Ok, disclaimer over, it occurred to me that the phrase, "You are X years old, you should be able to ------," has been coming from my lips recently. The problem is, it has been coming as a scolding and accusation, not as a statement of fact and an invitation for learning.
If my kids are now X years old and unable to perform a particular task or display a particular attitude or character trait, who exactly should I be talking to and scolding?
I guess I need to go spend some time in front of the mirror.
Too often I feel like I'm living life in survival mode. Sometimes survival mode is where we are, believe me, I know this, my family has been living this out for a while now. The thing is, it falls on me to make sure that while we are surviving the upheaval that is our current circumstance, I am not neglecting the things that are necessary to achieve my goals for my kids.
I'm not going to wake up on my son's 18th birthday and be blessed by the sight of a well-adjusted young man who has a good work ethic unless I put the time in NOW. I'm not going to be blessed by a kind and loving daughter who has a heart to serve unless I develop that character NOW.
If you know me at all, you know I'm a creative, let-it-flow, fly by the seat of your pants, kind of person. This works well for my crafts, ok for cooking, not terribly well for housekeeping, but would be simply terrible for parenting. I (we) need to have well-defined goals if we are ever to reach them.
I don't just mean general goals like, " I want my child to be nice, successful, and love God."
I mean that as the Lord reveals my child's particular strengths and talents to me, do I have a plan to train them up in the best way possible for them? The goals may be changing and the methods to achieve them may be fluid, but they must always be definite in the sense that they exist and they are being referred to.
I've been drifting along, haven't measured my children's progress up against the long-term goals in a while. Too long.
It was brought to my attention and I looked, and wow, Pretty far off course in several areas. Thank God that his grace and my children's youth are on my side and I have determined to make some course corrections.
Let's look at this together.
- Do I know my child? What is their personality? Is this child laid-back or "type A?" Are they social? Do they have obvious talents emerging? Are they physically differently-abled? Are they neuro-atypical?
- Do I know about the the strengths and weaknesses that are inherent with their personality type? Am I willing to learn about it?
- Do I feel the Lord leading me in any certain way concerning their training? Have I asked the Lord for insight into this specific child? If I do not share their personality type do I know a successful adult who is of the same personality who I can approach and ask for guidance?
Examples work best for me, so I will share a few personal things.
My son is exactly like me. He is laid back, easy going, and a peacemaker. He also tends very much to be lackadaisical and lazy about anything that he is not interested in. this is me. I was able to get away with it for the majority of my life because the one thing that usually gets kids into trouble is if they are lazy in school and I wasn't. I enjoyed it and excelled in school. I studied hard because I enjoyed it, not because I had self discipline. I chose lines of work that I enjoyed (which of course I would advise anyone to do) and was always successful because it was something I chose to work hard at, not because I had good self-discipline. Now as a wife and mother, this lack of self-discipline is hurting me. I am determined to try my best to not let this become the same life-long problem in my son as it has been for me. Because he is like me, I can identify and help build his strengths, but I also know the weaknesses he will likely face with this personality and hopefully, with God's guiding, work on those as well.
My daughter is just like both my husband and my sister. She is hard working and has high standards. This is great. However, it also means she is prone to be demanding and judgmental. She recently declared to me that "so and so always does such and such. I'm just not going to give them another chance because they don't deserve it." I was able to gently talk to her about what a huge thing it is to decide that someone else "doesn't deserve" another chance. Of course this was on a very childish level of someone not playing they way she thought they should, but the principle is one that I want to teach her now.
One last thing, we are not in this parenting thing alone. I firmly believe that God intends for parents to raise their own children, but he didn't say we had to do it alone. I think it is prudent and wise to ask for advice, especially from people who have proven wisdom to give (hence my disclaimer at the beginning, I'm still in the middle of this race). And don't forget the best resource of all, God. The only person with more at stake in your children's life than you is God. He cares, he gives wisdom. We need to ask, and then be willing to listen. Sometimes it goes against the grain. Just today I had an incident with the daughter mentioned above. I set about to come up with a fitting punishment and an idea crossed my mind. I went on past it because it broke a "parenting rule" I'd heard before and thought was right, but the thought came again and with it, the impression that it was from the Lord. So, not having any better ideas, I did it. I've always said I wouldn't make a child read or write scripture as a punishment so as not to give the Bible a negative connotation in their mind. Today, I broke that rule and along with a letter of apology, I had my daughter copy several verses about being kind. Well knock me over with a feather... the lecture when it comes from me is met with defensiveness and unwillingness to admit fault. The Scripture telling her to put away wrath and practice kindness was met with conviction and repentance. Where I can't reach her heart, the Lord can. For another child, copying out scripture verses might be very wrong, even for another situation for this child it might be wrong, but for today, for this situation, it was right.
I don't say that to glorify myself or show how wise I am, I really want to show how when we are out of ideas, God can usually pull out a really good one for us to use!
As we endeavor to raise our children for God, let's remember to encourage each other and ask God to reveal what each child needs so that we can truly parent on purpose.