If you are the parent of children old enough to speak, you have most certainly heard this complaint. We were riding home the other day and my 10 and 13 year-old were arguing with each other. I tried to keep quiet, that is until I was brought into the conversation. Finally, my 10 year-old says, “Mom, Zach said he would give me his old track jacket when his new one came in, now he says I can't have it. That’s not fair, is it?”
I said, “Nick, I see the issue, but I’m not sure if it’s a matter of not fair.”
He thought for a minute and said, “Well, it’s not right, is it?”
I said, “There you go. It’s not always about fair, some things are about right and wrong.”
I was glad he finally reached that realization. I hear the not fair complaint multiple times each day, and I’ve tried to explain to both of them that, parents try to be fair, but more than fair, we have to meet individual needs, and do what is right—even if it doesn’t seem fair.
Two illustrations I’ve used with them are in regards to potty-training and braces. We potty-trained Zach using Pullups Training Pants. It didn't work—he took them off when he soiled them got a new pair, left the soiled ones all over the house. It was awful. If we were seeking to be fair, we would have given Nick the same opportunity to make a mess and take 6 months to learn to use the toilet. We didn’t care about fair. We trained Nick in underwear, and it was done in 2 months. The other illustration is with braces. Zach needed braces. Nick does not need braces. To be fair, should we take Nick to the orthodontist and request that he have braces put on his straight teeth? No! But that’s not fair—and it’s okay! (And it’s less expensive!)
The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV) I’ve heard sermons on this verse and there are different interpretations, but when I read it from the King James Version, it speaks to individuality. It says “train up a child in the way he should go.” A child is an individual. Individuals have different needs, and parents should be mindful of those different needs. One-size-fits-all parenting is not what is advised here.
Romans 12:4-9 NIV states, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
As we raise our children, as individuals, we have a responsibility to help them to recognize their gifts. As a part of the body of Christ, we are made to function in different ways for the upbuilding of God’s kingdom. As parents we must help our children to hone their personal gifts and talents, understanding that our children’s gifts and talents may be quite different from our own.
I was in marching band for 4 years of high school and 4 years of college. I want that for my children, too, but if they don’t want to follow in mom’s footsteps, I am okay with that. I insist that they learn to play an instrument in middle school, because I think it’s important to learn the languages rhythm and harmony, but I will not require that they march on the field. We often stress about our college-age children changing their major. As we grow and learn more about ourselves, our interests may change. I joke that I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up! I’m pretty certain that my gift is teaching, but there are a wide range of things to teach.
Study the list above, what are your children’s gifts? Does one have the gift of prophesy? Does one have the gift of service, or teaching? What about encouraging or giving, or the gift of leadership? How do we, as parents, nurture those gifts? There is a lot of pressure to be fair, but we cannot ignore our children’s individual needs just to be fair. Parenting is tough. Daily, there are a multitude of decisions to be made; information that must be filtered, and arguments that must be settled. As we continue the journey, two final thoughts. "Pray without ceasing," (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV) and “Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV)
Have a blessed week!
Copyright 2018 by Kimberly Griffith Anderson
If you like this style of writing, you will enjoy Turn North: A 30-Day Devotional and Journal written by the author of this blog.