Archive for December 2016

Kids: clay to mold or surprises to discover?

December 30, 2016

I have three kids and they are far more different than they are alike. Yes you can recognize bits of mom, bits of dad (me) and bits of each other. But if you only see those similar bits … well that’s just absurd right?

A friend recently said, “I’m trying to raise a Spartan”. I’ve heard that sentence both spoken and implied with many nouns at the end; doctor, lawyer, republican, democrat, person of * faith, genius, star, quarterback, goalie, graceful man, strong woman, writer, musician, artist, good American, free spirit, smarter than me, just like her mom, my successor, etc etc etc.

It’s clear that most parents think we are molding our children to become kids and then adults with certain ideals and ideas and characteristics.

Pause and think about that idea. Are your kids raw material to be molded by you? Does it make sense? Maybe Not?

IMPORTANT: This post is not about God or Country or any of the other ‘outside’ or ‘village’ influences. Whatever you think about those factors is true or not true independent of what I’m trying to say here about how parents frame their task of ‘raising their children’. Said another way, for the sake of this post, it actually does not matter what you feel about God or Country or other influences.

ALSO IMPORTANT: Feel free to dismiss this advice, particularly if it upsets you. I have NO credentials or authority other than I and my wife have three young adult children with whom we are mostly happy (sorry kids). This might have been super lucky so I’m not claiming to know it all.

My point is, if you are a parent (or step parent or any other variation of parent) I recommend you consider your children to be mysteries, surprise packages, amazing little unique people taking form before your eyes … rather than lumps of clay to be formed.

Stick with me here, I am NOT saying, just let them do what they will while you watch.

I am saying, spend at least as much energy discovering their unique characteristics as you do trying to define them. EVERY mother of twins will tell you stories about her twins’ differences. Discover and celebrate these unique characteristics!

You are in a race, from the first time you hold them, to 1) discover their unique characteristics 2) learn how to be the best possible parent for that unique child and 3) decide what you should encourage (lots), change (very little) and teach (mostly).

VERY IMPORTANT: You do not get to decide their unique characteristics. You must work with who and what they are.

EXAMPLE: One of my kids, as soon as they started playing with other kids demonstrated skills and desire to organize and direct. Sometimes this looked ugly as a characteristic in a child (manipulative, controling). But our challenge was to teach grace and respect rather than discouraging the built-in characteristic.

EXAMPLE: Two of my kids are musicians. However the details were different from the beginning and today I see those same differences years later. They are both excellent musicians but very different and I would absolutely not ask either of them to be more like the other. Although we exposed them to our love of music very early, neither I nor my wife molded them as musicians.

Those are just two examples of many characteristics simply discovered and encouraged. I am so thankful they are each so much more than we could ‘make them’. Frankly it’s more like we allow and assist our kids to discover and develop.

Your time to be their parent is much shorter than you think and every minute you spend trying to change something that is a characteristics is time lost that could have been spent encouraging or teaching.

What I am saying here, is like a parental serenity prayer

Grant us the serenity to accept the characteristics we discover,
Courage to develop the characteristics we can,
Patience to teach and encourage continuously,
Grace to respectfully correct or adjust only when needed,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Very little needs to be changed, far less than you think.

Mostly they need your help discovering their own characteristics and learning how to use them with love and respect for you and others.

I am pretty sure, the more we mold them like clay, the more we will make them like us. Is that REALLY what we want?

Listen more, talk less (this I say with authority)
Control less, follow more
Direct less, lead more
Expect more, demand less
Listen, Listen, Listen

Does this make sense? I sincerely hope so.
Sorry I didn’t know this sooner kids.


Parent with Jo Ann of Abigail, Conner and Benjamin