The Power of Delight

Delight – 1. To take great pleasure, 2. Joy , 3. Something that gives great pleasure (Webster, 2011, pg. 115)

I can remember as a child entering a room where my Mom was and seeing her eyes sparkle at the mere sight of me. I remember feeling pretty darn special as a kid. There was nothing really that special about me, looking back. I was not the cutest kid or the smartest kid, but I knew I was the most loved kid. As we got older and started driving, whenever we came home, my Mom would meet us at the door clapping. She still claps when we visit her, and I am in my mid 30’s.

I started really struggling in delighting in my son when he was around 4-6, despite loving him fiercely. Looking back, I know there was no twinkle in my eye when he walked through the door, and there was certainly no clapping. There were moments of delight, but they were becoming scarcer as his behaviors became more and more difficult to handle. Children cannot attach if we are not delighting in them. Children cannot feel like they are special if they are not being delighted in. The less I delighted in him, the worse the behaviors became, and the harder it was for me to delight in him. I needed to change. I needed to be the healing agent in his life.

At first it was so very hard to delight in him. It was a full time job to catch him being good, trust me. I purposed to make the first 10 minutes of every new interaction with him sweet and nurturing, no matter how he was acting, first thing in the morning, first thing after school, etc… Transitions were so hard for him, and they still are, but to a much lesser degree. Slowly that began to change for both of us. Slowly we began to delight in each other’s presence. There are still times where I have to go back to a place of delighting with purpose, especially during stressful times. Most of the time now, delight comes naturally.

Today my son is almost 11 and is used to great delight greeting him whenever he gets in the car after school. In fact, yesterday I was on the phone when he got in the car, something I purposefully avoid, and as soon as I got off the phone, he said, “Mommy, it hurts my feelings that you didn’t acknowledge me when I got to the car. I really look forward to you being so cheerful to see me.”   He understands the importance of being acknowledged with joy and delight. He is used to it. He misses it when I get distracted, and he knows how to ask for what he needs.

Children who are not delighted in rarely act in a delightful manner. In my experience, the children who misbehave the most are the ones with the tenderest of hearts. Children want to please their parents. When they are acting in a displeasing manner, it is because they either don’t have the skills to behave differently or they understand that the bar has been set too high for them to jump over it.   For example, a child who struggles socially may not be able to successfully wait her turn unless a parent is there to help her navigate what to her is truly a difficult challenge. Another example is a child who struggles getting ready in the morning. What is seen as defiance and negativity is often a child navigating extreme sensory issues, trying her best to get ready for the day.

In all of my journey, my son has been my greatest teacher. His pain has chipped away at my rigidity, his willingness to forgive has multiplied my grace for others, his generosity has increased my giving, and his difficult behaviors have burned away my arrogance. Relationship is the greatest currency for change.

I know that as he gets older, I will have less and less control over what he does and where he goes. I also know that when he walks through the door, I am going to meet him at the door clapping, whether he is 16, 30, or 40. I have learned the power of delight. Delight does not control behaviors; delight compels them.