June 26, 2018

Choosing Intentionality

One of my deepest hurts in life was not knowing if my mother liked me, let alone loved me. I eventually came to understand at least some of the reasons for her apparent indifference towards me – it sprouted from a complicated tangle of dysfunction in both her family of origin and her relationship with my father – and getting a grip on that erased my anger toward her and eased some of my heartache. But the void left by her lack of affection caused emotional damage and left inevitable scars.

When I chose as a young adult to follow Christ, I honed in on what has become one of my favorite verses:

“…We know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8.28)

This verse taught me that, while God hates situations that cause harm to children (Luke 17.2), He uses the unavoidable sin inherent in this fallen world for ultimate good. And one good fruit He brought to bear from my childhood pain was a core belief that my kids deserve to know – without a shadow of a doubt – that I both love and like them.

Of course, I’ve not been a perfect parent; I’ve had my share of angry moments, illogical outbursts, and conclusion-jumping. And sometimes I simply don’t like a child’s behavior or choices. That’s to be expected; in fact, we’re called to guide our kids away from bad and sinful decisions and actions. But it’s imperative that we do whatever it takes to differentiate between a child’s behavior and his identity so that he can honestly know we love him even as we appropriately dislike – and perhaps mete out discipline in response to – a particular choice he’s made.

One way we can do that is to choose intentionality. So, for example, when I’ve had to punish one of my kids, I make no assumptions about what she understands and believes about the situation. Instead, I set aside time to thoroughly talk things through with her – via a conversation, not a lecture. I aim to help her understand which behavior was problematic and why, and we discuss and choose together an appropriate consequence. And I never assume she knows I love her anyway; I tell her so directly, backing up my words with hugs and prayer over her in the moment.

Intentionality takes time and effort. Recently it took three hours to work through a seriously dangerous decision one of my kids had made, completely upending our initial plans for the day. But that’s how long we needed to make initial repairs to the damage and for me to assure her that she can rest securely in my love for her no matter what.

How are you doing when it comes to choosing intentionality with your kids?

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