broken hearts

free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of my children broke my heart the other day. They made a poor choice that really disappointed me. I hurt for them and for the other people involved.

That was not the first time I hurt for one of my very normal, very imperfect children… and I am sure it won’t be the last time.

I’m confident that my children often have no idea how their choices and actions affect me as their mom. They certainly pay the major part the actual physical, emotional, and financial consequences, but there is a ripple effect from all they do.

As a parent, I carry part of their experience with me. I grieve the unfulfilled dreams and hopes I had for them. My heart aches for their loss. I cry for their pain. I pray for further growth and maturity. My soul yearns for their forgiveness and healing.

GRACE

I have learned through my own mistakes over the years that grace is a precious gift to receive during times of pain. My children are usually completely aware of their error; they don’t need judgement, criticism or lectures. They do need to know that – whatever happens – I love them still.

CHOICES

I need grace too. I could beat myself up with self-doubts, guilt and second-guessing. Was there a lack in my parenting that somehow “caused” this? Did I not hug, teach or discipline enough? Although I already know that my parenting is not perfect, it was helpful when a friend reminded me that even God – the perfect Father – has imperfect, mistake-ridden, continually erring children. Our situations are very rarely simple cause and effect. Each one makes their own choices.

NEED

In the midst of the ups and downs of life, my (almost adult) children need me. Some times they need someone to listen; other times then need a long, strong hug. Some times they need practical help; some times they need me to “just” pray and give them time and space to work things out. Some times they need advice, counsel and the encouragement to reconcile, restore and choose better the next time.

…because there will be a next time. I would do almost anything to protect my children from pain. When they were very little, I could fool myself occasionally into thinking that I could control their environment and choices. I know better now.

The question is not IF my children will avoid poor choices and pain. Instead WHEN they are hurt and hurt others, the question is HOW will I respond?

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How do you respond to your children’s (or others’) poor choices? What helps you respond well?

parents building world leaders

Photo courtesy of Sarah Joelle Photography http://www.sarahjoellephotography.com/

In the middle of diapers, bottles, tantrums, and discipline, it may not seem like you are building world leaders, but YOU ARE! You will never invest more time, energy or love in another disciple, mentee, or young leader as you will in your own children. What you teach them when they are young is important… and is the basis for deep values and convictions they will – or won’t – have when they are adults. Here are a few “leadership training ideas” that we tried to implement as a parents that we hope have helped our children better prepare for the world tomorrow.

Value people – We taught our children to greet people respectfully. When we introduced them to someone, we asked them to respond with “hello” and a handshake or other appropriate greeting. As they got older, a “It’s nice to meet you. My name is…” was appropriate. Maybe there was a question or two more; then they could run off to play. They didn’t have to stay around for boring adult conversation unless they wanted, or it was appropriate. We felt that we did them no favor to excuse their disobedience with, “He’s too shy.” Just as God values people, they learned to value people also. As adults, they will have opportunities to say hello to the person next to them on the plane or next door, or at work. We hope they will remember their training and think, “I can do that… just say hello. If the conversation goes further, that’s great. If not, ok too. But I can show them honor and respect. I can do that.” Who knows where a simple introduction might lead…

Healthy Limits – I wasn’t sure why I didn’t like my child playing with the things in my purse. I thought maybe I was being selfish, that they were just curious and exploring. But I soon realized that children should learn healthy limits. We taught them that not everything in the house was theirs to touch or take. It was important that they learned to ask permission before touching something that belonged to someone else, whether it belonged to their brother, sister, parent, or friend. When they practiced this at home, it was not so difficult to take them to visit somewhere else. When children learn that not everything is theirs, they are better prepared as adults to be content with what is theirs and to appropriately respect the bodies and belongings of others.

Flexibility – We traveled often and needed “reproducible routine”. Especially at bedtime, we wanted a routine that was easy do somewhere else: story, prayer, maybe a favorite blanket/toy… but not complete dark, fan, no noise, etc that might be impossible in new places later. This simplicity allowed our children to be much more flexible for traveling and for practicing hospitality (sharing or giving up their room temporarily for others). They learned that, “Not everyone is always going to cater to you!” This helped to temper selfishness and “high maintenance” in the future.

Communicate – Communication skills are so important, and there are so many ways to grow those skills when children are little. The key for us was: Don’t speak for them once they can say it themselves. Even before they can talk, we taught them to communicate “please” and “thank you” with sign language. They learned to apologize and ask for forgiveness. We gave them opportunities to go to the counter to ask for a straw or napkin. When they were older, we encouraged them to talk with a teacher about getting extra help to improve a poor grade. As children learn to communicate, they gain confidence and ability. They learn to build relationships and to use their words to bring blessing to others.

These are just a few training opportunities for our young leaders. We would often say, “We’ll always love our children, but we want other people to like them too.” There are long-term benefits for our daily efforts. You are building the future!

What are some of your training opportunities?  How do you keep the future in mind as you raise up your future world leaders?