Before you read this blog, watch this precious one-minute video by Legos.
When I first saw this commercial I thought, Is this what our culture has come to where parents need to be told their kids need time to play without their help!
A parent’s need to be overly involved in her kid’s lives can span into her child’s adult years. It is not unusual in today’s culture that if a child does poorly on a test the parent looks to the teacher for an explanation rather than the student; parents fill out their kids’ college applications because they don’t trust their kids will do well enough. Grandparents impose their preferences for visiting the grandkids instead of letting the parents decide what is best for their family.
As moms why do we think it is our job to continually direct our kids’ lives from birth into adulthood? When we do so, we are teaching our kids that they cannot handle life and that they cannot trust God with their lives. We are putting ourselves in the place of God in their lives.
No matter our kids’ age, they need room to figure things out, to make mistakes, to decide what’s important to them, and how they want to live it. It’s how they mature and become the people God intended them to be.
In his book, Soul Keeping, John Ortberg wrote about a study done on monkeys and how stress actually helped the monkeys mature.
“Strategic disappointment is another of those categories where research reinforces soul wisdom. It turns out that even monkeys who receive mild stress in infancy, adolescence, and adulthood actually grow through it. They are better able to handle stressful situations; they are also more curious and explorative and resilient in the world in general. Also, mild stress seems to increase brain size, and actually causes brand-new neurons to develop.”*
Reread that paragraph if you need to. Disappointment and stress helped the monkeys become more resilient, curious, brave, strong, and smart. Isn’t this what we want for our kids? Yet, when we try to protect our kids from life’s hard stuff, we keep them from maturing and we keep them from growing in the Lord.
How can we help our kids be ready for life and grow in the hard stuff?
- Pray—Pray for them. This is the most powerful thing you can do. Not only do you invite God to work in your child’s life, but you open yourself up to the work God wants to do in you as well.
- Listen to your child without interrupting or immediately offering your input. Listening is a gift we give our kids that will give them confidence and security. When we listen to our kids, we show them they matter to us; we care about their thoughts; we want to hear what they say. In a world where face-to-face connection is diminishing, listening to your child makes you an even more powerful influence in her life. Your attention is rare and precious.
- Model what you want your kids to live. Live your life in the way you want your kids to live theirs. Kids will remember far more of what you did and the attitude with which you lived than they will your words.
- Let them experience their consequences. When your child makes a mistake let him live his consequences. The experience will help him not make the same mistake next time. But more importantly it will teach him that he is responsible for his mistakes and that Mom or Dad will not rescue him.
- Let them try and fail. Whether it be building with Legos, trying out for the school play, or applying for college, let them try. When our girls didn’t get the part they wanted or whatever they tried out for, it built perseverance in them. It helped them understand they don’t always get what they want.
- Help them process and think through their current situation. In doing so we equip our kids for life. Equipping our kids is our job as parents, not making a habit of rescuing them.
- Bless--Finally when they are adults this is your main role–to bless, not direct.
If we want our kids to mature and be all God intended for them to be, we need to give them room to figure it out. Whether it be in their play time, choosing to participate in a sport, finding their first apartment, getting their first real job, or raising their kids, God is with them. He has them. It’s not all up to you.
Where are you on the spectrum of believing it’s your job to keep your kids safe and happy? How hard is it to trust God with your kids?
*John Ortberg, Soul Keeping. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014. Page 165.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.