November 10, 2015

No Way Around It

Where do kids learn about attitude and motivation?

Some comes from exposure to media of various sorts – and, unfortunately, most of that influence is negative. Much of what they learn from peers is similarly negative since “foolishness is tangled up in the heart of a youth” (Proverbs 22.15, HCSV), and many children simply don’t know good from bad, appropriate from inappropriate. Of course, we hope they at least have positive and constructive examples in the various adults who might influence them on a daily basis. But if we’re honest, we must acknowledge, sadly, that even that is hit or miss.

Besides that, we as parents need to realize that we hold the ultimate responsibility for our own children. In other words, God holds us to account. Much as we might want to, we can’t legitimately blame media, friends, or other adults for our kids’ attitude and motivation issues. No, until a child reaches the age of personal accountability, there’s no escaping the truth that we as parents are ultimately responsible. Of course, that means we will answer for who and what we allow as influences over our kids’ minds and hearts. It also means our personal example matters most of all.

I cannot express how deeply my heart grieves when I hear parents complaining about their “rotten kids” – and when their actions communicate that view even without words. But, tragically, I hear and see it almost daily.

Yes, children’s behavior is often less than desirable. In fact, sometimes it’s downright awful. In their youth and inexperience, children are foolish by nature. And because of the Fall, they sin just as much as grown ups (Romans 3.23), and their hearts are just as deceitful (Jeremiah 17.9). But when we communicate via our words and deeds that we consider the children themselves – rather than their actions – to be reprehensible, we pave the way for negative attitudes and lack of motivation.

I’m not arguing for permissive parenting that doesn’t hold children to account for bad choices; kids definitely need boundaries and guidance and consequences in order to minimize sinful choices and maximize holistic, healthy living. But there’s a world of difference between communicating the inappropriateness of behavior on the one hand and sending the message that a child herself is “rotten.”

There are many reasons to do the right thing in this regard; for starters, if we say we believe that children are made in God’s image, how dare we send the message that they’re “junk?” But practically speaking as well: If a child comes to believe from his own parents that he himself is rotten – not just that some of his choices are poor – why should he care to put forth any effort at all?

So if we want our kids to be motivated and exhibit positive character qualities, we need to start with ourselves. We must examine our own motivation, words, and actions towards our kids – with a willingness to repent and change as needed. If we ultimately want what’s best for our kids, there’s really no way around it.


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