I was at the mall one day and witnessed something that I wanted to speak into. A child was given a toy by her grandma while the adults shopped in a store. The child was happy and content. A few minutes later, the four-year-old wandered over to the table with perfume bottles and began to play with them. Grandma came and yanked the girl’s arm away, and the girl resisted. She went back to the perfume bottles again and was playing with them. Grandma returned only to scold the girl sharply. A power struggle broke out. I 100% agree that it is not wise for a four-year-old to be playing with perfume bottles BUT can we take a small tour into the world of a four-year-old? She was given a toy and that is okay, but finds something else to play with quietly and is yanked, scolded and reprimanded. How is she supposed to know at four what is and what is not okay to touch unless someone teaches her? What would it have looked like if Grandma understood she was just touching and playing because it was there and on her level of reach and in her mind she honestly did not know the value of the bottles or what could happen if they fell on the floor or worse yet sprayed in her face? How do you think the girl would have responded if Grandma got down on her level, gently held her hand, looked in her eyes, and said firmly, “No, no touch,” and began to train the little girl to honor her voice? Grabbing, yanking, scolding, and yelling, do nothing to teach a child what is and is not okay. It breaks connection and confuses a child. TRAIN them in self-control and responding to your verbal command.
I have often said my kids have access to the smallest, darkest, and most remote places in people’s hearts. Places I am so keenly aware I have no access to. Teaching, training, and equipping them to use the gift of being a child for the Kingdom is one of my greatest honors.
I vividly remember the day I was introduced to the fear of not being safe as a little girl. We were out of town on vacation with another family. My friend and I asked for money to walk down to the store. We laughed the whole way there and giggled the whole way back. We didn’t have a care in the world except being a child on a mission for candy. The next day we asked to go again, but this time our moms were hesitant, and you could feel something strange in the atmosphere. We continued to beg them to let us go, and finally, they shared with us that a man had done something really bad and that the police were still looking for him. They allowed us to go but firmly warned us to ‘be careful.’ Our eyes were as wide as they could be the whole way down. Fear had shut down our joy, and when we got back to the cabin, we sprinted the last few feet as if something was chasing us. I was introduced to fear that day, and it remained with me for decades. Did a man do something bad? Yes. Was he still at risk of harming others? Yes. Was there a real danger? Potentially. But what I needed as a child whose brain wasn’t fully developed was not the introduction of fear but to be empowered with HOW to keep safe. John 10:10 outlines that we all have an enemy wanting to bring harm, but the rest of the verse is how we should position our parenting. Jesus has tools to overcome every strategy of the enemy. We can camp out in fear of the enemy OR the strategy and tools of heaven – we pick.
P.S. I am fairly certain my mom witnessed me partnering with fear in the days ahead but she just didn’t have the language or tools to help me. We can parent our children differently.
Every child needs to do this exercise! Do it 1:1 with each child, so you can hear their heart and pick up on any resistance. Have them outline a body on a piece of paper. Start with their hair and walk through their mind, eyes, nose, mouth, body shape, stomach, height, etc. Think of their interests and the things that make them come alive (sports, music, dancing). Write it out on the paper as you go through who they are, top to bottom. You are helping them see who they are. While we are constantly being transformed on the inside, there are some things we cannot change, such as our nose shape, eye color, height, gifts, what makes us come alive, etc. This is the package of who they were created to be. Now have them make a circle around the entire body. Explain to them that who they are is to be guarded and protected as if it is inside a bubble. Read Proverbs 4:23 and explain if any person, peer, teacher, sibling, social media post, song, friend, movie, leader, or thought tells them that something is wrong with their body, gifts, talents, etc., they are to reject it. Empower them with how to reject it. Perhaps they will take that thought captive and say to themselves, “That is not something I agree with, and do not give that voice permission to speak to me.”
