Monday, December 19, 2016

The BEST Gift for Your Child...

The BEST Gift for Your Child at Christmas (or anytime)!
I am a mom and grandmother, not a child rearing professional or psychologist, so let me preface this by stating that my thoughts are born from personal experience with my children and grandchildren and from many years of conversation with the parents of children I've watched grow into adulthood. The successes of friends and family (and some admitted failures) prompt this post, and while not comprehensive, I hope you'll find some helpful thoughts during this family focused, child-centric season of joy.
Your children are the greatest gift from God you'll receive apart from your salvation. They have been entrusted to you alone to shepherd their hearts and give them what they most need, but before we discuss what that is, let's talk about what it is not:
1. Stuff. Your children need your love, time and attention, not the trappings of this world and its counterfeit imitations that will never be sufficient to replace intentional investment in the training of their minds and spirits. Giving gifts at Christmas is a joy, but "things" will never be an appropriate substitute for time spent with them. To a kid, time equals love and memories of special moments will remain when a toy has been tossed, replaced, donated, or forgotten.
2. Constant Structured Activity. If you think your little ones need to be busy with some sort of organized event (sport, lesson, group) for the MAJORITY of their waking hours lest they become bored (or worse, delinquent) you may be unwittingly preventing one of the paramount prizes of healthy childhood: unleashed imagination. The ability to play in the realm of the imaginary is fleeting. This season of life offers your child the opportunity to explore possibilities in their minds that may become realities in the future in the way of discovery, investigation, and invention. Don't allow these precious people to grow up without ample time for imaginative play without grown-up organization, structure, or interference.
3. All the Devices. Most of the parents I know are aware enough of the dangers of this to monitor screen time. But if your child is begging, pleading, or bemoaning the fact that he is the only kid without a smart phone (ipad, etc.) and you are tempted to give in, let me ask you to prayerfully consider risking their present disappointment for their future mental health. To put it simply: do not allow your child to become part of a dangerous experiment. If they are getting a device, make sure you’re prepared to set limits and to oversee its usage with diligence. Allowing a screen (even if it's your television) to babysit children is tempting but we all know that unsupervised access to the internet, gaming or tv can be a recipe for disaster. Today’s, scientific evidence proves that young brains are rewired and negatively affected by constant connectivity to screens. The current and prevailing information is troubling at best, horrifying at worst. Let me encourage you to love them enough to say no even if you're accused of being the worst, most evil parent in the world. The Silicon Valley parents who create much of these technologies don’t let their kids use it according to a recent report. Maybe we should take the hint.
4. The Authority. You are the parent. Each time this role is reversed, whether from guilt, exhaustion, frustration, or weakness, your child assumes a position that puts him in an improper place in your family. When you as the mom fail to exercise your duty to command and demand, to discipline and train, you may one day suffer the heartache that seems to plague too many parents of adult children today. The immediate ramifications of the abdication of your designated role may be that others see your young children as unruly (or worse, bratty) but future problems may be even more troubling. The child who is able to rule his home's roost often becomes the adult who expects the world to revolve around him. He might adopt the posture of the entitled, demanding adult who is incapable of dealing with disappointments, set-backs, or trials with healthy competence. He will thank you later (and you won’t regret it.) Trust me on this one.
So what do they most need? They need to know that they are third in your life. (Second if you are a single parent.) The best gift you can give your child at Christmas (or any time of the year) is a healthy awareness that your primary devotion is to God and that you are seeking after Him, loving Him and following Him with your whole heart.
Next, they must know that your relationship with their father or mother comes before their wishes, wants and needs. You and the other parent are a unified team. Simply stated, you need to work together in concert to lead and love them well. When you disagree on discipline or any other parenting matter, you do them a great service to have these conversations privately. Deciding how to proceed without their awareness is crucial in preventing their knowledge that one of you may be more inclined to leniency than the other.
It is inevitable that these circumstances will arise, but we do our children no favors if they think they can play one parent against the other to manipulate or control outcomes. This is especially difficult in divorce or widow situations and my prayers go out to those parents who find themselves feeling alone in this battle--but remember this, you are never alone if you are following Christ. God will give you strength, wisdom and help-- as scripture states, He is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.
As you prepare for celebrating all the joys of the Christmas season, remember this: along with the child whose birth we celebrate (and hopefully keep at the forefront of all that we do as Christians) your children are also God's precious gift to you. They did not ask to be born and they are completely reliant on your judgment, patience, persistence and restraint.
So give them the best gift imaginable this year--supreme devotion to the role of parenting them with truth, grace and gratitude for the treasure they are, and steadfast determination to point them to the only One in whom they will find purpose and peace, Jesus.
Merry Christmas!

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