It’s amazing what we can learn from our kids when we give them space to live their lives. See, when we are with our children and families a lot we tend to label them and put them in a box by their likes, dislikes, behaviors, etc. While it is helpful to know which kid needs a little extra nudge getting out the door to school, or which child is shy in social settings I have learned it can be detrimental and a self-fulfilling prophecy when we rely too much on those labels, which can hurt their precious gift of freedom.
For example, my three boys are all very different. If I had to briefly describe each one I would say my eldest is cautious and structured, my second is physical and fearless, and my youngest is independent and a self-starter. So when we were on vacation this past weekend I assumed my eldest would decline going tubing on the boat, my middle would jump right in at full-speed, and the youngest would prefer to dig in the sand alone. But I was wrong!
Let Them Have Their Freedom
My eldest pulled out a bunch of surprises. When it was time to tube, the older two were beyond excited. My eldest said he didn’t want to do it alone, but we were all shocked when my “fearless” middle child went into a complete panic. He forgot he had a life vest on, and when the tube was bobbing and sinking and he freaked out. And then he demanded to get off the tube. He left his older brother to go tubing alone…and my “cautious” eldest child loved every second in all his brave glory.
I expected both of my kids to react a certain way and they both did the complete opposite. I think it goes to show that as parents, our thoughts and our words about our children can be very limiting. In this instance, my son shattered my expectations. But if we are not careful, the limits we put on our kids, or the boxes we put them in will become their identity…for better or for worse. And they will not live a life of freedom.
Proverbs 8:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Our thoughts and our words about our children are powerful, whether we realize it or not. If I constantly refer to my son as anxious or fearful, that becomes what both I believe him to be and what his identity is. I will let him avoid things because “that makes him too anxious”. And then it turns out we will get in a cycle, a self-fulfilling prophecy where he will never break free of the anxiety because it has become too intertwined in him.
Be Careful How You Speak
The same goes for the frustration we feel when surrounded by defiant toddlers or moody teenagers. There were so many times one of my three-year-olds threw a tantrum and deliberately disobeyed me. Instead of remaining calm and trying to understand my child’s unmet needs, I reacted in anger. I yelled and huffed off. And I would tell my friend or my mom how “They are so disobedient, they never listen, I’m at a loss.”
While it is perfectly okay to vent and share your parenting struggles with your friends, choose your words wisely. If you hear yourself always using negative language and absolutes when describing your child or their behavior, be careful not to be labeling them and confining them in your head. It will affect your actions towards them as well.
Freedom Is A Gift
Remember, God gives both us and our kids free will. When we make mistakes or sin, He forgives us and moves on. His grace is unending and He is limitless. Let’s not be the ones to hamper our children’s growth and progress, toward becoming the people God has made them to be.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:36)