When I was teaching my children this concept, Hudson (age four at the time) got up, went to the front door, made a kicking motion, and slammed the door. I asked what he was doing, and he said, “I had a bad thought, so I was kicking it out” Yeah, like that, buddy! They can write it on a piece of paper, rip it up, cross it out, or shred it. I had a season that we were going after this and put a set of colorful markers in the bathroom and would have my children write the lie on a piece of toilet paper with the colorful marker and then toss it into the toilet. The color would lift, making a beautiful swirl in the toilet bowl (isn’t that true of what God does with whatever we give Him? It turns it into something beautiful.). Teach them that there is a difference between being humble and allowing people to speak into their lives and give healthy feedback and constructive criticism vs. someone or something being used as a spokesperson of the enemy to tear down what God has built and designed. Give specific examples such as a friend saying, “Shut up. You are so annoying when you talk,” and a teacher saying, “I need for you to manage your mouth when I am teaching the class.” Both are addressing the issue of their mouth, but one is to be rejected and the other is to be received. How do they know the difference? It is generally tested by peace.
If while doing this with older children, you feel resistance or they say things like “This is stupid,” “Why do we have to do this?” “What’s the point?” Please do not back down. The resistance is telling you that they have already allowed a voice inside their bubble, which needs to be exposed. I would take it as far as you can, and then if it is time to back off (Holy Spirit will lead you), say something like this, “Okay, yeah, we can stop, but I need for you to hear this. Your resistance and wall to even talk about who you are is revealing that you have allowed a thought to enter your bubble. It is there to steal your joy, rob you of your peace, and tell you that something is wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with you, and I am here when you are ready to deal with it.” I would intentionally speak their love language and look for creative ways to bring them joy because it releases a chemical in their brain that gives them the will to fight and endure hard things. Give it a few hours or a day but circle back by saying something like, “Hey, remember when I asked you to draw that picture? What was happening inside of you when we talked about who you are?” Listen to them. Do not fix or correct them, but listen to what their heart has to say. For many older children, simply exposing it helps them reject it and realize that they are feeling icky about themselves because of a lie, not because something is wrong with them. Others may need to ask Jesus to show them who they need to forgive for speaking that their body, gifts, and personality are unacceptable.
Moms and dads, please do not ignore this exercise. Children who grow up with the wrong voices inside their bubble carry them around for years, shaping who they become. We can empower our children to reject lies and protect who God designed them to be.
Are you willing to put in the effort and help your child understand their value and worth?
How else is your child going to learn how to relate to their future spouse, boss, or friends unless they are taught? The day-to-day issues between siblings are your God-given training ground to equip them. The conflict can be used for good when you see it as an area in which they need help growing in. Most children do not have an issue with feeding or dressing themselves because you have done a great job at teaching them how to do it. You assisted them, gave them lots of grace, coached them, and encouraged them, and now they (and you) are bearing good fruit in these areas. The same goes for character training between siblings. How many of us have heard about the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman? Have you ever considered how a child feels when their tank is overflowing? Or running on fumes? This tool alone will radically change the temperature in your home. Show the kids what a magnet is and talk about the force that it carries. They won’t be able to see it with their eyes, but it’s there. Then show them how a magnet works. When you put the two right ‘loving’ sides together, there is a PULL for more. But when you put the wrong ‘unloving’ sides together, they push apart.
In the days to come, when there is conflict, lovingly approach them with your magnets in hand and explain that they are releasing something that causes others to want to pull away from them. Is that what they really want? Show them that they can flip the situation by choosing love to draw them in rather than push them away. Have each child take their own online quiz. Print out the summary and then call a family meeting to share how each person needs their tank filled. This isn’t a one-time teaching but rather a lifestyle that is cultivated by sowing into it daily. You can also sign up for their weekly newsletter, which will provide you with simple creative ways to speak each language each week. Your child NEEDS to know not only their own language but their siblings. When a child is aware of their needs, it makes it a lot easier for them to get their need met in a healthy way. Say their language is quality time, and yet they haven’t invested any time in their family. They are going to feel disconnected. Love tanks aren’t something to just passively let others fill. We can intentionally put ourselves on the path to be filled up. They can be doing things that encourage their needs to be met.
