View each child as a unique individual, assuming that each is gifted in some particular area.
In an achievement-oriented society such as ours, there is a tendency to equate our significance or importance with our ability to perform certain tasks.
Even as Christians we tend to evaluate our worth on the basis of what we have done rather than on the basis of who we are in Christ. As we mature in our faith, however, the Holy Spirit is constantly at work within us, helping us realize where our true identity is found. "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God" (1 Corinthians 2:12).
When we put ourselves on a performance scale to measure our worth and significance, we tend to put those around us on one as well. Thus, we accept others on the same erroneous, artificial basis that we accept ourselves. Unfortunately, our children often bear the brunt of our insecurities as adults.
Our personal struggles with self-esteem overflow into our expectations of them. Since we are never quite satisfied with our own performance or appearance, we find it difficult to be satisfied with theirs.
STRIKING A BALANCE
A balance exists between accepting any kind of behavior in which your children engage and being dissatisfied with everything they do. If you are to motivate your children to excellence without expressing an attitude of conditional acceptance, two things must be true.
First, all your prodding and motivating must be preceded by demonstrations of your unconditional love for your children.
There must be events or conversations that have clearly expressed your love: a gift, an item of clothing, or even the bestowal of certain privileges. In presenting the gift, stress several times that it is not connected with any particular occasion or activity on their part; you are giving it just because you love them.
The second thing that must be true if you are to motivate your children to excellence properly is that the standard by which you measure them must be their own ability, not somebody else's.
They must be motivated on the basis of whether or not they are doing their best. Comparing one child's performance to that of another child eventually destroys the child's self-esteem, and along with that go expressions of individuality and creativity.
View each child as a unique individual, assuming that each is gifted in some particular area. Recognize that area of strength and emphasize it as your child develops. In these areas of strength lies your child's greatest potential.
REBELLION OR CREATIVITY?
Along these same lines it is important for you as a parent to make a distinction between individuality and creativity and rebellion. In many cases a child's creativity and individuality is misunderstood as rebellion.
As parents, we sometimes have a tendency to fear new things when our children are involved. Our emotional involvement sometimes causes us to jump to conclusions that are not only wrong but also harmful to the self- image of our children. In an attempt to "deliver" them from something we see as potentially harmful, we sometimes take away avenues through which they can legitimately express their God-given creativity. When parents do this, children usually interpret it as rejection.
TESTING THE WATERS
The following questions are designed to give you some indication of how you are doing in the area of accepting your children unconditionally. It would be a good idea to go over these questions alone and then compare your responses with those of your spouse.
• How do you feel when your children make mistakes in public?
• What is your initial verbal response to your children after public mistakes?
• How do you respond to your peers who are aware of your children's mistakes?
• Do you emphasize the development of particular abilities over the development of character?
• When punishing or rewarding your children, do you clearly delineate between performance and value?
EVALUATING THE RESULTS
If your initial response to your children's behavior is embarrassment . . . . then this may indicate that you are overly concerned with behavior rather than character. Character is not something highly valued in society. Our children will get little or no reinforcement for having strong character outside the home, so it is most important that the development of strong character be emphasized and rewarded in the home.
One good way to find out whether or not your children feel unconditional acceptance is simply to ask them: What do you think it would take for you to make me proud of you? Their answer will give you insight into what you have communicated, regardless of what you have been saying.
–Taken from How to Keep Your Kids on Your Team by Dr. Charles F. Stanley, © 1986,Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Copyright © 1997 January IN TOUCH magazine
IN TOUCH MINISTRIES®, ITM, Inc.
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Used with Permission