Laying the foundation your children need to develop and grow as God designed them to, isn’t something we always consider. In fact, often times I find myself sitting back and just being glad that my kids are doing what they “should” be doing or what they have been told to do. After all, why mess with something that isn’t broken, right? Well, unfortunately it isn’t that simple. Our children grow and develop, their brains change and shift, and their behaviour changes as they stretch grow in their independence. To weather these changes, they need a foundation of both security and acceptance. This foundation creates confidence to explore, assurance of salvation and an innate willingness to learn and not be afraid of hard question or difficult answers. My four children are drastically different from each other, and it’s easier for me to relate to some than with others. It takes more time and effort to be in relationship with those I don’t understand, and I need to make sure all of my kids know that I love them deeply,
In order to prevent misconceptions or feelings of preference from our kids, my wife and I have been intentionally asking each other a few key questions:
- Have we been criticizing our children’s shortcomings more than we have been noticing their unique gifts?
- Melissa and I watch our children together. It’s quite natural to look at a child and notice their shortcomings but doing this doesn’t build confidence. They need to know they are perfectly and wonderfully made, just a they are; without this foundation, they will not be able to grow and explore who God has created them to be. So, instead of noticing the bad, we acknowledge and consciously highlight the positive traits in each of our children.
- Are we affirming what they do or who they are?
- The overt things that they do are important to acknowledge and affirm BUT affirming actions alone creates a sense of value found in performance. The possible result is a belief system that says, unless they perform, they are not valuable; their identity becomes tied to their performance. We MUST be looking past the actions and noticing the character traits of our children, the things that are motivating them to do the things they are doing, even if those motivations aren’t always right. It’s an opportunity for us to affirm WHO our children are, and correct and guide their character through moments where their motivation may be wrong. Doing this is a key ingredient to building resilience in our kids, they need to know that it’s okay when things don’t go as planned, this isn’t failure because even their attempts build and express their character.
- Are we listening to the heart of our children?
- The other day, my daughter asked if she could skip going to youth group that evening. Our tendency as parents is to give a quick answer based on our value set, we value community and spiritual development and have had a standard in our home that says our kids will commit to going to youth as an expression of that value. In this case however, I stopped myself from the quick “no” and instead tried to listen to her and hear the reason that she didn’t want to go to youth. It gave us an opportunity to talk about why we prioritize going to youth group and discuss whether or not those goals were being met. At 13 it is very helpful for her to begin to process and problem solve how to commit and meet those needs so that she isn’t just going out of obedience but is participating. Listening actually gave me a chance to equip and grow her toward self-motivated spiritual growth and discernment.
I have found these questions to be extremely important for both my relationship with my children as well as their acceptance of themselves.
God wants us to embrace the gifts and purposes He has for each of us, and our job as parents is to build our children’s foundation so they can live fully fulfilled in who they have been created to be. When I think of the body of Christ, I can’t be a hand if God has made me to be a foot, (1 Cor. 12:15-26) and as a foot if I see that my child is a hand, I may need to work harder to understand the value of the hand, I may have to learn new things so I can teach them about who they are more effectively. My prayer is that these questions might help guide you as you guide and affirm your children in who they are and who God has created them to be.
Originally written for and published for www.fellowshipforward.org