Thursday, September 06, 2012

Left, Right, & Servant-Hearted Kids

Ahh, Facebook, how you can bless me!  It's cool because it's a network of friends-- people you know from all different circles and stages of life, with all sorts of opinions and ideas and priorities and expertises, and so you are exposed to completely "unrelated" things one right after another, which then connect uniquely in your own brain.  This post comes from one such "connection"... made around 4 am, one of Liam's favorite meal times.  (This kid is a wonderful sleeper, though-- usually goes from 9-4 without a peep, then again to 7 or 8!)

First comes a link to a great little broadcast series from Family Life radio (thank you, Allison for linking to this!).  The series is called Cleaning House, and it's Kay Wyma summarizing her book Cleaning House: A Mom's Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement.  One day, this mom of 5 realized that doing everything for her kids-- cooking, cleaning, fixing, chauffeuring, etc.-- was actually handicapping them.  We parents teach our kids SO MUCH, even unintentionally.  When we do everything for them-- out of love!-- we are teaching them that they can't do it themselves, that they deserve to have others do it for them, and we are totally neglecting to teach them to look outside themselves and see what they can do for others.  You'd think kids would pick up on serving others by constantly being served, but unfortunately due to our sinful selfish hearts, that's just not how it works.  So this mom & her husband came up with 12 life skills they wanted their children to have and focused on introducing one a month-- skills like laundry, cooking, yard work, cleaning, and serving others.  By the end of it, even their 8-year old was completely preparing, serving & cleaning up after a meal, for instance.

I LOVED her observations that one reason teenagers in our culture tend to pull away from the family is that they aren't "needed" by the family.  Whereas before kids were necessary for the family's survival-- either as apprentices in a growing trade, harvesters in a sustenance farm, wage-earners whose wages purchased seed corn, or co-laborers in the family kitchen-- now, affluance means kids can play video games all day and no one in the family suffers.  Who wants to feel useless and unappreciated?  No wonder peers who need and value you seem more important than Mom & Dad!  The truth is, families DO need every one of their members in order to do as much as they can for God's Kingdom.

Even at age 2, Eowyn loves helping me in the kitchen- mixing, sorting silverware, and setting the table.
We really do a disservice to our children by not allowing them the freedom to fail.  I so appreciated it when my principal made a rule outlawing parents coming to school after a certain time or students calling their parents to bring forgotten items.  If a kid forgot his lunch, he went hungry or his friends helped him out.  The hours between breakfast and dismissal sure seemed longer, but I'm guessing most kids forgot a grand total of twice at most.  Same with assignments due or textbooks for open-book tests.  Kids learned very quickly that their "forgetting" had consequences, and that them asking Mom to drop everything and bring them something was not fair to her.  These chances to fail in a safe way (forgetting a paper and getting a 10 point late penalty is not really a crisis in the grand scheme of things) are crucial in teaching kids responsibility and building TRUE self-worth, because by failing and trying again kids learn that they CAN succeed.  While doing kids' homework for them helps short-term, it absolutely does not prepare them for real life... which is the point of homework, right?

But what I most appreciated about Kay's "experiment" was that her goal wasn't just to raise independent, self-confident kids, though that is a result.  Nor was it to make her own life easier (nothing sits worse in a kid's stomach than their parents complaining about how much work they are).  Neither was her goal to raise fulfilled, happy kids, though that is also a result.  No, the ultimate goal is right in line with Scripture:  the raising of children with the heart and ability to serve others.  Kids who know all that goes into preparing a meal, maintaining a home, keeping a job, or watching little ones will know how to help others in those tasks, and be able to help them.  I've had other mom friends tell me that they appreciate it when I come over because as a fellow mom I know what likely needs doing and how to do it.  I want my kids to be self-starting servants who do what needs doing without being asked.

Now to these thoughts add this political chart. My first reaction when looking at it was "oooh how helpful in understanding & comparing the two value systems!"  When you read either side, you see how they both have honorable intentions and both "sound good"!  Let's leave that aside, though, and zoom in on the parenting goal.  To the left, we have the "self-nurturing child, who, through openness, empathy & self-examination becomes a fulfilled adult."  To the right, we have the "self-reliant child, who through self-confidence, self- discipline, and strong morals becomes a self-reliant adult."  It hit me that both ideals fall short, because both end with the child.  A self-nurtured, fulfilled child left to himself is selfish and self-absorbed, with life being all about his own happiness.  A self-reliant, self-confident child left to himself is equally selfish and self-absorbed, proud, graceless, and determined to make his own life exactly what he wants it to be.  The Gospel takes the best of both "sides" and goes beyond it.  I could have labeled this post "Why Neither the Left nor Right Can Save Us."  The Gospel is our only hope-- individually and communally.

Jesus makes life all about knowing Him, pleasing Him, bringing honor to Him-- not self.  The Gospel declares us to be incredibly needy and broken, yet through the Cross and Resurrection makes us capable and grateful.  We have been shown so much mercy, so much self-sacrificial service, that we are able and wanting to serve and extend grace to others.  We have the power of the Holy Spirit to empower us.  We're free from trying to be happy now in 2 ways:  1, we know the source of all Joy, the One we were made to love, so we can be TRULY happy; 2, we know that the best is yet to come-- Heaven!!

So, here's my goal:  to raise kids that are 1. fulfilled because they treasure and are treasured by Jesus Christ, and 2. self-reliant in that they are able to serve those around them.  I want my kids to take their internal joy and abilities beyond themselves, out into the world to be gracious servants of all.  Guess I'd better be a good example!  These thoughts have been typed out between nap & snack times so please pardon their disjointedness, and please comment!

No comments: