Parenting Advice: Individuality
In our prior lesson, I shared some advice for parents on balance. Staying focused on the ultimate parenting goal is vital for balance to be achieved; namely, we want--above all else--to rear children who are faithful to Christ. We want them to have their own faith and be able to face the world as spiritually-mature, young adults, but that requires gradually transferring increasing responsibility and decision-making to them with each passing year. Parents who control everything by sheltering far too long, being overly strict, or by not allowing their children to make a decision or a mistake are imbalanced in their approach. We also noted that the other extreme is possible and dangerous; that is, where parents aren't doing their job due to not being around or being uninvolved or simply being foolishly permissive. Some parents make the mistake of focusing so much on the temporal matters of life that they forget the ultimate parenting goal and become imbalanced.

Let's shift gears at this point and introduce another component we must be mindful of when it comes to parenting balance: that is, individuality. Each child is unique, and I've observed this truth repeatedly in my own home. My sons all look very much alike physically. They are easily identified as brothers (sometimes we even get asked if we have twins). But, regarding personality (i.e., likes, dislikes, strengths, & weaknesses), each child of mine stands apart from the others in various ways. Our first son loves to be active doing things and is zealous to help in whatever way you will let him (e.g., he begged to start mowing our small yard at the age of 8, and I trained him and turned him loose). He's a go-getter and a hard worker. Our second son has a much different personality. He is not as ambitious generally, but prefers to keep to himself (e.g., he doesn't need a playmate, per se, but can entertain himself with books, Legos, etc.). He is a good reader and has an amazing memory. Our third son is a left-handed, ball-of-fire who has scared and amazed us on many occasions. Though small for his age, he is very gifted athletically and full of passion. Our fourth son is only 3, so it's hard to say a lot about his strengths and weaknesses at this point, but his spirit is very tender, much more so than the other boys at that age. And what can I say about the baby? He's got a great smile and personality!

Why am I sharing these details about my kids? Because parents must come to terms with the fact that their children will be different than them and, if they have more than one child, the other children will be different than the first one. I have always loved mathematics because it came easy to me, and I enjoyed school for the most part. When my firstborn was young, I wanted him to follow in my footsteps and thrive at math and academics. It turns out that math is not his forte, and he doesn't excel like I did scholastically, but I've learned that this is okay! He has his own special talents and abilities that differ from mine and I must remember this as his father and cultivate his strengths the best I can. Whether he does great at math or earns A's in other subjects doesn't really matter when it comes to the ultimate parenting goal! I want him to love God and His word. I want him to have a servant's heart and to choose to follow Jesus even when I'm not around him. I want that for all my boys. That's what really matters. It would be foolish for me to try to "force" him into a mold to make him exactly like me regarding unimportant matters. God made him unique, and I must respect that as his father. The same can be said for his younger brothers. I don't want to try to force them into being just like him. In some ways, our physical families are like the church (i.e., God's spiritual family). I am thankful that each child (and every Christian) is unique, for this makes our families (physical or spiritual) whole (cf. I Cor. 12:18), but it also adds to the challenge for parents (and elders in the church) who are trying to keep balance!

Some children will require different parenting approaches because of their uniqueness. Some children are compliant naturally; others are not. What works in training and disciplining one child, may not be as effective with the next. Wise parents will do whatever it takes to bring out the best in their children for the Lord, keeping those personality differences in mind.

Friends, let me be quick to affirm that I don't claim to have all the answers when it comes to parenting, but clearly, balance is a must in a godly home and it is something that should be regularly evaluated and adjusted as necessary. Furthermore, considering the individuality of each child and training each one appropriately is important if balance is to be maintained.