The Method Drowned the Message

It feels like yesterday when my firstborn would climb onto my lap to read a book. Well, I read. She turned pages–sometimes too quickly. One day, she brought me this book about a sad sheep. (I can’t remember why the sheep was sad.) I liked to do voices when I read (still do!), and I voiced the sheep as if he was horribly upset. After about three words, she turned around with a look of horror on her face and tears in her eyes. Before I could react, she burst into tears and pushed the book away. I’m not sure we ever read that book again.

The method of my delivery drowned out the message of the story.

Twelve years later… Continue reading “The Method Drowned the Message”

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Goal-Setting for Children

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

violin-close-up
music lessons (c) Carole Sparks

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

gymnastics-assist
gymnastics assist (c) Carole Sparks

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

11-21 read Bible story (2)
(c) Carole Sparks

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

02-17-jo-hangs-with-big-boys-2
kid spectators (c) Carole Sparks

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.

4 #IntentionalParenting goals to help our children grow in #2017.

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!

Wisdom for Parenting Teenagers

Review and Interaction with Paul David Tripp’s Age of Opportunity

What are your end-goals in parenting? What are you trying to accomplish with and in your children? Perhaps you say, “Why, Carole, I’m just trying to make it through today!” Are you merely surviving? Maybe you think, “I guess I just want them to have good job and contribute to society.” On the bad days, most of us would say, “I just want them to move out!” Have you ever thought about why God made you a parent? If you take this Intentional Parenting thing seriously, you will ask yourself these kinds of questions.

In lieu of a guest post this month, I’m sharing some thoughts, quotes, and reactions from Paul David Tripp’s Age of Opportunity, subtitled “A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens.” (I’m quoting from the 2001 paperback edition, published by P&R Publishing in Phillipsburg, New Jersery.) There were so many good nuggets! These quotes don’t do it justice.

I purchased this book when my firstborn was turning twelve. Typical of my reading habits, however, I didn’t start reading it for a long time, then I read it in small doses. She’s already thirteen, and I just now finished it.

Alongside solid counseling and anecdotal observations, Tripp shares many personal stories—some successes and some failures. The reader will sense that he is walking alongside Mr. Tripp in this parenting pilgrimage toward godly, loving adulthood. Also, there’s a group study guide at the back…could be very helpful.

The book is divided into three sections.

In part one, Clearing the Debris, Tripp defines the family and the role of parents in a teenager’s life. From the very first page, it’s clear that parenting struggles in the teen years are as much about the parent as the child. This is not a how-to-fix-your-child book. In fact, if you are unwilling to examine your own life—especially your faith and habits—don’t read this book.

Parenting is hard work. It requires being ‘on’ all the time and watching for opportunities to speak Truth into your child’s life (regardless of age).

“Every moment of family life is a teaching moment!” (pg. 42) [click to tweet]

Having written about it previously, I was perhaps most thrilled to read that teenage rebellion is not a given. We don’t have to batten down the hatches and ride out six years of storms! Regardless of our children’s ages or the mistakes we’ve already made, Tripp encourages us that these relationships are redeemable.

In Setting Godly Goals, Tripp examines the Biblical approach to parenting and answers the questions I posed in the first paragraph above. What are we trying to do here? And how do we expect to “successfully” parent without clear goals and strategies in place?

“We want to know the heart of our teenager, to help him see his heart as it really is, and to be used of God to help produce a heart ruled by nothing else but God and his truth.” (pg. 89)

“We want to be used of God to produce young adults who understand the spiritual implications of everything they do.” (pg. 118)

“It is of paramount importance that we do not think for our children, but teach them how to think about life.” (pg. 137)

Like in the first section, much of Tripp’s message points back to the parents. For example:

“Too often, what we call convictions are actually preferences. Real convictions are based on revealed truth (that is, Scripture). Preferences are based on personal desire. Convictions are constant; preferences change with desire.” (pg. 131-132) He goes on with the contrast.

When parenting teenagers, we hold firm to convictions, but the rest—however painful—can be disregarded. Rarely will our children turn out just like us, and we should be thankful for that!

“We need to be careful to distinguish between difference and sin, between alternative perspectives and rebellion against authority. We need to see the difference between an appropriate choice and disobedience. We need to wisely welcome and encourage differences while lovingly confronting sin.” (pg. 251)

By the way, the last chapter in this section, called “Leaving Home,” made me cry, and I’ve got five years before it happens! I know it’s good and right for them to leave…but gosh, it’s going to be hard.

I found the final section, Practical Strategies for Parenting Teens, to be less helpful. In large part, it reviews much of the previous section but with different formatting. Still, review is good. There is also a set of questions (pg. 229) that will help in those moments when I just want to blurt, “What were you thinking?!?” I may need to keep a copy nearby.

“Rather than seeking to get our teenagers under our control, we want to be used of God so that they would joyfully submit to his [control].” (pg. 227)

One of his most intriguing ideas parallels the family unit with the church. As parents, we are the shepherds or pastors for our children, leading them toward Christlikeness. If we think of parenting in this way (which, by the way, syncs with his brother’s book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart), we maintain our focus on their spiritual development. Not that we should preach or sing praise choruses all the time, but the family functions like the body of Christ in which each member receives respect (even the headstrong teenager) and all are led by One who has their best interests at heart. That kind of family can change the world!

“The church of Jesus Christ, the Christian family, was never meant to exist as an isolated ghetto in the middle of a darkened and broken culture. We are called by Christ to be participants in the world as his agents of redemption.” (pg. 165)

I strongly recommend this book. I can’t imagine anything better for parenting this age group. If, however, you simply don’t have the patience to read the whole book, borrow it from someone and read the final chapter. Change is possible in your relationship with your teenager. This is where it starts.