Before having children I was a teacher.
I thought I knew everything about children.
I distinctly remember sitting in my education classes at The University of Oklahoma and participating in the long debate of "nature vs. nurture". (What a naive little 19 year old I was.) After graduation I went on to teach over 500 students in my short teaching career. After teaching that many students, I would have still argued that "nurture" had a more prominent impact in forming a personality than "nature".
Then. I had my own children. 3 little kids changed my entire point of view.
All three of my children are uniquely different. Their little personalities are strong, but individual. I never knew that 2 children could have the same biological parents, relatively the same "nurturing" environment and be polar opposites. This simple scene explains so much about my 2 oldest children:
A friend got our children a Disney movie with various vintage cartoons for Christmas. The first cartoon in the line up was The Three Little Pigs. Sadly, my children had never heard the story of the three little pigs. So. One Friday night we popped pop-corn, hunkered down on our couch and watched the DVD together.
Of course, the video showed all the little pigs working hard on their houses, hammering away on the stick house, gathering hay for the straw house and laying mortar for the brick house. The music was up beat, the sky blue, and all was hunky-dory. The pigs were laughing and frolicking about in the front of their houses... then all of the sudden, the big-bad-wolf enters the scene....waa-waaaah. (I am assuming you know the rest of the story)
After the wolf precedes to blow the houses down, my son looks at me with the straightest face and most serious eyes and says, "Mom, you know his breath couldn't really blow down a whole house". I responded and then looked over at my little 2 1/2 year old daughter. She is sitting on the couch, eyes as big as saucers, welled up with tears and says, "Dat wolf blowed down his house ... (insert dramatic pause)... daaats so saaad!". She was in utter shock and you could feel her heart break as her eyes never left the screen. I am sure she was thinking of the poor little piggies... where were they going to live now? (Bless. Her. Heart.)
This scenario depicts my children's personalities in the most perfect way. Both watching the same exact movie, but reacting with contrasting emotion. My son is logical, linguistic, and in some ways unemotional, where as my daughter wears her heart on her sleeve. She is empathic, sincere and considerate. They are polar opposites, but both amazingly unique and gifted in countless ways. As the scene unfolded it fascinated me to think two children were reared under the same roof, from the same parents, but can be so different. I sat amazed at how God can create such individuals, giving each person uniquely characterized personalities. With the fundamental arguments of science aside, simply acknowledging how differently we are all created is proof of a higher power.
okay.... on with my point.
I recently ran across the amplified verse of Proverbs 22:6-
"Train up a child in the way he should go [keeping with his individual bent or gift], and when he is old he will not depart from it."
Now that I am a mother, and my children are old enough to let their little personalities be known... this verse means so much more. That small part that the amplified Bible adds is so important "Keeping with his individual bent or gift"... wow. Yes!! I am in total agreement, and what a key part in parenting our children.
1: Cultivating your child's strength. First of all, as mothers (and fathers) we need to be sensitive to the natural "bent" that our children arrive in our arms with. You may be a biological parent, or a parent through adoption or foster care, no matter how your child ended up in your nuclear family, it is your responsibility to identify the gifts of your children. As their personality develops, be sensitive to distinguish their gifts. Watch for how their little minds work, and pick out their strengths. Sometimes their strengths are hard to identify until their communication skills are better developed, but no matter what the age, their gifts still have a way to shine through. Foster their gift, and communicate to your child what you see in them, affirming that you notice their uniqueness and giving credit to the Creator.
2: After you have identified the strengths of their personalities, take notice of their weakness. Weaknesses in our children do not have to be their detriment. So often I see parents speak negatively about their children, pointing out their ornery attributes and exploiting them to other adults in conversation or via Facebook and even to strangers out in public. Parents might say things like,
- "My child has no impulse control, he is so ADD..." As their child runs through the aisles of the grocery store...
- "He just does what he wants..." The parent says while shaking their head after their child pushed my child down to get to the swings first...
- "I am sorry, she doesn't know personal space..." The parent apologizes after their crusty nosed 3 year old kisses all over my newborn babies face.
Well guess what, just because your child has some weaknesses doesn't mean that allowing them to act out is OKAY!?! Do something about it for-crying-out-loud. If I were to allow myself (as a adult) to have no self control, yes... I would be apologizing all day long. With as many strengths we come into the world with, we carry along a backpack full of deficiencies. My husband and I have worked endlessly with my oldest son to promote thinking with compassion, consideration and respect.
Like I said before, Daxx is logical and very "black and white". At times he does not have a filter; when he says something he can come across rude or insincere. To counter that we have worked really hard at practicing dialog with him. Instead of screaming "GET OUT OF MY STUFF!" we have coached him to say to his sister, "Excuse me, I prefer to play alone". Having conversations with our children about their areas of weakness is okay! We can get down on their level and explain, "Yes, I know babies are so cute, but we cannot kiss every baby we see... they might be sleeping and we don't want to disturb them".... Using these moments as opportunities to teach explicitly how to counter their impulse is key.
We live in society where we want to tout our strengths and will not admit our weaknesses. This bad habit has overflowed into parenting. We want to brag on what our children can do, but we never work hard on correcting the things that don't come so naturally, like self control or respecting others.
Zadie, my daughter doesn't exhibit the same weakness as Daxx, her strength is kindness. But don't worry she is not perfect, she can be controlling in other ways that we have had to work on in a different manner. And even my 9 month old son... his strength is being adventurous, but it is also his weakness. I am sure he will be a fun one to raise up. :)
3: Respect each child's gift. So often I have heard mothers compare children. One mother may say, "Well his sister was so verbal at this age, and he only has said 2 words". I have even over heard mothers in public say, "Do you see that kid?!? He is behaving so well and YOU are being wild". I can assure you right now that having a condescending approach to parenting will backfire on you like a bad burrito... (Thats a gross analogy, huh!)
With guidance and protection we must allow our children to develop their unique natural gifts as they mature. With television, facebook, Instagram and even blogging we often compare our children to those of our friends or even famous strangers. Maybe all of your friends kids play football, and you know your child is not cut out for full contact sports... that's okay. Don't hold it against him, don't force him to be who he isn't, be sensitive to his personality and allow him an opportunity to be successful in something different. I can only imagine this gets exponentially worse as kids get older... well "so-in-so got accepted to this college" or "her daughter received "this scholarship""....( bleck, bleck, bleck )
Basically what I am saying is we must "nurture the nature" of our children
One of my favorite verses as a mother is Jeremiah 1:5:
"Before I formed you in your mother's womb I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart."
God knew us BEFORE He formed us!!!! The same is true with our children. God knew Daxx before He formed him, God knew Zadie before he formed her, and God knew little baby Dutch before he was formed (<---to our own surprise!). God has given each of us an "individual bent or gift" for a reason. That reason is so that someday we may act out the very will HE has created us for. Just as He set Jeremiah aside to be a prophet, he has chosen a purpose for each of us... each purpose different, yet equally important.
"Many plans are in a mans mind, but it is the Lord's purpose for him that will stand."
"Many plans are in a mans mind, but it is the Lord's purpose for him that will stand."
It's hard to parent. We all make mistakes!!!!! Satan wants to derail our efforts at all costs because he wants future generations to be egocentric, narcissistic, and numb to the call of God. Satan is THE deceiver.... you are foolish to think you can outwit him or outplay him. The only thing we can trump Satan with is TRUTH.
TRUTH is training up our children.
TRUTH is knowing they have a purpose that extends beyond the 18 years they are in our care.
TRUTH is acknowledging they are ultimately GOD's property.
And, always look confidently into their future and have an eternal mindset when parenting.
Thanks for reading.