For you formed my inward parts, you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139: 13-16.
“Parents need to raise the children they were given and not the kids they want to have so that their children will become who they were created to be.” Dr. Kathy Koch made this statement at the NAUMS national conference last week and I am still chewing on its meaning. It’s really profound if you stop to ponder the implications.
Kids are wildly unique even from birth. Some, like Haddie our youngest grandchild, come into the world fiercely engaged in life every moment of the day. Then there is Kate, our happy-go-lucky almost three year old, who wakes up talking and singing and never stops. You never have to wonder where she is because you will know. Jude on the other hand can quietly get into mischief and no one will notice while Josiah thinks outloud, displaying every emotion he feels. Every individual is uniquely wired with his or her own unique strengths, and even unique weaknesses.
Strengths are often masked as weaknesses in young children. For example:
- A creative, imaginative child is likely to also be impulsive
- A child who pays attention to detail may also be rather inflexible
- The perfectionist child is often afraid to make a mistake
- A child full of initiative and drive is certainly bossy and demanding
- A talkative child tends to be interruptive, raising the noise level and commotion in any room
All of these strengths however need to be nurtured and not unintentionally discouraged. Parents need to give the imaginative, impulsive child opportunities to create even if it is inconvenient. The “attentive to detail” child benefits and enjoys tasks that require focus and organization. The perfectionist child needs opportunities to achieve their lofty goals. The bossy child needs permission in appropriate ways to lead and direct activities, and parents should find ways to develop communication skills in their “Chatty Cathy.”
At the same time parents need to patiently and consistently address the “downside” – their weakness – because when their weakness wins, their strength is impaired. Your imaginative, impulsive child must learn mental habits that control outward actions and your organized attentive child needs to be comfortable doing something “out of the box” like messy art! Your perfectionist needs permission to do less than their best from time to time. You little boss needs to be respectful authority in order to truly learn to lead and your interruptive chatterbox must learn to listen- most of her peers will prefer to engage in conversation with a good listener over a good talker.
Know your child – both his strengths and his weakness – both what makes her uniquely her and what holds her back from being all she is supposed to be! This idea that all kids need to achieve the same standard in the classroom or on the basketball court – that all children can be star mathematicians and creative writers – that all students should go to college even – denies the creative God who made each one of them to be uniquely who they are.
All kids however need to be teachable with a developing strong work ethic. All kids need to be self controlled and persevering. All kids need to be kind and use their strengths for the good. And they need to comprehend for themselves the deep love of God in order that they can truly love others.
Whether they are academically gifted or a struggling student- whether they are destined to be an Olympic runner or a baker – they must learn to put on Christ in order to support the uniqueness God has asked them to walk in. Dr Koch urged parents to “train the character into each child which will support the strength the good Lord has asked their child to bear.” While character will be expressed uniquely by each individual, the virtuous standard we strive for remains the same for all. This produces harmonious unity in Christ expressed in amazingly creative diversity.
“Parents need to raise the children they were given and not who they want to have so that their children will become who they were created to be.” (Dr. Koch is the founder and CEO of Celebrate Kids, Inc.)