When Big J was about to start kindergarten, a friend of mine told me about some parents she knew who were holding their children back a year, not because they needed to mature socially or because of a learning concern, but so they would be the bigger, more athletic kids in their class.
My jaw hit the floor. At the age of five, these children were already expected to have amazing athletic careers and the pressure was being put 0n them by their very own parents.
What if they have no interest in sports? What if they get burned out before they even hit high school? What if, despite being held back, they aren’t the biggest or strongest or most athletic?
I don’t know – maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but my heart hurts for these kids. And this situation really made me do a heart-check about raising children.
This post could really be titled several different things…
I don’t HAVE to raise an all-star athlete.
I don’t HAVE to raise a straight A student.
I don’t HAVE to raise a world-class musician.
When we put our main focus on raising talented children, we are missing God’s main calling to us as parents…
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. ~Proverbs 22:6
Our children need us to be more concerned about who they are than what they can accomplish. They should know following Jesus and having good character are more important than getting good grades or winning trophies. We may say these things are priorities, but we also have to show it in the way our families live and interact.
Use words that focus on your child’s character qualities, NOT on performance based abilities or talents. Do NOT get into the habit of praising performance!! When that is the end game, it plants seeds of unworth that we will always struggle to relinquish. ~Jen Schmidt
Jen’s children ARE beautiful and smart and athletic, but she models for us such a great way to show our children the important things in life. Their worth is not found on the football field or in the classroom, but in Jesus.
I have definitely fallen into the trap of praising performance over character. It is easy to reward accomplishments, but it takes work to really look for character growth and give specific feedback encouraging them in this area. It is worth that work.
I do not intend for this post to seem like we should completely ignore the talents our children exhibit. As our children grow, we will discover the interests and gifts God has designed in them. We will nourish and encourage those as only a loving parent can do. But let’s put aside our performance-based expectations and dreams for our children in favor of praying for and celebrating God’s work in their hearts.