Raising godly children can be compared to buying clothes for them. The TV and magazines they see and the stores they browse will determine which styles they gravitate toward. In similar fashion, the people they hang around with, the ideas and worldviews they are exposed to, and the experiences they have will shape the people they become.
After observing some young adults in action and listening to a friend recount their experience with Jr. High age kids, my husband pointed out that much of their rude behavior is a result of simply not being taught any better. They’ve been left to browse the world of ideas and images on their own. Adolescence is a time of discovering who you are as an individual, separate from your family. It is a time of awakening awareness of the world around you and the differences in thought, styles, behaviors, attitudes, and lifestyles. If parents are absent, busy with their own lives, kids are exploring these new areas by themselves, without adult discernment or wisdom. It’s like letting them loose in Victoria’s Secret and expecting them to pick out appropriate outfits for school or church.
I’m not advocating smothering children or so controlling their lives they can’t think for themselves, but they can be provided with an assortment of appropriate clothes to choose from. What is appropriate? That’s where parental worldview comes into play. As a Christian, I use the Bible as my guide. I firmly believe God places children in families because those particular parents have the means to provide what those particular children need to become the people He intended them to become. It is incumbent upon the parent to seek God’s direction for each child and provide the “clothes” best fitting that child.
We were blessed with a child who has a very giving heart. She looks for ways to serve others. In school, that was a problem because she was so busy “helping” the other kids she didn’t focus on her own work so well. As homeschoolers, we were able to channel that gift into volunteering at a nursing home. Not something everyone would like, but this daughter loved going into the activities department and helping the residents. We provided a variety of opportunities over the years for her to explore her gifts and interests in groups like 4H, Civil Air Patrol, horseback riding, music lessons and such. Not all of them worked out, but they are all areas she expressed interest in . She’s learning about herself and how her particular gifts fit in the world. She’s trying on different styles without leaving the protection and guidance of her parents.
Dressing a child is a very individualized process. One size does not fit all. Our son would not be interested at all in helping at the nursing home. He’s much more of a climbing, building, exploring kind of kid. He’s also very sensitive, although he tries manfully to hide it. For him we’ve gotten involved in cub scouting as a family. This gives him plenty of social interaction combined with lots of boy activities, like building pinewood derby cars and doing chemistry experiments. He’s competitive and the opportunity to earn badges appeals tremendously.
It takes work, studying your children and getting to know them, as well as lots of time in prayer to seek God’s leading; but by providing a customized selection of “clothing” for them to choose from, we can help our children develop a solid foundation on which to grow.