Ever since my oldest sister had her three children (my niece and two nephews), our family reunions have undergone a few changes. Where once they featured board games, quiet dinners, and long trips into the city, they now mostly consist of tripping over Hot Wheels, hearing why Elsa is the best Disney princess, and occasionally enjoying the latest virus my nephew infected us with. Now, I love my niece and nephews dearly, but children have never been my strong suit. I’ll usually retreat to some dark corner of the house and contemplate a life of celibacy, but my sister takes it all in stride. It’s no exaggeration when I say she’s one amazing mom who always finds a way to bring out the best in her children.
For a while, I had no idea how she did it. I’d leer down at her like the Grinch from his mountain and ponder how she got my niece to stop crying and start laughing. Then one day it hit me: she knew her children. As their mother, she understood their different personalities and knew how to cultivate the gifts within each of them. Jen Wilkin, a Christian speaker, writer, and teacher, had a similar epiphany while growing flowers outside her house.
Instead of trying to eradicate a child’s annoying personality, Wilkin believes parents should cultivate the spiritual gifts that accompany such traits. She writes,
“…every bloom cultivated in an orderly garden grows as a wildflower somewhere. Children’s untamed and sometimes frustrating personality traits are no different. Before you work to uproot them, consider whether behind that annoying trait is a strength waiting to be trained up. So often, the quality that manifests as a child’s greatest weakness holds the potential to be his greatest strength.”
“So the next time your child’s personality trait annoys you and you’re tempted to shut it down, remember this principle: Don’t eradicate, cultivate.”
- By all means, gently help your talkative child learn when to stop speaking, but also cultivate his or her love of dialogue by inviting conversation on topics they love. You might have a future teacher or salesperson in your home.
- By all means, gently help your bossy child learn to let everyone manage their own business, but also cultivate his or her love of leadership by giving appropriate responsibilities. You might have a future CEO or ministry leader in your home.
- By all means, gently help your energetic child learn to be still when being still counts, but also cultivate his or her love of movement by suggesting activities that channel that energy in productive ways. You might have a future entrepreneur in your home.
- By all means, gently help your sensitive child learn that not everything merits a meltdown, but also cultivate his or her sensitivity into appropriate expressions, particularly on behalf of others who hurt or lack. You might have a future counselor or missionary in your home.
- By all means, gently help your imaginative child learn to focus when focus is necessary, but also cultivate his or her imagination by feeding it experiences and books and activities and time to dream. You might have a future inventor, writer or painter in your home.
Remember, parenting can be a tough job, but the love and guidance you instill in your child will last a lifetime.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6