September 4, 2018

How to Reap a Good Harvest

Helping our kids develop a sense of personal responsibility is difficult.

Many blame what they call an “entitlement mentality” common in modern culture, and it’s true that such an attitude is prevalent these days. However, the problem goes all the way back to Adam and Eve – when Eve blamed the serpent for her decision to eat the fruit and Adam blamed both Eve and God Himself (Genesis 3.12) for his choice. And it’s not limited to historical figures and children. If we were to honestly tune in to those of all ages around us – and, frankly, to our own thoughts, words, and actions – we would quickly see a victim stance running rampant. The fact is that our natural human tendency is toward deflection and blame-shifting.

However, just because this is our default doesn’t mean it’s okay. Scripture calls us to seek maturity (1 Corinthians 13.11), which includes being able to accept the truth that decisions have consequences, whether positive or negative.

Of course, we must start with ourselves, because important character qualities are more often caught than taught. If our kids hear us always blaming the other guy for problems we face and/or chalking up victories to “fate,” we’ll communicate an entitlement/victim worldview which they’ll inevitably adopt as their own. But if they see us taking appropriate responsibility – acknowledging that I was cut off by another driver because I didn’t actually signal properly or, conversely, explaining how I know I did well with a presentation because I took time to prepare – our kids will begin to grasp the nature of natural consequences.

And when we have credibility with them in this regard, they’ll be more able to accept our “therefore statements” about their choices.

Delivery also matters. When my child messes up – whether by accident or as a result of actual disobedience – it’s my responsibility as the adult in the room to address the issue calmly. If I yell and rant, I not only damage my child emotionally but also wreck my credibility with her. Conversely, when I sit with her and rationally address a problem using “therefore statements,” she’ll more likely see the connection between her decisions and the consequences they bring. And when she’s done something well, it’s much more productive for me to show her with “therefore statements” how her good choices led to a positive outcome than to simply say, “That’s awesome!” If I want my child to know how to replicate a good outcome, she must understand the decision pathway that got her there.

Intentional consistency with all of this is hard. But as we decide to take personal responsibility for parenting in a healthy way, we will see good fruit over time. To paraphrase Galatians 6.9 in a way we surely hope the Lord will speak to us one day: “I saw that you did not grow weary in doing good. Therefore, you reaped a good harvest in due time.”


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