Sometimes, we’re much more American, than we are biblical in our parenting!
We, Americans, are known for our drive for success. We tackle goals and take great delight when we can check them off on our to-do lists. We strive for more and better; higher heights and exciting new challenges.
Which is great…When it comes to careers, and hobbies, and sports. But, it’s not so great when it comes to training our children!
Let me explain. We all have goals for our children. (At least, I hope you have goals for your kids!) Whether it’s spiritual, academic, athletic, musical or some other area, we want our kids to grow and succeed. They need concrete goals to shoot for or they can too easily become complacent and content with the status quo.
Goals are NOT the problem.
The problem comes in how we carelessly recognize the achievement of those goals. A predictable parenting pattern, which I have observed in our last decade of teaching and counseling parents, is very disturbing to me. When I ask parents (and specifically moms) about their children’s progress toward reaching specific goals, inevitably, the parents gloss over the most recent goal achieved and tell me about the “new” goal they are pushing their child to reach. It’s an attitude of “Yes, that was good… but look how much more you could do!”
They aren’t rewarding success.
They aren’t praising progress.
They certainly aren’t stopping to celebrate.
Instead, they are laying heavy burdens of expectation on the shoulders of their children. They run the risk of, in the words of Paul in Ephesians 6:4, “exasperating their children.”
This is one area in which the Old Testament Jewish families have a thing or two to teach us. The Israelites knew how to celebrate! They knew how to slow down and contemplate battles won and personal and national victories. They knew how to recognize what God had accomplished in and through them.
We must do the same!
When your children reach a standard, a goal, that has been set for them…It’s time to PARTY! Whether you utilize a tangible reward, such as a “You did great plate,” or simply pause to give verbal (public) affirmation, it’s incredibly important to celebrate their successes. We need to help them see what God has accomplished in and through their lives. In a sense, we need to linger and bask in their victory. (To be clear, this isn’t celebrating their obedience to what is required, this is a celebration of their commitment to change and growth, in order to achieve a goal.)
Celebration is the first step in the process, but there’s more. Once we have celebrated, it’s time to take a deep breath and just DO NOTHING for a bit. Instead of saying, “Yay! You did it! Now, here’s the next thing we want you to do…,”just stop after the “You did it!” Trust us, there will always be new and challenging goals for your children to reach. There will always be character issues that need to be changed, bad habits that need to be broken, and attitudes that need to be adjusted. You’ll get there! But for just a little while, just a few moments in time, allow them to rest in their success. Don’t raise the bar just when they’ve finally jumped over it!
A huge part of our responsibility as Christian parents is to model the Savior for our children. A loving, patient Savior who comes alongside us and says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) Certainly not a Lord who comes behind us, cracking a whip and rushing us to the next destination. Forbid that we would ever model that type of Savior to our children!
So yes, set those goals for your children.
Encourage their progress along the way.
But don’t forget to stop and celebrate when they successfully reach a goal-oriented destination!
When you stop to celebrate, you’ll be strengthening and encouraging your children. Then, when it is time to set the next goal, they’ll be ready and eager to take on their newest challenge!