Thursday, May 03, 2007

Babies are sweet, huggable and cuddly. They are
delightful and lovely. They are fresh and fun.
But babies are also selfish. They are born this
way. It is natural for them. It is a direct result
of Genesis 3.

All that fills the mind of a newborn is his own needs.
He wants his little tummy to be full. He wants to
have a clean, dry bottom. He feels secure when he
is cuddled and carried about.

A huge part of parenting is to slowly train that little
one to consider others. Step by step they must be
taught to give up their own felt needs and rights.

This is hard. It is especially difficult in light of
the society our children are engulfed in. This is not
the first nor the most eloquent article to address
this issue, but I see so much time, energy and money
being poured into the young lives around me that I
worry for them and want to address the issue.

The basic problem is that our children are treated as
though they are royalty for the first 18 or 20 years
of life and then they are expected to step out on their
own and by that time are totally unequipped to do so.

They can't understand why they are not the total focus
of Mom and Dad's attention, finances and energy anymore.
Why should they understand this? They've been told for
all those previous years that they are the very center
of life. All revolves around them. Parent's recreation,
work and even church life revolves around the children
and what they want or are doing.

So what are the answers? I am no expert, but I do have
some meager wisdom to offer here.

1. Expect your children to work from an early age and to
contribute to the comfort and enjoyment of family life.
The family resources are not to be all funneled into them,
but they are instead part of an entire tapestry where all
are needed to make things work.

2. Give them less than they want for their birthdays and
Christmas. Give them less than their friends get.
Definitely give them less than you want to give them. Set a
limit and stick to it. Our basic limit has been $50 for
a birthday and $100 for Christmas for each child. When
they were younger it was less than that. They see what
their friends receive. What child wouldn't want more?
Yet they have come to understand that they don't need
everything they want, or everything others have in order
to live a full life.

Both delayed and denied gratification are some of the
greatest gifts we can give our children.

3. Avoid situations and ceremonies that put full focus on
that child. I am not saying to never focus on them. We
have plenty of natural times for that. When they have a
birthday, they get to chose their meal and get their
gifts. When a special goal has been reached, they should
be honored. We gave trophies to our boys for the first
time they publicly prayed out loud in a church service.
We have little celebrations often. Next week, when Joel
finally gets to move to day shift we are having a little
family party.

But, way too much time, energy and money are spent in
letting our children believe they are the kings and queens
of this life.

I have devoted the past 25 years to my family and their
welfare. During those years the children have been fed,
bathed, played with, read to, taught,...but, they have
also been made to see that they are a part of a whole,
not THE whole.

4. Avoid saying, "We can't afford that." That lets the
child think that they do deserve whatever it is they
want, but that poor Mom and Dad just can't do what is
necessary to get it for them. Instead use phrases such
as this, "We do not think is is wise to get that," or,
"We feel such and such is more important and so we are
not going to try and get this for you."

5. Always be sure your children tithe their meager first
earnings to the Lord. Whether it is 10 cents from the
dollar they earn pulling weeds for Grandpa or $10 from
their first check of $100 flipping hamburgers for Mac D's.
Allow them to develop the joy of realizing that all they
have is from God's hand. This life is but a preparation
for Heaven, and to invest in Heaven now is something we
need to teach them as strongly as we teach them to invest
in an IRA for retirement.

6. Don't always take their side when they are complaining
about unfair coaches, teachers, friends, or others they
come in contact with. They are not always going to get
first billing in their activities. Not everyone is going
to like them. They may be overlooked and under appreciated.
"It's not fair," you'll often hear. Still, they need to
respect authority, and, if they have put themselves in
situation where they are under a coach, boss or another
authority figure, they need to show the respect to that
person that God expects them to. There are always proper
channels for changing their situation. We listen to the
venting and then usually say something like this, "I can
see how you feel, but basically just expect people to
be that way. Your responsibility is to do what is right."

7. Remember to model a life of contentment.

I Timothy 6-8
Now godliness with contentment is great gain.
For we brought nothing into this world, and it
is certain we can carry nothing out. And having
food and clothing, with these we shall be content.


Tammy said...

Wow,'re so radical! (Just kidding...) ;)
I think you bring up some very good points...our society is just too child-focused. Children need to feel special to God, but as you said, knowing that they are not the center of the universe. Sometimes a hard balance to strike, but we all need to try. Good, thought-provoking post!

Help meet said...

Hi, I just found your blog, and it made me think of a couple things. First, I was the child brought up to think she was the center of the universe. I was an only child, and boy did everybody know it. Well, what a shock when I left home for the real world. It's been a long, bumpy road since then, and I still have so much to learn. On the other hand my best friend was raised as, "part of the whole," in a family of eight. Each child in that family can handle So Much, and they are incredibly responsible, successful, God-fearing adults now! I am so convinced that what you are saying is right on. Now that my husband and I have our own little family, we make it our goal that the center of the home is Christ. Boy, do I wish I would have had this sort of upbringing myself, life would have been a lot easier (in the long run!)

e-Mom said...

A thought-provoking post, Laurie. Of course you're right about sin and it's foothold in children. In 1 Cor. 13 (paraphrasing) Paul says when I was a child... but now that I'm an adult, I've given up childish things. He is, of course, referring to the difference between self-oriented "good-feeling" love, and agape self-sacrificing love.

Yet, God wants us to enjoy his abundance, and He loves to lavish His love and blessings. The key to having our needs met is to a.s.k. I love this verse:

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (NIV)

The other verse that comes to me at this moment is the "Seek ye first..." We must teach our children to pursue kingdom values in the first place ...and then all the necessary material things (food, clothing etc.) will be given to them. As parents it's a scary thing to relinquish all material provision for our kids to the Lord. We're learning that lesson of trust now, as both our children have flown the nest (and they're doing marvellously, BTW.)

Teaching tithing (and offerings) is excellent, and choosing our words carefully is so important too. Excellent suggestions!

Help Meet's comment above is revealing and reminds me how only children really can be at a disadvantage as adults.

Blessings! :~)