Rob will also be speaking on children this weekend so I figured I might as well share something on parenting.
It’s really hard.
How’s that for parental wisdom worth sharing? I jest (Though it is true!) but I do have some thoughts to offer on the topic. Back in May I shared a post on five gifts to give your children and I have thought of a few more gifts worth considering.
1.) The gift of denial.
Seriously, tell your child no. It won’t kill them. It will actually be good for them. You don’t even have to have a particularly great reason to say no, just do it. No one should always get whatever they want or ask for. It makes them think they deserve to have whatever they want just because they want it. I would even go so far as to say that delaying a yes to something they need is good for them too. They will appreciate having what they need a whole lot more if they understand on some level what it is to go without. I’m not saying deny them food, clothing, and shelter long term or anything. But it’s not going to hurt little Johnny to wait an extra 45 minutes for lunch if you have errands that need to happen beforehand. And denying the use of a dishwasher so that a child can learn the joys of washing, drying, and putting away dishes will make them way less whiny about having to load or unload one.
I get it though. We love these tiny little human beings and we want to make them happy and give them stuff and opportunities. But I promise that if your child sees you always moving heaven and earth to give them whatever they want or every opportunity to do something then you will be raising up ungrateful wretched adults who lack consideration for the wants and needs of those around them and they will have no idea how to work for something.
2.) The gift of exclusion.
This is kind of the cousin to the gift of no. Do not include your child in everything you do. There is a world of difference between child centered and child friendly. One caters to the immature whims of a child and the other teaches them how to participate in the life of community in a manner that is healthy and contributes to the wellbeing of others.
Do not directly include them in every celebration. If it is not his birthday then he really ought not get a gift because it is his sister’s birthday. Your child must learn how to function as a spectator sometimes because when he grows up the odds are he will not be asked to every party or event nor will every party and event be for him. It makes it incredibly difficult to truly learn how to rejoice with those who rejoice if he always has to be part of the spotlight. You do not want to cultivate in your child a need to always be made much of. It may seem kinda funny and cute as a preschooler but in older children, especially teenagers, it can lead to dangerous look at me behaviors that do not go anywhere good.
3.) The gift of ordinary.
This one can be hard because we have a tendency to think our child is the cutest, smartest, and greatest child to have ever been born. But do you know how many people have been born and lived just in the United States alone? Millions upon millions.
Do you know how many presidents we have had? 45
Do you know how many athletes competed for the US in the 2018 winter olympics? 244
How many Americans have received the Nobel Peace Prize? 21
I’m not saying your child can’t grow up to be president or cure cancer or win the superbowl. But I am saying the odds are rather significantly against the majority of us for such feats and heights of glory.
We need to stop trying to convince our children of how wonderful and special they are and focus on teaching them more about the amazing God who created everything out of nothing who knows their name. Who formed and shaped them in our wombs and knows down to the smallest detail who they are, how many hairs are on their head, and exactly how many times their heart will beat in their lifetime. The truth is that your kid is just a normal kid like mine is just a normal kid. But when we teach them, and show them how to love and honor the God who has poured out His extraordinary grace on His people, then they are transformed into glory givers that will literally change the world.
Ordinary is more than okay when it is surrendered in faithfulness and obedience and it is far more beautiful and glorious than any talent or skill or ability to make something. Praise the obedience. Praise the diligence to keep at the hard things. Encourage the pursuit of kindness. Nurture the attitude that looks to serve others, to befriend the lonely. Teach him to walk humbly with His God and understanding his smallness in relation to the greatness and bigness of God is the right way to cultivate humbleness.
Our children are special. But they are special because they bear the image of God. Raising kids that understand that, that really get it, prepares a heart, soul, and mind to love God with all of their heart, soul, and mind. An that is the greatest gift you can give your child.