One of the biggest risks parents face as they listen to the many messages these days about parenting is the tendency to become "cookie-cutter" parents. We start to think there is a formula for raising perfect children.
But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula. Every child needs to be parented differently according to the way God has designed him or her. The key to your child’s heart is that you understand his or her unique design, then accept, affirm, and build upon it. Here are four simple principles that will help you take all the valuable things you’ve learned about parenting and apply them in a way that I hope will help your child beyond what you’ve ever dreamed.
1. God has uniquely designed your child.
Psalm 139 says, "You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…When I was woven together in the depths of the earth; your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Psalm 139:13-16, NIV).
We learn from this passage that God is the architect and designer of your child. He makes every child as a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, fitting together various combinations of personality, physical attributes, emotional makeup, and intellectual capabilities. God has a plan for your child, and He has perfectly designed him or her to fulfill that plan.
2. We are to "train’ our children in accordance with their design.
Proverbs 22:6 tells us to "train a child in the ways he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." (NIV)
This proverb has often been misunderstood as a promise that if you just take your kid to Sunday school and have family devotions, no matter what poor choices your child makes, he or she will always come back to the Lord. More accurately, however, this proverb is talking about how to cooperate with God’s design.
"The way he should go" refers to a child’s particular characteristics or manners. It comes from the word for the bend of an archer’s bow. Just as an archer had to know the particular bend of his bow, parents need to know the "bent" of their children – how they’re wired. If you have multiple children, you’ve seen how different their personalities can be. For that reason, you can’t treat them or praise them or discipline them in exactly the same way. As parents, we must cooperate with our children’s Creator in raising them according to their particular bent.
3. Knowing our children is the prerequisite to loving and developing them effectively.
It stands to reason that in order to discover their bent, we have to get to know our children. We need to know how they think, what they like, and who they are. Listen to their stories. Ask them about their likes and dislikes. Observe their emotional needs and styles of learning. Discover what makes them tick. The key attitude needs to be one of acceptance and affirmation. We need to honestly evaluate the way God designed our children, then learn to motivate, discipline, and affirm them in a corresponding way.
4. Building on your child’s unique design communicates worth, inspires motivation, and decreases conflict.
How do we affirm and inspire our children based on how God made them? First, don’t compare. All kids are different. Second, build on their strengths. Figure out what they’re really good at and spend 80 percent of your time helping them flourish in these things. Next, motivate them out of their interestes. And embrace boredom. Boredom often comes right before creativity. When your kids get bored, all of a sudden one will pick up a guitar or a sketch pad or start writing a story. That’s how God develops kids.
Finally, be their biggest cheerleader. Yes, you need to be firm. You need to teach obedience and model God’s best for your children. But the overwhelming spirit in your home needs to be affirmation and acceptance. When you need to say hard things, say them in love. Be on their team. Show that you are behind them like no one else.
God has given us kids that are unique. And by His grace, we can learn to cooperate with Him, not just to know our children but to encourage, discipline, motivate, and expand their horizons according to how He made them.
Chip Ingram is President of Walk Thru the Bible in Atlanta, GA. Walk Thru the Bible (www.walkthru.org) provides you with practical, insightful and easily understood Biblical resources. We help you to apply God’s Word to your life and equip you to disciple others by providing local, national and international seminars, the Living on the Edge radio ministry, as well as small group curriculum, magazines, books and Bibles.