How many times have you made the statement; “I wish these kids came with an instruction manual!” Yes, don’t we all!
In an effort to help people, many experts have written books about child rearing, but all too often, the information falls short. This is especially true in dealing with difficult subjects such as discipline, self-esteem, confidence, and social interaction. You quickly glean through the well-intended tactics from your favorite new book, only to find out that it doesn’t quite work like they said it would. Ugh!!! What’s even more frustrating is when you use the material on one of your children with excellent outcomes, but it’s a complete failure on their sibling. Typically, I will hear parents say, “They both live in the same house, have the same parents, live with the same rules and experiences, how could they be so different?”
Welcome to parenting! If it were only so easy as to read a book and have all the answers. What many fail to realize is the uniqueness of every child. It’s for that reason that one size simply does not fit all. So, how do we go about raising these unique beings? Over the years, I have had the opportunity to try many different tactics and ideas. Some made me a believer, others, not so much. One thing I came to realize is that I needed to stop looking for “cookie-cutter” answers and take the time to learn who the child was. Let me explain.
I listen to people talk about bringing back paddling into the school, of which I’m not opposed. However, I will tell you that paddling is not the answer for all kids. I've dealt with some kids that need little more than a stern voice to curb an unwanted behavior. On the other hand, I’ve seen kids that I truly believed you could have hit with a 2x4 and they would respond with, “is that all you got”?
I’ve also heard people discuss how building confidence and self-esteem is critical. On the surface, this seems reasonable, but again one size does not fit all. Some kids come to us with confidence dripping out of their pores. In fact, if they don’t know how to handle it, they can be some of the worst people to associate with. Ever met someone who was always right or difficult to teach or coach? This type of confidence exudes itself as arrogance. And, yes, there are those kids that doubt everything they say or do. Never believing they are good enough, constantly seeking affirmation, and quite frankly, often just as difficult to be around as the arrogant child.
As a parent, understanding this scripture is critical to raising your unique child.
Romans 12:4-8 (NIV)
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Yes, every body part has significant value to the total body. One is not better than another. Would it make sense to make your eye function and behave like your ear? That’s ridiculous! So is it ridiculous to think we should expect the same function and behavior from our kids. Should they all go to college? Should they all play sports? Should they all like to read? Should they all be leaders? The easy answer is NO! But, way too often we see parents pushing things that may very well be what the world is saying is important, but not what God intended for your child.
How do we deal with these unique kiddos?
1. Spend time working on what your child needs the most help with. If your child is a naturally confident, borderline arrogant child, you may have to help them understand and practice humility. Teaching them how to listen to other’s point of view. Teaching them how to let others go first. Teaching them to be better listeners and value the opinions of others. Teaching them to openly admit when they are wrong and make necessary apologies.
If your child lacks confidence, then you most likely do not need to spend a great deal of time teaching humility. Rather, you could begin to work on their positive self-talk. You do not tolerate or accept excuses or down-trodden talk. You strongly challenge them to take action. If it leads to a win, you celebrate it. If it leads to a loss, you teach them how to learn from the failure.
2. Teach your child to NEVER be a Victim! No matter what cards your child has been dealt, they will have their share of failure in their life. Teaching your child to come out as a victor rather than a victim is a lifelong tool that will serve your child well no matter who they are. Whether your child is an academic genius, or struggling to pass school, a potential pro-athlete, or sitting the bench, you can still teach them the value in never being a victim. We do this by teaching our kids to own or take responsibility for everything they do. We do not tolerate excuses or blames. No, it’s not the referee’s fault that you lost the game. It may sound good at the time, but it completely removes responsibility from your child to get better. Teaching your child to be a victor is one of the most empowering things that you can do. They will no longer have to wait for things to go their way. They will begin to understand what it means to Make it a Great Day rather than Have a Great Day!
3. Teach your child the value of Self-Discipline. I remind my kids even when they don’t want to hear it; “I will discipline you until you can learn to discipline yourself!” That is the key to why we discipline our children. We really just need them to self-discipline. Again, no matter who your child is, research has proven time and time again, that a necessary trait for happiness and success in life is self-control. https://www.inc.com/rohini-venkatraman/science-says-self-control-is-a-key-success-factor-boost-yours-immediately-with-these-tips.html
Your kids will not like this parenting tactic, but you owe it to them to help them to practice the skill of self-control in their daily activities and decision making. Immediate gratification and self-control are on two opposite ends of the spectrum. Help your child move toward the side of long term success and happiness - self control!
4. Teach your child about God and why he created them the way they are. As your child grows up, they begin to have the ability to compare. Yes, they compare how good they are, how bad they are, how tall they are, how smart they are, how athletic they are, how artistic they are, and the list goes on. They soon realize that they are never going to be the best at everything. Someone will always be better! This is where we get into the self-esteem concerns. Self-esteem drops when a child believes there is something wrong with them. Simply stated; they aren’t good enough!
Teach your child about their total uniqueness. They entered this world as a unique Child of God made in His image. No one in the world is who they are. No one in the world has the exact combinations of talents, gifts, strengths, and weaknesses. This combination has been hand selected by God. Teach them to stop wanting to change what God has created and embrace who He intended them to be. Teach them to identify their strengths and then build them. Teach them to identify their weaknesses and how these weaknesses will help steer their path to serve out God’s intention for their life.
Don’t fall into the trap of letting the world determine who your child should be. Encourage them to be who God intended them to be. Like the old adage says, “God doesn’t make junk”!