Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Training Our Children To Know Themselves

While some of life is not predictable, it seems to me quite a bit is. Many times, if we look carefully, there is at least some method to the madness. There are certain laws about living that seem to cycle. As we study history, lives around us, and the Word of God, it is possible to gather wisdom and avoid a lot of heartache.

My mind travels back to early days with our girls. (Just so you don't misunderstand me, while I fully realize life is nowhere near over, and much could change, it seems to me our girls are both fully committed to doing the will of God, trusting in Jesus, and following His example as best they know. That being the present situation as I perceive it, I continue.) Thankfully, we had help in thinking critically about the effects our decisions would create. We were taught there is a continuous cause and effect to choices being made, that actions always bring consequences, and that it was up to us to study the end goal of training our children so that we could do our part (God certainly lovingly does His) in preparing our girls as best we could for what life would bring. We were cautioned vehemently to pay attention to this reality of life; I'm deeply grateful this insight was shared with us.

Training a child to begin the lifetime effort of "knowing" herself begins early. There are numerous parts to the project. On the changing table, when she starts to fling her arms and wiggle away; in the high chair as we train her to feed herself with dignity, when she first begins to express displeasure with having her will crossed; all of these scenarios are early opportunities to train her that there is structure and meaning to life, and she must surrender herself to that structure. As she matures, we must communicate continually, explaining each and every scenario from the Christian paradigm, building the mental framework in her mind that will be the foundation for future understanding. 

I remember Curt going on and on with long explanations to the girls (as he held their little face in his hands, insisting on eye contact) even when they were toddlers. (Some of our friends still tease us about that.) Whether or not those little minds fully comprehended, their attention span was stretched; and eventually we started adding questions to see what they were getting. That led to priceless conversations with quite little people. Any time we saw an action or attitude we didn't believe was right, we described how that action or attitude related to the framework of the Christian paradigm, and then we followed through, making sure it was clear that action or attitude would not be continuing.

For those of you who aren't sure what I mean, let me give examples. There are obvious things like hitting others, yelling at others, or saying no to a person in authority, but I am also talking about things like moodiness, whining, complaining, not concentrating, allowing the desire to be entertained to control you, not doing neat work, being wise in our own eyes, pursuing vanity, or putting ourselves ahead of others. Sadly, these actions and attitudes are often considered to just be expected from children. But when we vigilantly address each and every topic like this, accompanying such things with a discussion on how these things are connected to our problematic "natural" self (or "flesh," as Paul calls it), and we help our children understand themselves in that light, we are building their ability to "know themselves." Such training gives them tools, a framework that matches how life really works. They can use this understanding throughout life as thy face the myriad forces of the "flesh."

Does that make sense? There's really nothing magical about it. It's just consistent hard thinking and praying and acting upon what the Word teaches.

From what I can tell so far, understanding myself is a lifetime process. I have to stay vigilant or duplicity sets in, and before long problems arise. 

May God help us in this process, both as parents and in our own lives.