Even though it’s only mid-December and the biggest event of the year is still ten days away, I find myself already looking toward the new year. I’m not big on making resolutions, but I do like to use the fresh year as a kicking-off-point for new habits or emphases. If you’re the same, you know it takes forethought and prayerful consideration to implement meaningful change—in ourselves and in our children.
In Shepherding a Child’s Heart (which I also mentioned last week), Tedd Tripp offers guidance on how and why we, as parents, should set goals for our children. There’s no need to rehash that. Let’s look instead at what sort of goals we might set for our children.
In my parenting, I often come back to this one verse.
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. -Luke 2:52
(I wrote about Luke 2:52 as a guide for prayer in the past.) When we think about the young Jesus, we know he didn’t grow up in a vacuum. Joseph, Mary, and others influenced his maturity. I’m a little jealous; that must have been the easiest parenting job ever! For the rest of us parents—the ones raising non-God-incarnate children—it’s even more important to intentionally influence every facet of our children’s maturation.
This verse provides us with four areas of growth. Applied to goal-setting, the short version looks like this:
1 achievement, 1 skill, 1 spiritual growth, 1 relationship
Let’s brainstorm some ideas.
Wisdom: intellectual development
Set one goal related to their education, learning, or other thinking/mental skills. This could be a skill or an achievement. Some possibilities:
- Learn to read chapter books.
- Improve average grade (overall or in one subject) by one letter grade.
- Attend a special class or camp that emphasizes an area of personal interest such as environmental sciences, computer coding, painting, soccer, etc.
- Learn to play an instrument or, if they already play, learn a significantly more difficult piece.
- Learn another language such as sign language or Spanish. Connect this with their social development by finding someone they would like to talk with.
Stature: physical development
There’s not much we or our children can do about their height or shoe size, but we can help them practice a healthy lifestyle or improve their fitness. Set one goal related to their physical development, also either a skill or an achievement. Something like…
- Learn to ride a bike.
- Learn a new sport.
- Achieve a new level in their existing sport. For example, earn the next belt in karate or make the varsity team in his/her sport.
- Accomplish a fitness goal such as running a 10-minute mile.
- Learn to eat three new healthy foods.
- Learn to cook something specific, learn a certain type of cooking, or learn how to do some household chore. (Don’t just say “learn to cook.” That’s too broad to measure.) Last year, my oldest learned to use the washer and dryer. This year, maybe we’ll focusing on cooking some simple dishes.
Favor with God: spiritual development
How can we help our children grow closer to God through the year? Consider one of these or something else that fits your child’s interests and current maturity level.
- Become consistent in having a daily quiet time or personal devotion.
- Memorize a certain number of Bible verses. (Personally, I’m planning to memorize twenty-four passages in 2017!)
- Work on one aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) such as kindness or self-control. This one will take some extra effort on your part, parent, to find actions and/or practices specifically targeting this one thing.
- Begin paying attention and/or taking notes in “big church.” Start with once/month or five minutes/sermon.
- Learn a certain number of Bible stories (great for younger children). Maybe one per month?
- Improve upon one spiritual discipline such as meditation or generosity (great for older children).
- Read a certain numbers of books related to spiritual growth. I’m challenging my teen to read one non-fiction book per month, mostly faith-based. John Piper’s Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ is a great one for thinking teens to start with.
Favor with Man: social development
Without a little encouragement, our children fall into relationship ruts just like we do. Talk with them about how they want to grow this coming year. Some options might be…
- Intentionally make a new friend at school or church.
- Reconcile with someone they don’t like or with whom they had a fight. This starts with praying for that person.
- Learn how to make “small talk” with adults.
- Compliment/encourage someone every day.
- Learn another language so they can talk to someone in that person’s “heart language.” (See intellectual development above.)
- Learn a technique for diffusing conflict—one they can practice with siblings.
As you look toward 2017, pray through what sort of goals God is leading you to set regarding your children. Ask Him to reveal areas where they need purposeful intervention, bringing them into the conversation at an appropriate level. For my older children, they fully participate in the process, but younger children may need more guidance from you.
After you’ve set your goals, don’t just leave them at the level of ideas. Goals need action plans or steps toward fulfillment. Sit down with your kids and discuss the small steps that will lead to big growth in 2017. Look at your own life, too. We have to model before we can teach. This is why I’m signing up to learn twenty-four Bible passages this year. I need accountability for my own spiritual growth, and I want to model the importance of Scripture memory to my children.
And finally, follow up! Through the year, revisit the goals. Are you seeing growth? Do you need to adjust something? Are they experiencing the difference? Encourage them to stay faithful to the task…and you stay faithful, too. Jesus grew up at the same rate that our children do. He didn’t achieve wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man in one day or even one year. This is an eighteen-year process, parents!
Then celebrate at the end of 2017! Recognize your children’s achievements. Talk about how they’ve grown and what changes you’ve seen.
As you anticipate Intentional Parenting in 2017, I pray this brainstorming session helps you set significant, achievable goals for and with your children. If you’ve been encouraged, please share this post using the tweet below.
What goals are you setting in 2017 for your children or for yourself as a parent? Join this brainstorming session (in the comments below), and you’ll be helping us all!