My two children who have the most conflict is the one who has the language of words and the one who is a strong leader. The way she often speaks hurts his heart, and then he reacts. As annoying as this is at times, it is most excellent that one can learn to guard his heart and not give his peace away so quickly, and the other one, who will lead many, gets to learn how to do it in love. Many times, when there is conflict in my home, it is because their tanks are low with each other. While it would be so much easier to separate the two ‘offending siblings,’ what they REALLY need is connection. When I see this is an issue, I will ask the child what their sibling’s love language is (if they honestly don’t know, you have more teaching to do). Then I ask, “What have you done to love them in the past 24 hours?” The answer is generally “nothing.” So, if the real issue was their lack of connection, I would help walk them through ways they could reconnect based on their love languages. The older they get, the more I solve sibling issues this way than anything else. Disconnected kids act out in ways that create connection, even if it is unhealthy. The child bullying or trying to get a reaction out of their siblings is most likely crying out for connection but doesn’t know how. I am equipping my children to change the world around them, and the issues between their siblings are my training ground to shape them into dynamic humans who know how to walk in love, honor, and respect because they have been TAUGHT.
Teaching your child to confess their sin robs the enemy of his desire to wrap them in shame. Humility is taught, not to condemn but to FREE us from the sins of our flesh. It looks like this: There is conflict, and you ask, “Sweetie, what did you do wrong?” They tell you their part (confession), and then you help them ask for forgiveness. “Jesus, I hurt my brother. Would You please forgive me?” If they honestly can’t tell you what they did wrong, then YOU haven’t done your part as a parent to teach them what right living (righteousness) looks like in that situation. Teach and empower them in times of peace what right living looks like. Forgiveness isn’t a blank credit card for our sins. It is a GIFT that needs to be acknowledged, honored, and intentionally received. When children mess up, they carry the guilt, which can easily become shameful if not dealt with. Helping them confess brings peace to their heart.
What would our schools look like if every parent sat humbly with their child’s teacher, asked for an honest review of their child, and then spent the summer months empowering and equipping them to grow in character? Teachers have a great view of how your child treats others, responds to authority, and interacts with peers. Simply put, they see how your child behaves when you aren’t watching. Every child has areas to grow in; it is the nature of a child. Childhood isn’t the time to expect perfection but rather the time to empower them with tools to be successful in life. Areas of growth in the classroom include listening well, respecting authority, serving others, being kind, being able to control their body and mouth, stewarding what they are responsible for (homework, gym clothes, library books), and being a blessing vs. distraction in class.
What if, instead of seeing our children as strong-willed little creatures, we see them as powerful world changers? What if, instead of treating them as immature, we treat them as leaders in training? What if, instead of letting their choices affect our comfort level, we put the discomfort back on them to create change? What if, instead of controlling them, we empower them? What if, instead of buying time, we invest in them? What if we call out the greatness in them even when they display their worst? What if we saw their weakness as an area to release heaven instead of partnering with the weakness? What if we stay connected with them at all times.
Years ago, I asked the kids to go into the back room and act out the Christmas story. I said, “Emma, I want you to be the angel. Hudson, you will be Joseph, Lauren will be Mary, and Ellie will be the shepherd.” I gave them 15 minutes to come up with a skit of the Christmas story. They were so excited to usher me to my seat and get in their places. It was raw and organic but revealed to me just how deeply they had grasped the Christmas story. Use this KEY in parenting by first teaching them about something and then testing out what was inside their heart by asking questions, role-playing, or having them act out the story/principle. It gave me a grid for what I still needed to do after teaching them. We have started a new way of devotions in that each child takes a day and leads the family. I am seeing what is inside of them, as well as the areas I need to go after more in teaching and empowering them. Pull on your kids and put them in situations where they get to reveal what is inside of them.