation, knowledge, security, and so on. If I can discover the need, I
can make the window moment special.
Hannah had seen the protective care a parent gives an infant and longed to be
shielded like that again. She was feeling insecure, unsure of her new freedoms as she
was growing up. Hannah's open window moment allowed us to explain how a baby
is fragile and needs that care. We affirmed her for growing up and assured her that
we were gaining confidence in her each day. And we hugged her, just because.
Finally, in my children's window moments, I look for what God might want to teach
them. Since God provides these moments, I need to seek his purpose for them in a
Window moments have allowed my wife and me to plant our love in the small,
sheltered garden of our children's hearts. Not because we spent all day trying, not
because we planned a family event, but because for a few moments we postponed
all earthly agendas to keep an appointment made in heaven.
A Window of Opportunity
Windows to Their Hearts
A Window to Their Minds
A Window Missed
Recognize the Moment
Maximize the Moment