When our son Bill was 4 or 5 he carried around a wrench and pushed around a big yellow Tonka truck. He greatly admired the man that came to pump the septic tank – that big truck, the hoses and wrench, and oh yes, the gloves!! He almost never played in his room. Dan, our second son, carried a toy cell phone around, loved the intricacies of anything miniature and has always found his room to be a sanctuary that was his space alone. Each is developing into a fine young man that we are proud of and we celebrate their differences. But much more important than what these boys will DO as an occupation is what they will BE as men.
I have seen men who have lost their jobs in midlife and are thrown entirely into a tailspin because their only identity was in what they did. Very little of their identity was found in who they were as an individual.
With our shifting society, job security is almost extinct. Young people invest in training (often, repeatedly) for careers that are also shifting and changing as fast as technology advances. As a result, stability is no longer found in what we do, or where we live. Stability must be found in who we are; otherwise we are in danger of being crushed by the changes taking place all around us.
Equipping Our Children
So, how does a parent equip a child for a world that is fast evolving, a society that is eroding, changing and growing: all at the same time? I look back over the years as our three children have matured and grown. As we have pondered this question ourselves, I see one very important underlying principle.
Teach them to live a life of significance!
Just what does that mean? First of all, let’s look at what it doesn’t mean. Today, in our society’s desperate quest for self esteem, we sometimes buy into the false philosophy that beauty and possessions are scorecards; our significance is measured by them. We couldn’t be more wrong. A daily glance at the evening news, shows us the lives of people who have been stripped of possessions and even beauty. Regularly we hear of people around the world who have lost everything material and many have been hurt or maimed in fierce circumstances. Some will be left only with what they are as individuals. No flash flood or earthquake can wash away their love, courage, intelligence, compassion, or their ingenuity and their faith. These are the qualities they are on the inside. These are the qualities that make one’s life significant.
In order to help our children to understand he/she is a significant person and can live a life of significance, here are a few things you can do. You will come up with many other ideas as you explore significance, coming from a perspective of ‘being opposed to doing’.
- Let’s introduce our children to others using their names and demonstrating that this child matters.
- Let’s give our children chores they are capable of. Then truly appreciate the help and effort they put forth.
- Let’s allow our children to speak for themselves.
- As our children grow older, let’s ask their opinions on things that affect the family and show appreciation for their ideas. Children have amazing insights . . .when we truly listen.
- Let’s spend one-on-one time with our child. Even 10 minutes invested with direct eye contact and real listening will make a difference. Knowing they matter has a dramatic impact.
- Let’s trust our children and let them know we do.
- As they get older support their ideas as much as possible. Dialogue more and demand/command less.
- Commend character qualities such as compassion, courage, kindness and caring.
- When our children behave in ways we disapprove of, we need to let them know “that’s not like you”. This helps break patterns of negative behavior.
- Let’s teach them to help others – unsolicited and without expectation of compensation.
- Let’s teach our children that God loves them.
Letting a child know she/he is a significant person, builds courage to tackle the world and pursue what he/she wants. Strength of character anchors one through change as no other accomplishment can.