Monday, October 28, 2013

To Love A Child

"Inconceivable!" declares Vizzini.  But the response by Inigo Montoya is,  "You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means."  (from The Princess Bride by Act III Communications)

In my last post, I mentioned that the one common denominator for a child's well being, is that they know their parents love them.  But love is an overused word meaning many different things to numerous people.   

And so I'm asking,  "What does it mean for us to love our children?"

The topic is huge.  I am not an expert, nor a perfect parent, but I do believe the term 'love' needs to be defined.  Therefore, I will attempt to summarize a few thoughts on the matter.   And these thoughts are, of course, not all inclusive. 

Love Effectively

First of all, we can be truly loving our children, but they may not understand it as love.  For example, a father may work hard to provide for his family.  This is his way of loving his child, but all the child sees is an absent father.  Or maybe that child is craving approval, time, or affection, but receives gifts instead.  For this reason, a parent must know their child in order to best communicate their love to them. 

Sometimes, a child honestly cannot see the love poured out on them.  An explanation can open their eyes.   Yet some are bent on self-pity, where even facts will not sway them from believing they are not loved.  We must learn to love in a way that is seen as love to our children. 

Love Selflessly

Secondly, in order to really love our children, we, as parents, need to lay down our lives for them.  At the end of the day we are tired, our patience run thin, and we are ready for down time of our own.  But effort must be made to lay that aside in order to give our children undivided attention, such as a story before bed.

Prayer fits into this category of selflessness as well.  It takes effort and discipline to pray consistently for our children.  How much easier to talk about our children's problems than to simply pray for them.  How big is our God?  Can He be trusted with our children?  

Furthermore, we cannot demand children open up on our schedule.  Often they are ready to talk at our most inconvenient times.  We need to be flexible, available, and ready to give them our listening ear when they desire to share their hearts.  

Love Visibly

Thirdly, though our ministry and work is important, we cannot let it consume our lives to the neglect of our children.  They will resent it.  The events of their lives might seem trivial to us, but we need to treat them as important.  We need to support them in their endeavors.  Our children need to know that they matter and that their opinions and activities have value to us.

Intentional instruction in truth is essential as well.  Children must be made aware that there is a God who loves them deeply but that they have offended this God.  Only by faith in Jesus who took their punishment for sin can they know peace with God.  If they respond positively, it will keep their soul from eternal death.

Love Hard

Fourthly, (and this may appear opposite of what I've said so far, but it is not), we cannot cater to our children.  To constantly change their environment when they run into problems only teaches that the world revolves around them and that they can have their way in it.  On the other hand, love encourages them to face their difficulty and learn submission, a crucial lesson for all of life.

One way to overcome this problem is to tell instead of ask.  Children bombarded with too many choices are overwhelmed.  It is too much for them to process.  Be the leader. 

Likewise, to let a child know what is expected before going into a situation helps tremendously on their behavior.  They need time mentally and emotionally to prepare for what is coming.  (As do adults). 

A child needs their parents to be clearly in charge.  This includes some enforced boundaries.   A child acting up is simply begging for the security of a firm 'no', a time out, or even the wooden spoon.  The will of a child must be broken, and the sooner the easier.

Love Interested

Lastly, we must establish an ongoing relationship with our children.  Get to know them.  What do they enjoy doing in their free time, (and please, give them some free time!), what are they passionate about, and what are their fears?  Our screen laden society makes it hard to build relationships.  We must, therefore, be intentional about it.  Spend time alone with each of your children.  Don't always lump them into big family events.

Avoid Extremes

Finally, we must keep in mind that there are extremes on either end to any of these points.   A parent must guard against rash actions done in anger.  On the other hand, we cannot sit back and be passive, letting the child find his own way in the world.  The key is balance.

Don't Give Up

On those days when we feel like failures as parents, we must remind ourselves that young children are very resilient and forgiving.  So too, there is no perfect parent.  God wants to use these incidents in the lives of our children for the building of their character, and to shape them into the likeness of Christ.   God loves our children deeply and for those who truly know Him, He will never let go.  

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