Parenting is not an exact science, to be sure. When our children are young and we are in the trenches, doing the day-to-day work of it, we don’t often step back to think about the character outcomes that we want to achieve in our kids.
As I look at my children now, who are all grown and on their own (all except my daughter who is still in high school), I see the characteristics they developed here at home that now serve them well out in the world, making them awesome human beings and allowing them to make an impact for Christ where he has planted them. I also see the areas where perhaps we should have focused more of our attention while raising them. Hind sight is 20/20, right?
In thinking about the kind of adults we are raising, we as parents need to ask ourselves, “What do I need to be teaching and reinforcing in my kids now, that will make them effective and caring human beings when they are grown?”
In other words, what are the character traits adults need to effectively impact others for the kingdom and to lead people to Christ instead of driving them away? I have identified four key traits here that I believe are important:
1- Humility. A truly humble person is a magnet to others, drawing people in, making them feel comfortable and secure. By contrast, no one likes to be around a person who is arrogant or prideful… turning every conversation into an opportunity to talk about himself or to show how much he knows about a given topic. An arrogant person often thinks that he is better than other people…too good to engage in conversation with those he deems unworthy or not as intelligent. Although we want our children to have self-confidence, we need to do our best to instill in them a humble spirit…praising them when they do their best, but always reminding them that anything they have or are, comes from the Lord. Teach them that every human being is equally loved and treasured by God.
2- Kindness. When your children are grown they need to treat all people, regardless of race, social status, or physical appearance, with kindness and respect. Therefore, we as parents, need to model this for them now as we go about our daily lives. Model for them kindness to strangers, the elderly, and the infirm. Praise them when they are kind to their siblings and friends…even when they are kind to their pets! The world is hurting for people who can exhibit kindness in all kinds of situations rather than apathy or disdain.
3- Approachability. This somewhat ties in with humility and is such an important trait for people to have if they are to impact the world for Christ. We all know folks who seem to have a wall up, no sign of a smile on their face, perhaps with arms crossed, almost daring someone to approach or ask a question of them. This kind of “closed” demeanor can be a great impediment to building relationships, which is where the seed of sharing the gospel is often planted.
4- Willingness to forgive. Your children will not be very effective in shining the light of Christ in the world if they take everything personally and refuse to forgive others. The world is full of imperfect people (including yours truly), who will need to be forgiven when they mess up…even when they don’t ask to be forgiven! The home is a great place to practice this habit. Showing forgiveness paints a picture for others of the gift of God’s forgiveness of us and his payment for our sin.
As Christian parents we want our children to impact the world for Jesus Christ once they are out on their own. Sometimes we forget about that and instead focus mostly on grades, sports achievement, or helping our kids to attain popularity among their peers by buying all the latest gadgets, dressing them in the trendiest styles and making sure their social calendar is full. When we do that we handicap their witness and rob them of the blessing of someday influencing a neighbor, friend or co-worker to come to Christ. Don’t forget that you are raising the adults of tomorrow. Focus now on what’s important in order for them to be effective and successful Christ-followers, helping them to develop humility, kindness, approachability and a willingness to forgive.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)