Meeting Recap February 26, 2015 - Noticing the Goodness in Your Children

Marie Nelson spoke this week. Her topic, "Noticing the Goodness in Your Children."

During Marie's Bible reading time this week, she read Hebrews 11:23 with new eyes.
By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict.
The part that caught her attention was how Moses' parents saw that he was no "ordinary child." Even in those early infant days, when all their little squish did was cry, eat and sleep, Moses' parents knew that God had a special plan for their son.

Paint chip bookmark craft ready for customization.

One paint chip book mark done!
Marie went on to say that none of us have an "ordinary child." God created each of our children with a unique and special purpose in mind. Jeremiah 1:5 reads,
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.
The hard part, is recognizing these unique strengths and discovering where to best use them. One of our roles as parents is to help guide our children through this process. Marie gave us five things that we as parents should be doing to fulfill this role.
  1. Remember in whose image your children have been made.
    They might look like us and spout off with phrases we say, but our children are not cookie-cutter versions of us. Our children are made in the image of God. He has instilled them with their own set of likes, dislikes, strengths and interests. One of our biggest challenges is not forcing our expectations, aspirations and interests on our children. Sometimes, if we are lucky, their interests might line up with our own. Our end goal is not for our children to be like us, it is for them to be like God has designed them to be.
  2. Provide opportunities for them to explore and grow.
    Discovering personal strengths and how God can best use them takes time. (Plenty of adults are still working on this.) It also takes having a variety of opportunities available.  How would a child know they love to create their own music if they never had instruments (toy or real) available? As parents, we need to provide opportunities for our children to try a variety of different activities. Then, watch them as they play. Listen as they recount their day. What activities stuck with them? What entertained them for hours?
  3. Help your child develop the gifts they are given.
    When you see that your child has found something they are passionate about, embrace it! Encourage it! Consider signing them up for lessons (if appropriate). Check books out from the library on the subject. Connect them with other kids who enjoy their passion too. While you are embracing your child's strength, remember to teach them that everybody has different strengths. That one strength is not better than another. Help them find joy in other people's strengths as well as their own.
  4. Help them connect their passions with a greater purpose.It is wonderful for our children to grow in their passions. However, it is even more beautiful when our children figure out a way to use their passion to glorify God. God gave your child their strengths and interests for the ultimate purpose of glorifying Him and bringing others to Him.
  5. Model by example.Like with most things we want our children to learn, the best way is through modeling. Do you know what you are passionate about? Do you spend time cultivating that interest? Using it for God's glory? It is hard when you have small kids to think about growing your own interests. But when we fill our cup by living out God's unique purpose for us, we are showing our children a wonderful way to live.

Marie pointed out that while it is important to encourage our children as they try out different activities and interests, it is important not to tell them they are good at everything. We need to be kind, yet honest. Telling them they are good at everything does them a disservice. It gives them unrealistic expectations and puts too much pressure them. Also, in trying to be good (or worse, the best) at everything, not only will they burn out but they will find it difficult to grow the true gifts that God has given them.

Marie continued her talk with 10 tips for helping your child discover your his/her own strength.

  1. Use play and cultivate the imagination.
    Let your children play and explore in a safe and unstructured environment. They will naturally tend towards their strengths.
  2. Seek out what makes your child unique.
    At first it might seem like a little quirk, but pay close attention and you might see a strength developing.
  3. Keep a strengths journal.
    Write down the things that your child likes to do. What makes him/her happy? What keeps his/her attention? How does your he/she express joy, happiness? What does he/she say first thing in the morning or right before he/she goes to bed?
    After you track for a while, look back and see if you see patterns. Those patterns are most likely an area of strength for your child.
  4. Create family traditions.
    Family traditions help children develop some of their interpersonal strengths.
  5. Listen to children.
    Children know themselves better than anyone else. Ask them open ended questions and really listen to their answers.
  6. Resist the urge to evaluate everything and overstate expectations.Our children need the freedom to try new things without the burden of our expectations. Constantly over-praising or criticizing puts too much pressure on our children's performance.
  7. Help children discover strengths and interests.
    Marie said that, "The strength is what someone likes to do, while the interest is where they like to apply it." Strengths can be transferred to other interests. And passion, passion is where strengths and interests meet.
  8. Let them tell their own stories.
    Remember how our children are created in God's image not ours? Let your children do things they want to do, not recreate your childhood.
  9. Don't compare them to their older siblings.
  10. Give them as many choices about what to do as possible.

At the end of her talk, Marie shared some information about Howard Gardner's research regarding multiple intelligences. Gardner believes that each person varies by experiencing and expressing intelligence in eight different areas. They were:

  • Linguistic intelligence
    A sensitivity to and response about symbolic language, the shades of meaning, and the order and context of words.
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence
    Ability in mathematics, other complex logical systems including formal and informal reasoning.
  • Musical intelligence
    The ability to understand, perceive and create music. Musicians, singers, composers and dancers may show heightened musical intelligences.
  • Spatial intelligence
    The ability to "think in pictures," to perceive the visual world more accurately, and recreate, alter or manipulate it physically, or in the mind or with graphical representations such as on paper. Spatial intelligence is highly developed in artists, architects, designers and sculptors.
  • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence
    The ability to use one's body in a skilled way, for self-expression or toward a goal. Mimes, dancers, sports players, physically expressive singers, and actors are among those who are more noted in bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.
  • Interpersonal intelligenceAn ability to feel, perceive and understand other individuals -- their moods, desires, and motivations. Skilled individuals in political and religious leadership, parenting and teaching, and therapy use this intelligence to greater extent.
  • Intrapersonal intelligenceAn understanding of one's own reactions, thoughts and emotions. Some novelists and counselors turn their own perceptions and experiences to influence or guide others.
  • Naturalist intelligenceThe ability to recognize, comparatively to systematically classify plants, flora and fauna, animals, minerals, the earth and cosmos.
Marie, wrapped up by reminding us of Gary Chapman's work with the five love languages. Often we think of these when trying to show love between spouses. But they are also useful when it comes to showing love between parent and child. Your child's love language starts to show up between ages 7-9 but you might see hints before. To find out your child's love language, try Chapman's Love Language Profile for Children quiz by clicking here.