Why are we trying to change our kids?
Kids have a pretty bad rap. Some are snotty. Some talk back. Some even eat Tide Pods. I've been working in childcare for as long as I can remember. When I look at a kid, I tend to see the ways that I want them to change. Since October of 2015, I've nannied a chunky little boy named Kingston. He never stops talking, always wants you to build his choo-choo train tracks, and just wants to "pet" (terrorize) the cats in the house. Anyone that knows a three-year-old knows how easy it is to wish that they'd change just a little bit. If only they would nap. If only they would listen. If only they would build their own choo-choo train tracks! But, there are also times when I watch him and realize that I'm actually the one who still has so much to learn from them. When three-year-olds don't know the answer, they don't give up. A consistent phrase in Kingston's vocabulary lately has been, "Let's find out!". When three-year-olds figure out their new favorite song, they don't look around at everyone else to see if it's an accepted song to like. They just run around the house screaming the lyrics and dancing as though they'll never hear it again. The Son of God has said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to children such as these.
God has entrusted us to raise up the next generation of His kingdom. I think we've all done a decent job of forgetting how valuable this work is. Put into perspective, what we do for children is more important than anything else we do. The work that a church does for children is the difference between a church that flourishes and a church that dies. Beginning at the roots, we are transforming the entire culture of the church. When Jesus said, "whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me," he wasn't exaggerating (Matthew 18:5). Jesus is God. When we welcome children, it should be so important to us that it's as though we were welcoming God. That's how much Jesus cares about this.
When we welcome children, it should be so important to us that it's as though we were welcoming God.
Even when we do realize how important this work is, we still tend to go about it the wrong way. Like I said earlier, we tend to see the ways that kids should change. It makes sense, in a way. Behaviors and attitudes that go against what God wants for us should absolutely be appropriately corrected. But, I wonder if we're too quick to assume what it is that needs changing. Why is it that we're trying so hard to change our kids? With prayer, I find that most "flaws" in kids are God-given world-changing qualities. And yet, us grown-ups are quick to fear the "abnormal" and get rid of it.
By design, it makes perfect sense that the kingdom of heaven belongs to kids. When they never seem to stop asking questions, maybe that means that they're seeking wisdom (Proverbs 15:14). When they challenge society's norms, maybe it's because they inherently understand the dangers of conformity (Romans 12:2). When their imaginations and dreams seem unrealistic, maybe that means that they don't place limits on what they know God can do (Mark 11:23). When they feel overwhelming guilt when they get in trouble, maybe it's because they're mindful of the danger of sin (John 8:34). When they're naive to what the world expects of them, maybe that means that they're unapologetically living as who they were made to be (Psalm 139:14).
Grown-ups, on the other hand, can look at how others act or live and judge them without once evaluating their own lives. We're also apathetic, hesitant to get overly excited about anything. Rather than taking life as it comes, we're skeptical and analyze each minute. Instead of making our requests known to God, we only pray for manageable things, just in case God doesn't follow through. Instead of admitting the weight of our sin, we repeatedly justify it until we've convinced ourselves that we're righteous. We take our cues from the world, rather than from the whispers of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. So maybe, just maybe, we're not quite as superior as we thought.
So, again, why are we trying to change our kids? I'm challenging myself this week to pause and think about the ways that I can change my own attitude. When I feel the need to stop a kid's behavior or even put them on time out, I need to pause. I need to ask myself: Should this behavior actually be hindered? Or, should it be redirected? When the heart behind a "bad" behavior is inherently good, sometimes kids just need a new direction to express themselves in. Maybe kids that are loud belong on a stage. Maybe kids that are energetic belong on a soccer field. Maybe kids that are coloring on the walls are silently begging for a new canvas. These are all "maybes", but there are also things that are for sure. Surely, kids belong to Jesus. Surely, kids belong in our utmost values. Surely, kids belong. It is commanded of us that we make sure they feel as such.