Parenting three children can sometimes present unique ministry opportunities. I say this with a smirk on my face and hope in my heart.
As a parent, one of our main goals is to raise children who become teenagers who become adults completely capable of interacting with others in the world. By "in the world", I truly mean that we hope our children grow into their love for the nations and become well accustomed to the ways and cultures of many cultures. That communication flows smoothly for them and adapting to community is not a challenge.
We have many young people come through our home. We have been given the sweet honor of hosting teams of 8-12 young adults typically ranging from 18-25 years old for two months at a time.
A little secret I want to share with you; WE LOVE IT!! We do! As much as it is a laying down of our own personal rights, it is as much an overflow of God's sweet grace and JoY upon our family. It is wonderful!
That said, there is a stigma about this age that I am hesitant to grasp hold of. I have heard it said that this generation is the most entitled generation of all time.
I do not want to say those words, and if I have...I want to publicly confess and repent.
Instead of cursing this group, I want to bless them. I also want to take a moment as a parent and talk about one of the ways we can disciple our own kiddos so that older generations cannot say this about them.
Having three kids of my own, I can tell you that we do the very best that we can to raise these loves to develop a genuine love for God and His people. We do not want these three entrusted to us to just be followers of man, but leaders of men. Thinking with the end in mind each day can be difficult and can take up some major time. But I do believe it is worth it, and I believe it can shape the way they think when they themselves are in the 18-25 age group encountering new things in life for the first time.
With three kids, it is quite often that two are engaged in some sort of activity that a third one is not. Moreover, it is common for the one not involved to come up with an activity of his/her own wanting all three to take part.
Now, this can go many ways. But for this blog purpose I am going with the not-so-pleasant route of "They won't play with me." Or, "They don't want to do what I want to do."
What may look like a hands off approach, we do not get heavily involved or pay super close attention to these situations and I want to explain the "why" behind that.
Exclusion is one thing and I am not speaking of that. When others say with their mouths, "You cannot play with us" or "Get away" or "You have to be 11 years old to play this game" or, you fill in your own blanks.... we don't play that game and will for sure get involved. Why? Because we feel like that is an opportunity to shepherd and lead into Kingdom communication. Kingdom conversations do not include those words, so they shouldn't be spoken in our home.
Here is a common scenario: Emma and Jacob are playing and Ben approaches them to go outside to ride bikes. Emma and Jacob are involved in a game of Checkers and do not want to stop to go ride bikes. They express this to Ben as an 11 and 13 year old would, and Ben gets his feelings hurt. I did not say that Emma and Jacob were unkind to him. I did say that they have expressed this in such a way that maybe an 11 and 13 year old can grow in, but their intent was never to hurt Ben.
Ben then runs to us crying, and out of hurt expresses that Emma and Jacob are "being mean".
We can go in different directions here and we have. Knowing the heart expressed at the beginning of this article, I will share with you what works for us and why we are discipling in this way.
If we go to Emma and Jacob and tell them to stop playing their game and turn their attention to Ben, this has increased potential to imply that Ben is the most important person in this home. He is not. Our home does not revolve around Ben or any other individual in it. This can also whisper something into Ben's soul that everyone should stop what they are doing and do what HE wants to do.
This is not what we want to teach our kids and this is not how we want them shaped leading into teenage and adult years.
We can go to our kids and have a pow wow to discuss what was really said or what the tone of the conversation looked like. Remember that I mentioned that Emma and Jacob express things like the 11 and 13 year olds that they are. We cannot expect that they will always communicate like we do, but we can expect that they will communicate as 11 and 13 year olds do. So, even in this, a gentle and non accusative approach is taken. OUR tone is not one that is accusing them of being unkind. Our communication to them in this situation is that they are loved and important. That what they said and what they meant may not always jive, come on parents...you know you can struggle here too! We must approach each of the kids in this situation without favoring one.
Let me tell you, with three kids we would be having this discussion A LOT in our home if this became our only approach each time!
In addition, we can shepherd the one that came to us. He came to us for a reason right? I mean, we usually come to God with a reason. He is safe. He is trustworthy. He leads us to the way of Life and He does so from a true heart of understanding and compassion.
We can use this moment as an opportunity to grow this child in such a direction that does not create a bent for entitlement.
We can say to this Leader in training, "I am sorry that things did no go the way you planned for them to go. So many times in my own life this happens. BUT, did you know that God is always with you and He desires to be with you even now? He is growing a leadership skill that He placed in you and He is giving you THIS chance to stretch and build that muscle up! Go ride your bike if you want to ride your bike! And ride knowing that these moments are times when God is preparing you for HUGE adventures and times of great JoY!!!"
We do not expect our kids to always do what others want them to do. We want our children to grow to be confident leaders and visionaries. We want their creative minds to soar with or withOUT others around them! We want their confidence in who they are in Christ to outweigh their fleshly desires. It is OKAY for our kids to feel that Ugh moment of " no one wants to do what I want to do..." Friends, in ministry this happens ALL THE TIME! If we just sat and sulked in the misery of it, then we would not be about our Father's business!!
In talking with the young people who come in our home, we learn from their parents who went before us. We learn what they think worked and what really didn't. And, we get an up close and personal view of the fruit of their parents' leading!
So, if you wonder about raising kids in a world that says they are the most entitled generation of all time, don't worry. Seriously, don't let it get to you. You have such a big part in shaping and building the character that God desires for them to have. And, when we fail....when, not if....God is there pouring out grace upon grace.
If you think your child might be heading in the direction of entitlement, pray and seek the LORD on how to shepherd him or her in His ways. He is faithful and has entrusted your children to YOU. The above approaches work for our crew, but may be disastrous for some other family.
Pray with your kids in the mornings and evenings and let them hear you crying out to God for direction in how to lead them well. Let them know that your desire is for them to succeed! Your desire is for them to know and feel the immeasurable love you have for them! God does not always remove us from each and every situation we are in, but He always delivers the perfect amount of grace to suffice and quite often in this encounter our faith in Him grows by leaps and bounds! Oh, sweet King, may we NOT get in the way of Your work in and through our kids!!
Be blessed as you raise your kids unto the King! Be full of JoY as you raise them in His presence! Be hopeful in the One that never leaves YOU and guides you daily even in parenting. Rest in the beautiful hope that our LORD gives us....yes, even in the raising of our dear children!!
You are so loved.