Capturing Your Child's Heart
An Alaskan Invitation
Our family took a vacation to Alaska when our sons, Jacob and Joseph, were eight and five respectively. When we arrived, a local family offered to take us on a four-wheeling expedition to the Knik Glacier. They cautioned the trip might be difficult for our boys, but they also promised it would also be unforgettable.
I cannot resist invitations which include the words adventure and unforgettable. So, the next morning our family pulled up to their house, dressed in waterproof clothing and rubber boots, loaded the four-wheelers and headed for the glacier.
Our near-Death Experience
When we arrived, we unloaded the machines and rode over the hills and through the rivers until the vast Knik Glacier came into view. No one moved for a few seconds. The scenery had stolen our breath and our words.
Then, in unison, we hopped off the machines, removed our helmets and raced to the bottom, hopping and sliding all over the glacier.
Time mandated we head home quickly, except for a short lunch break by the Knik River basin. All the rivers we rode through previously were relatively calm and shallow, but this river was created from the glacier’s swift, frigid runoff.
Clayton and I stopped our machines and were in the process of removing our helmets when we heard a scream from the river. We turned to see our friend pulling Jacob from the river.
Jacob had hopped off his four-wheeler, removed his helmet and headed for the river before Clayton and I had time to dismount. The sandy riverbank collapsed under Jacob’s feet and he fell in fully clothed!
I wanted to scream at him for being so irresponsible, but I reminded myself he was just a boy. I wanted to punish him for scaring me, but I reminded myself this was not his intention. Then, I wanted to hug him and handcuff his hand to mine so I could protect him forever, but I reminded myself I don’t own him- I just get to help the Lord raise him for a bit.
We don’t own our children
We don’t own our children.
This statement sounds preposterous to our minds, but not to our hearts. We know we don’t own our kids, but sometimes it can feel like we do.
We know we can’t own a person, but our parental responsibility can make us feel a sense of ownership. Our kids share our history, our home and our hearts. We look into their eyes and see ourselves. Sometimes, we even feel a sense of oneness with their weaknesses, likes and dislikes.
They look like us. The act like us. They think like us. But, they are not us.
The most important lesson in capturing our kids hearts is to realize they are not OURS and they are not US. Our responsibility as parents is not to create miniature versions of ourselves, but to help our children understand who they are and who they want to become.
We Help Our kids discern who they are
Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.”
Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people. My parenting goal is to help my kids grow in these four areas, wisdom, stature, favor with God and with people. How do we practically accomplish this goal?
In the Old Testament, wisdom calls loudly for men and women to listen to her advice. In the New Testament, wisdom also gives us advice and counsel through the person of the Holy Spirit who lives within the believer.
If I have an attitude of ownership over my kids, I want them to listen to me and to do what I say. If I understand my kids are God’s creation, I want to teach them who they are in relationship to Him. My goal is not to have them obey me, but to honor me out of obedience to Him. I am not inferring we throw discipline out the window, but that we explain why righteous living is necessary.
In order to do this, we teach our kids what wisdom is by ministering to them spiritually and emotionally (rather than just focusing on their behavior).
There are two specific ways I ministered to my kids spiritually. First, we literally read the Bible (a Bible or Bible study book) and prayed with each other every day until they started absorbing that responsibility into their own lives. Reading the Bible with them gave them a foundation for their understanding and taught them that even complex parts of the Bible can be understood with time and effort. This time together taught them that they were not ultimately responsible to me, but to God, just as I am ultimately responsible to God, not them, for how I raise them. Spiritual investment helps them grow in wisdom and favor with God.
Studying the Bible helped us to have conversations not only about failures and successes of people in the Bible, but also the successes and failures they were experiencing with their friends (and even my friends) and family. They started developing a healthy emotional awareness of other people’s needs and feelings instead of being internally focussed. Emotional investment will help them grow in stature and favor with people.
We help our kids discern who they are becoming
If I have an attitude of ownership over my kids, I want them to fulfill my dreams for them and to be a good reflection of me. If I recognize they were created in God’s image to fulfill their own purpose in His Kingdom, my goal is to help them fulfill that mission instead of my mission.
How do we practically help our kids discern who they are becoming and what they should do with their lives?
Give them my attention
Do you have yourself figured out, or are you still trying to figure yourself out? Most of us are still on a journey of discovery. We are constantly learning and changing. Our kids are learning and changing as well. While my kids are in my home, I want to help them along this road of discovery. I cannot help them if I am not giving them my attention.
Last night, a friend of mine said, “I think one of the best things we did for our kids is family dinner time. The dinner table has become a comfortable place for our kids to talk about their lives, their struggles and successes.”
Perhaps family dinner (or Bible study) seems far fetched, but everything is impossible until we make it happen. When I say make it happen, I’d like to emphasize the word MAKE: make ourselves and make our kids make this happen by saying no to other things and yes to dinner! This quality and quantity time will help your family grow in wisdom and favor with the God.
Teach them responsibility
When we control our kids, we take away their sense of responsibility. We need to teach them to have responsibility for themselves and the world around them. What are some ways you can do this?
I used to go into panic mode when my kids invited friends over last minute. I thought I had to drop everything in order to entertain and feed everyone. Recently, I handed those responsibilities to my boys. I give them money for groceries and make them clean up after their friends. Their friends’ dishes and mess are not my responsibility so they either ask their friends to pick up after themselves, or my boys take responsibility for them. Teaching your kids responsibility will help them grow in stature and favor with people.
The best way to capture your kids’ hearts?
The best way to capture your kids hearts is to invest in their spiritual and emotional health, to give them your attention and to teach them responsibility.
Our culture is going to tell you that going to every game or recital, or giving our kids the best presents on earth will win their hearts, but all they really need is you. In the end, every child’s heart is captured by the love and attention of their parents.
I’d love to hear from you. FOR REAL. Will you share your favorite memory of bonding with your child in the comments below? I can’t wait!
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