We hear it over and over again – if you want your child to be good at something you need to train them young in order to give them their best chance at succeeding. This is true for academics, sports, the arts, and just about anything, including character and faith.
Our primary responsibility as parents is to train our children to actively pursue the will of God and be healthy in mind, body and soul. The habits we choose to instill in our children at an early age can play a key role in this.
The hard part is figuring out what habits exactly to instill! I’m talking about everyday, practical habits: drills, so to speak, to develop muscle memory for character and faith.
For me at least, it takes a lot of thought, research and trial and error to figure out what habits and tactics will work well for my family dynamic and most likely make a difference.
What makes it even harder is that time is not our friend when it comes to instilling these habits; the earlier we figure out an action plan and have some consistency, the better. (If you’ve ever tried instilling a new habit in an older child, you would know what I mean. It’s definitely not as easy! )
We all know that it’s good to instill habits of prayer, reading, good manners, order etc. But what I struggle with sometimes is HOW exactly to go about doing that or WHAT specifically I should be saying or having my kids do.
Over the years, as with most of you reading this, I have picked the brains of many supermoms, sat and pondered for lengths of time, prayed and tried to gain insight and I have gathered what I have gathered. It’s an ongoing process and what I apply is always evolving.
In this series of posts, I thought I’ll share some of the tips I’ve learned and the habits I’m currently trying to instill in my kids that I’m hoping will do them some good :-).
So here we go with tip # 1 and these are not in any particular order!
1. Teach them to welcome difficulty and make it count
It’s so important that we teach our kids how to handle everything from the little inconveniences in life all the way to major suffering that could possibly arise.
Difficulty is inevitable and most of the time, it’s best to allow our children to handle them instead of trying to avoid it for them.
So here’s what we do:
We explain to the kids that with every difficulty, comes strength and growth and we give plenty of examples, especially from thier own experiences.
We explain that our difficulties are incredibly valuable when we offer it up to God and that we are called to transform every activity in our lives into a prayer.
We use the phrase “welcome difficulty” and “make it count” A LOT.
Just a few days ago my kids were so excited about me snuggling and watching a movie with them. As we got all snuggled up under the covers and got into the first 10 minutes of the movie, my 3-month-old baby ended up needing a diaper change.
So of course the kids got whiny and were complaining about having to pause the movie and wait for me.
I said “guys, welcome this difficulty and can you please make it count for Dad? He was feeling sick this morning so could you make it count for him to get better? ”
And there you have it: whiny children turned into children with a mission! They were not going to let their waiting go to waste! They wanted it to count for something, and something really good!
My oldest son quickly said he’s going to make the waiting count for Dad to get better and for his friend Ethan’s family.
My 6 year old son said he’s going to make it count for “poor kids to find a home so they are not cold.”
My 4 year old daughter said she’s making it count for “her teacher.”
My 2 year old had no idea what they were talking about but said “Me doing it for dadda and my daisy (my brother’s dog.)”
The idea is to help them understand that they can make their difficulty meaningful if they choose to.
So when they don’t want to do something they need to do, or even when they are having the time of their lives, I try to remind them to “make it count.”
Another huge component of this is to model it ourselves, which I think has the biggest impact on them.
Often times when I’m doing everyday ordinary things such as making my bed or washing dishes, I’ll intentionally say (when my kids are present), something along the lines of “Lord, I really don’t feel like washing these dishes today, but I will do it and do it well. And I offer this to you as a prayer for . . .” (I typically say the name of whichever one of my kids I know is actually paying attention to what I’m saying :))
My husband does the same, and we especially model this when we are angry or are having a difficult time.
Just the other day my husband came home from work and was very honestly venting to the kids and me about how difficult and stressful his job has been.
And then he said “Lord, please make this count for whatever purpose you desire.”
He said it so naturally without pointing out to the kids what he said. It was just a genuine encounter with how Dad deals with things.
This is the type of witness that I believe goes a long way and makes a huge impact.
I’m not sure if my kids will actually hold on to this habit for life, but we can try, hope and pray for the best, and not worry (easier said than done!)
With any habit you choose to instill in your children, repetition, modeling the habit yourself and starting them on it early enough, gives them the best chance of carrying it with them into adulthood and making it second nature to them.
In our house with 5 kids we have PLENTY of opportunities to “welcome difficulty” and we are hoping that this habit will help our kids with perseverance and fortitude and help them find meaning in the inevitable disappointments they will encounter in life.
Do you have any other ideas on teaching kids perseverance? Feel free to comment below with any thoughts or tips you have!
Thanks for reading!
Copyright 2017 Sheena Lukose