She Leads: Intentionally: Pt 3
When our daughter was around four years old she picked up the saying “what the…” She had no idea that most people who start a saying with “what the...” usually follow it up with a colorful word or two. At the tender age of four, my daughter didn’t know any colorful words yet, but that was not universally known by everyone around us. Inevitably she would say those two words in a crowded store or, even better, at church, and the room would go silent, everyone waiting for her to finish her sentence.
Just as inevitably, the moment those words were uttered all eyes would turn to my husband and me. Their eyes held a look of disappointment, and we would feel the need to explain that we didn’t know where she picked up that phrase because we don’t curse -- or start to curse or whatever -- in our house. All I know is somewhere in her four short years on earth she picked up that phrase and she loved to say those two little words as often as she could.
The moment my kids starting talking, I realized the impact of words and the power of words. There is no denying that words have the power to crush a person or to lift them up. Words have the power to set a course for greatness or tear down to worthlessness.
Even well-intentioned words of encouragement can be harmful. Growing up, my dad would always remind my brothers and me, “You are a leader, you are not a follower.” It is a great thing to tell your kids...unless your kids are not ready to lead or God didn’t design them to lead.
I was not ready to lead as a young adult, but I felt like I had to. So I would either avoid any activity that might force me to lead or I would step up and try to lead when I had no idea what I was doing. The results ended up crushing me rather than encouraging me. Years later, I can appreciate what my dad was trying to do. I know it came from a good place -- he had great intentions -- but it might have been easier for me if he had been intentional about leading me to be the best version of who God created ME to be.
To understand what words will encourage, motivate, and lift up the kids and teens in our lives, we must first study and understand who God made them to be.
We know our kids’ basic personalities in their first year. We are with them from day one, we know them, we study their likes and dislikes, we know how to communicate with them before they speak their first words.
But for some reason, as our kids get older we often stop getting to know them. We stop respecting who God made them to be. I think we sometimes forget that we are not creating them, God already did that in the womb. Our responsibility is to raise them and to guide them to become the best version of who God created them to be. We fail when we start seeing them through the lens of who we think they should be rather than seeing them as they actually are.
This sort of lax observation often goes hand in hand with lax parenting. I know I have made the mistake of using crutches and shortcuts to get through the day with no other goal than to make my job of parenting easier. The fact is, it’s easier to parent the cookie-cutter child you think you have than it is to parent the unique child you actually have.
When we do this, our words of encouragement or guidance or disciple can become harmful and hurtful. They may even start to put a divide between who you want them to be and who God created them to be. While our intentions may be good, our actions are not intentional.
Raising our little ones with intention can be exhausting and draining. It can feel overwhelming and hard to navigate. But it’s important to note that all those feelings are about us. When we are entrusted with raising children, no matter how old they are, it’s not about us and our feelings. Rather, it’s all about them and raising them to live out the purpose God has for them. As Proverbs 22:6 says, our job is to put them on the right path. If we get intention right, we can get it all right. Being an intentional parent means everything we say and do is to get them as close as we can to who God made them to be.
If your child is a leader, the goal is not to break them so they are easier to manage. The goal is to teach them how to be teachable while making wise choices. If your child is a supporter, the goal should not be to teach them not to support all things. The goal is to teach them to support God things.
Our kids will one day revisit our specific words and our overall message. Whether our intent was to encourage, discipline, disciple, or direct, one day our kids will come back to our words and message, and when they are under pressure they will follow the path you put them on when they were younger. Speak intentionally to your kids today with their future God purpose in mind.