Have you noticed childhood shrinking? I remember the days of coming home from school and having time. Time to play, freely. Time to explore. Time to be bored. Time to be a child. I believe childhood is vanishing right before our eyes. We expect our children to grow up too fast these days. I have two children: third grade and fifth grade. At what point did we make Elementary students Junior High students? Did I miss the meeting? Elementary students are just as titled: elementary. They are in the elemental form of life. They are developing, but not at the rate we are demanding. We rush them toward independence, but at what cost? Children today have lost the innocence of childhood before it was time. Our personal desires as parents create a problem. We do not want the complications of having little people need us. We want them to be all grown up so we can go about our business or live life as we did before children. In order for this to happen, we push them to decision-making before they are fully prepared. We push them toward knowledge before they are emotionally ready. We push them toward independence at the cost of their trust in us to provide. Then we wonder why they go off the deep end as teenagers. We created a monster that learned to trust only in themselves, to decide for themselves, and to live for themselves. These traits are not evil by nature. We learned these abilities also. However, we received them from parents who formed us through childhood instead of trying to force us through children. The Bible says “Train up a child in the way he should go….” What does this mean? Four words come to mind.
1. Accept. We must allow them to be who they are more than who we want them to be. Your child will not be you. We are supposed to help them become who God made them to not who we wish we would have been. Children are not a virtual do-over for us.
2. Bless. Gary Smalley and John Trent tell us to bless our children in 5 ways: Meaningful touch, Spoken words, Express high value, Picture a special future, and Active commitment. Homes where this blessing is withheld produce people who fail to launch emotionally and spiritually. Homes where this blessing is generously given produce people to succeed in becoming all that God created them to be.
3. Calibrate. We must adjust to our child. They are a special creation of God formed with a purpose. We must discover what God intended for each child because He has a purpose for their life. What are their skills? What are their passions? At what are they naturally talented? Instead of forming their future around our desires we must calibrate our lives to theirs. Parents have a huge responsibility to be in control but have a child-centered home. The focus is on raising each child to become all that God created them to be. We must set aside our failures and dreams from our own lives being careful not to transfer them to our children hoping for some cosmic vindication.
4. Develop. At this point, our children need opportunities to fail and succeed as we help them navigate through life. Providing moments where they can stretch their wings and fly. Every child needs to try new things and explore possibilities. However, if there is no interest try something else. Obviously, we must balance this with teaching responsibility. If we let our child try football and he does not like it, he must finish the season but he doesn’t have to play next season. Discuss with them the grand exploration of life through art, science, reading, sports, music, and more. Giving them every chance to flourish is exciting and heartwarming for a parent. Watching them become who God created brings peace and joy to our troubled souls.
Parents, we have been given special gifts in our children. We only have them for a short time. May we make the best of the time we have.