Today I am pleased to have Stacey as a guest blogger to share her heart concerning establishing our children’s identity in Christ. I pray it is encouraging and please be sure to stop by and visit her at www.staceypardoe.com.
The sticky heat of August lingers long when my husband unrolls the garden hose after dinner. He begins by spraying down the tomato plants, squash, and carrots. Somewhere in the midst of his watering, a barefoot 5-year-old finds a squirt gun, and the war is soon on.
Water is thrown, sprayed, and squirted for about five minutes when an almost-2-year-old brother decides to step from the safety of the deck and join in the fun. Bliss ensues for approximately thirty seconds, at which point, the big sister sprays her protégée in the face with the hose.
He screams in sheer terror immediately, and she falls to the ground in sobs, hitting her head with her fist repeatedly. The parent intervention is quick, and while Daddy wipes the face of the little guy, I hold the sweet girl who’s still trying to hit herself. This is the first time we’ve seen this behavior.
She’s almost calm when I rub her cheek and ask, “Sweetie, why were you hitting yourself? You didn’t mean to scare your brother, and it’s ok.”
“I’m bad,” she says. “I’m just always messing up. I’m no good.”
I stand in shock – wondering where these thoughts were hiding. In five years, she’s never once heard her parents utter anything of the sort. I’m amazed this is her response to a simple hose mishap.
We sit in the wet grass for a long time and talk about mistakes, love, God, and identity. It’s a deep talk for a 5-year-old, and it’s a talk we’ll have again countless times as she grows into a woman. We’ll keep having this talk because as humans, we tend to forget. We forget who we are if we don’t remind ourselves.
We’ve had at least ten talks on identity in the past six months. In aiming to build our children up on the solid rock of Christ as a firm foundation, here are several steps to take to help our children develop a firm identity in Christ:
Teach Them What Identity in Christ Means
This might seem obvious, but we should directly approach the subject of identity in Christ on a regular basis. The world bombards us with options for building faulty identities: success, material positions, social status, achievement, talents, and more. It’s easy for well-meaning Christ-followers to drift into these worldly mindsets if we don’t continuously remind ourselves of our core identities.
Having an identity in Christ means I derive all my worth and value through who I am in Christ. I don’t seek worldly success or anything else to establish my identity. The question must next be asked, Who am I in Christ? The most basic answer is this: You are his, and you are loved simply because you are his.
Affirm Effort over Attributes
In a world that applauds intelligence, beauty, charisma, and charm, it’s easy to build our kids up by saying things like, “You’re so smart,” or “You’re so pretty.” And we should say these things to our kids. They need to hear these words from their parents and mentors. But we need to affirm their efforts just as much, if not more than we affirm their fixed attributes.
Instead of consistently telling my daughter, “You’re so smart,” when we look over her school papers together, I try to affirm her effort by saying things like, “I’m so proud of you for working so hard.” When we show that we value effort, our children see that they aren’t stuck in a fixed category of “pretty,” “smart,” or “funny.” We’re actually encouraging them to keep working hard and adopt a growth-oriented mindset, instead of believing they are what they are.
Establish Attributes as Gifts from God
When I do praise the natural gifts, talents, and attributes of my children, I try to remember to make it clear that these attributes are gifts from God. When a child sees that her intelligence and compassion are gifts from God, she is more likely to use them for his glory as she grows and matures. Gifts are meant to be shared, and God wants to direct the gifts of our children so that other people will be blessed by them.
Love Them Just for being Yours
Early in my years of a mother, I heard the story of a mom who daily held her son, looked in his eyes, and asked, “Do you know why I love you so much?”
Her son soon learned the simple answer and began to repeat it back to her, “Because I’m yours.”
“That’s right,” she remarked. She then went on to tell him that she loved him on his good days, bad days, and every day in between, simply because he was hers.
We should put this into practice in the lives of our children. When a child can understand that he is loved simply because he belongs to a loving parent, he is free from the inclination to try to perform to please others. He is also positioned to understand that just as a parent can love in this way, so can Jesus.
Affirm Them in the Midst of Failure
Our kids need our affirmation when they fail. The greater the failure, the more affirmation needed. I’ll never forget the phone call I received the evening after I lost the race that ended my high school track career. It was a call from my coach. He told me that in twenty years of coaching, I was one of the best leaders he’d ever coached. He reminded me that even though I lost the biggest race of my life, I had succeeded in mentoring dozens of younger athletes throughout the past four years. His affirmation reminded me of the calling on my life and gave me hope.
We need to speak these same affirming words when our children fail. Whether it’s the life-changing failure of losing a college scholarship or the elementary failure of putting a shirt on backwards, our children need to hear we believe in them when they fail. This establishes the truth that we are not defined by our performance or success in life. We are defined by being loved unconditionally by God.
Establishing identity in Christ is a long, slow journey. It happens one day at a time, one week at a time, and one month at a time. It’s ok to mess up every now and then. My mistakes are an opportunity to show my understanding of Christ’s unshakeable love for me. Kids see what it means for their parents to walk in the identity of Christ and are prone to follow. As a parent, you are deeply and unshakably loved by your Heavenly Father. Keep living from that love and extending it to your children.
About the Author:
Stacey is a wife, mother of two, freelance journalist, mentor, and more. She is most passionate about sharing her love of Christ with the world.
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