The sun was warm.
It felt like a miracle on my skin after what seemed like a particularly long, bitterly cold winter.
The flowers are out now. Tiny ones that dot the ground in celebratory sprouts as enthusiastic about the sunshine as me.
Wesley and Caleb ran around the park tirelessly. Then, when a school friend showed up, the fun reached a higher level of adventure.
I saw my chance to stretch out on the grass and soak up the warmth. The breeze carried the scent of honeysuckle. Bees buzzing nearby and the kids’ laughter melted with the whisper of the breeze through the trees.
Thin, silvery strands caught my eye as it shimmered like threads of silk. At closer inspection, I realized it was a beautiful, intricate spiderweb billowing like a delicate flag. I raised my phone to take a picture of it, and instead caught something unexpected.
There they were, laughing and playing, enjoying the beauty of the day that God has granted us. It was life. It was the best part of life. Children, in their precious element, expressing their precious hearts at play. A moment frozen in time as brothers and a friend made up rules to a made up game.
Through the lens, I was given perspective.
I wondered about this special kind of innocence. At what point does it change? When does the innocence shift into mature awareness? For many kids, it’s triggered by pain. Abuse. Neglect. The constant quarrel between parents. For others, it happens organically as they grow. Inevitably, however, it doesn’t happen without outside influence. Mean girls on the playground that tease another for her flat chest or skinny legs. The bully boys who make fun of the plump kid or the one with a stutter.
No matter how perfect a parent may be, this shift can’t be prevented. It’s part of normal childhood growth. But as parents, can we minimize the negative impact? Can we equip them to be ready for the harsh treatment of other kids, and ensure that your children treat others with kindness? Is that even possible?
The short answer is yes. But it takes a significant amount of time and attention. Are you prepared to provide that?
Hopefully, you answered “yes”. But here’s the kicker: there is no guarantee your child will take to heart the tools with which you equip them. In those cases, you have to let it go, and let God handle the details.
Otherwise, here are three ways to equip your children for growth:
1. Saturate them in scripture.
“Train up a child in the way he should go [teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents], Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 AMP
What is the way exactly? I mean, how do you know you’re doing it right? There are thousands (probably millions) of parenting experts out there that each have a variation of parenting they strongly recommend.
In all honestly, as long as you are saturating your children in scripture, you can’t go wrong with teaching them how to keep their eyes on Jesus. I’ve been listening to a lot of Joyce Meyer lately, and when we get into the car and Joyce starts up on the CD player, I sometimes turn it off and play music for the kids, saying, “I know you guys don’t want to listen to my boring stuff.” Wesley, however, has asked that I keep Joyce playing. At age 7, he has enough maturity to understand a good bit of what she teaches. He has started asking me questions about some of the concepts he doesn’t understand, which provides the perfect avenue to talk about God.
2. Lead by example.
“Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 AMP
This is a tough one.
This is a really, really tough one.
Bearing children is the best way to learn how many bad habits you really have. Cursing, road rage, gossip, bad temper, excessive TV, specific TV shows. The list goes on and on. Trying to kick all of these habits are great and all, but the best example you can set is allowing them to see you pray. Allowing them to see you read scripture, and *gasp* quote it. (I’m terrible at scripture memory!) The biggest thing is letting them see Who you turn to for joy, for direction, for comfort, for gratitude. Let them see the godly way you treat other people. Show the kindness of Christ. Your children watch you more than you realize.
The other day, my husband and I were having a conversation in the kitchen that we thought was private. The boys were distracted watching TV, and I glanced at them often to make sure their attention wasn’t on us at that moment. A few minutes into the conversation, Wesley chimed in with a detail I’d forgotten to mention. Without looking our way, he added his two bits, then changed positions on the couch and continued watching TV. I bit my lip and stared at Kris, wide-eyed. How many recent conversations had they overheard that we weren’t aware of? We vowed to be more careful.
3. Show them, firsthand, what kindness looks like.
“Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. Love never fails [it never fades nor ends].” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 AMP
Raising kids takes patience. An abundance of patience. It’s so easy to lose your temper with them. I’ve done it. Everyone has. But by taking our own advice, and focusing our attention on the unconditional love and grace of Christ, we will greatly improve our parenting game. Jesus didn’t need biological children to be a parenting expert. He had the ultimate Father for instruction, as do we, through the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes it takes something as simple as a glimpse through the lens to see your children in a new light.