Her third basketball game ever had just ended. She was seven years old and entering a new phase in life, learning to be strong, confident, and work through pain and fear. Sitting at the round table with her teammates and coach(who is also her daddy)she looked across the table at me. The look in her eyes stopped me cold. The game had gone so well. For the first time she hadn’t cried and run off the court and they had just won, so she was pretty excited and feeling on top of the world. We had spend the past three weeks working together to help her learn to work through it all and it had finally paid off. When she looked at me, there was no smile on her face at all, but she wasn’t upset. The look said to me: Mom, you are worth listening to. I felt as if I had been handed the Hope Diamond!
Childhood is so fleeting. The time we take with our children to build their trust, matters. If we do not use it wisely, they will learn to not trust us the moment they are facing doubt. Kait relied on us,despite her reservations, and the difficulties acting against her feelings brought to her. She listened to us and put into practice all we told her and it worked! More importantly the advice we had given her was all about trusting God. We told her that in order to overcome her fear and control her emotions she had to rely on The Lord and trust him and trust us because we were given to her through him. We taught her that her God given ability was a gift to be used, and we believed she could do it. She learned that her team needed her, and her character was built through being a good team member when all she wanted was to quit. She learned independence, through dependence on The Lord. It’s so important, and I think that is what floored me the most. With one look across a table I realized she had grown. That growth is part of the foundation of a person who will continue to build a close bond with God and her parents. I think we may have extended our window for how long she will choose to take our advice in her life with appreciation. I know the teenage years are coming and moments like these will make a difference later. It begs the question then: What are some things I can do right now to help build this relationship with my daughter for years to come? Here are some of the thousands of answers there probably are.
1. Delight in the small things more than you criticize. My little girl is extraordinarily enraptured by small things. Finding words that rhyme in unexpected places, jokes, small presents, reading a book together, things that others want to throw away but choose to let her have instead become priceless to her. She is very easy to please. During school work, sometimes I become inpatient with her because of this. For example, I am explaining a math concept and accidentally rhyme. She stops everything and giggles, celebrating fully the moment of fun. If I am not careful, I write it off and try to get her back on track, chiding her for not focusing. I need to stop doing that. I should celebrate the moment with her, showing her I appreciate her ability to delight in these things and it makes school so much more fun. Then she is more likely to respond well to being guided back on track quickly.
2. Acknowledge my own failures and be transparent about how trusting God in failure and success affects my life. Children learn through example. Our goal as parents should never be to create a facade of perfection. Children should not look up to us because we show them up. We are not respected because we never mess up. We are to be respected because we fail every single day and they can see the evidence of grace and victory over those failures clearly. They need to see God can use broken people. He loves them, he fixes them, and he uses their brokenness for good. We can show our kids this, and also extend that courtesy to them. Our children’s opinion about who God is, is based on the reality they see in our home. Are we modeling Christ to them? Do our lives reflect his glory?
3. Pay attention to when they use what they learned in a struggle and come out victorious. The relationship of God and man is personal. We cannot depend solely on another person to facilitate our relationship with God. If we direct our children to God, they choose to take our advice, and God reveals himself to them in their personal struggle/victory, then we need to remind them of His faithfulness. When the next struggle comes, take them to the alter (like the alter of rocks the Israelites created for the purpose of the generations to come having a tangible reminder of God’s provision). This way they see God at work in their own lives, in other words, they begin to understand that what clearly works in our lives also works in theirs. Why does it work? Because it is real. God is real, alive, and can be trusted. His word is true. These things will become obvious to them, resulting in kids who grow into teenagers who respect God enough that they value their parents opinions.
4. To teach our kids how not to be enslaved to their emotions. This is especially true for high strung people like myself. The habit of acting on my feelings is one that gets me into trouble. If what I feel like doing or saying, or continuing to think about does not align with scripture or the glorification of God, I must act against my feelings. If I always act the way I feel, my children will suffer, my husband will suffer, and I will suffer. The sooner in life you learn this, the better off you will be. Just because you feel it, does not mean you should act on it. On the flip side, acting against your feelings does not indicate lack of sincerity. We must not allow our feelings to dictate our actions, but rather view them as God intended, they are clues to our hearts, not to be ignored or taken lightly. Rather we need to learn to analyze more concisely what we are feeling and why, then surrender them to The Lord while we pursue his glory. We have freedom from sin, that package includes self control!!!! The only way to truly be victorious in this is through the Holy Spirit teaching us and transforming our minds to the glory of Christ! How awesome would it be to raise a generation of strong women who value their feelings and are strong enough to act kindly, justly, lovingly, and confidently in spite of them? That is some feminine power right there!!! A woman who is not ruled by her emotions is a freedom fighter!
Too often we wait until we think kids are old enough to understand salvation, before we begin to show them the practical way in which the things of God relate to them. It should start at birth. Everything about our lives screams something about God to them, make sure you are actively modeling Christ. We can teach them the bible we are blue in the face, but what we model for them will determine what their view of the truth becomes. Our actions either support or contradict what the bible says in the eyes of our children.