Training up the child.

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Once in a while we all need to stop and think about what we are teaching our children. More precisely, to think about what has influenced the way we think today. Is it based on real life values like love or on the status pressures created by the world in which we live? Are we training our children to be consumers or have real life values?

We may have grown up in a difficult situation and desperately we don’t want our children to struggle in the same manner. With good intention, we may spend long hours working to earn enough money to buy all our kids need. But how much is enough and what do our children really need?

What our kids really need is good values, character and the skills to live life. This cannot be bought with money. Good values, character and life skills require our personal involvement and time. These skills should include how to work to achieve what we want, how to do without and delay gratification. When we have to go without, we face the challenge of what our peers think or say. We then have to think about what is of real value and what really matters, what is important. Are we willing to work to achieve that? Another term for this is hardship, but hardship builds character.

Just imagine for a moment your son (or daughter) is picked for the athletics team. All his team mates have the latest designer running gear but you choose to give him stock item trainers. Immediately he is faced with a crisis of value of who he is in their eyes. Here is an opportunity to build lasting character.

He should be getting his value in whom he is and not in what he is wearing. It is our parental task to re-enforce this. He is our child and that is important. It is not what he does or how well or poorly he performs that determines his value as a person.

He could learn that it is his athletic ability that wins races not shoes. From this he will be able to learn not to blame equipment but look to preserving in his training.  He can learn that with training he can out perform those with the latest designer gear – which builds further value.

This is an opportunity to teach him how to handle finances, to budget and save for special running shoes. In turn he will learn to place valve in them and look after them better because they did not come ‘cheap’.

It should be our desire to do what is best for our children. This will mean allowing them to face hardship and difficulties. Not allowing them to struggle in the safety of the family environment transforms them into consumers without teaching the ethics of working. Consumers don’t value others but are self-centred, chasing the next thing that gives them status or makes them feel good. Struggles and hardship creates an appreciation for life and builds character that money can’t buy.

Ultimately, our children need us not our money. Don’t think for a single moment that we can replace ‘us’ with things that money can buy.

Using time wisely

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In this world there never seems to be enough time. We have all the gadgets to do things more efficiently. We strive to utilise our time to the maximum but struggle to get everything done. Yet our greatest loss today is time; time for others, time for family, time for the kids, time for our spouse and time for ourselves.

We are all allotted a fixed amount of time in this world. Our choice must be to use it wisely on the things that really matter and on that which effect eternity rather than waste it on the fleeting pleasures of self-indulgence that benefit very little.

Most of our time is spent in pursuing more money, supposedly for a better lifestyle. Higher financial income does not necessarily mean increased prosperity. Prosperity means to progress advantageously in things desirable and good. Loosing touch with the real needs or welfare of those around us is neither good nor desirable. The pursuit of income usually comes to the detriment of the real needs of those around us.

Short term or short sighted goals that lead to a supposedly improved situation must be balanced with the long term reality of life style consequences.

Russ Crosson in his book ‘A Life Well Spent’ put it this way: “We have been in a rush to run the race without understanding the finish line”.

Adolescence – an exciting time of development

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Adolescence

Most parents of teenagers find this a difficult and trying time. It is often experienced as an emotional roller-coaster ride and a clash of wills. But when properly understood it is an exciting time of development.

When babies arrive they are helpless and need constant attention. With our toddlers and children we are constantly telling them what do and how to behave but the moment they reach adolescence our parenting role needs to change.

Adolescence is that difficult time of transformation from child to adult. The parenting role changes from ‘dictator’ to trainer and coach. The skills that they need to acquire for adulthood are quiet daunting and this takes place over a very short period.

  1. They need to learn how to postpone gratification.
  2. They need to learn not to do things on compulsive urges but consider the implication and consequences of their action.
  3. They need to develop a tolerance to frustration.
  4. They need to learn how to set and achieve goals without supervision.
  5. They need to learn how to disengage from a current activity in order to fulfill their responsibilities.
  6. They need to be competent, confident and responsible in their ability to meet the demands of life.
  7. They need to learn how to handle money to achieve goals.
  8. They need to learn how to create and maintain healthy relationships outside the family.

Because there are so many physiological, neurological and hormonal changes taking place during this time, the adolescent life is one of turmoil and chaos. Much of their emotions may be internalised, which is not always beneficial. Sometimes it erupts with vengeance or demonstrated through unhealthy behaviour.

Part of their development at this time is to challenge authority, norms and structures. They need to learn how to argue constructively and determine for themselves what is valid. They need to experiment, make mistakes and learn to accept consequences. This all needs to happen within a stable support structure that sensibly limits the risks.

For parents this task may seem overwhelming but with a good understanding of how to apply limits of personal responsibility and why they are behaving the way they do, life can make more sense.

What does it mean to be adult?

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ADULTHOOD

In my last blog I was talking about maturity. I said that maturity includes adulthood. So what is adulthood and what does it look like?

We all know that when we are in our 20’s we are adults but this does not necessarily mean that we are able to take on the full mantle of responsibility or authority of that role. Adulthood goes beyond being a certain age.

The mantle of adulthood will include the following:

  • Being in control of our lives including our emotional and mental faculties
  • The ability to define our own particular role and execute that role with reasonable efficiency
  • Being able to exercise control over our lives – e.g. knowing when to stop drinking or in the appropriate circumstances, saying no to alcohol
  • It will include a host of skills – like buying groceries, cooking, driving or running a financial budget, all depending on our currently defined role
  • We should be able to influence others positively within our area of influence like our children, friends or colleagues
  • We should be able to submit and obey those authorities over us without internal conflict, perverse or rebellious behaviour.

But the most important feature of an adult is the ability to form a good, positive, healthy, loving and lasting relationship. This type of adult relationship goes beyond what we can get out of it and what suits me. This loving bond carries the concern for another’s well being as a prime importance. This adult relationship includes the ability to work through difference, stand and support each other in difficult situations and in hard times. This is the ultimate goal of being an adult.

The ability to form a life long relationship is a beautiful gift that is often overlooked. An adult life-long loving relationship should be nurtured, cherished and protected with all of our being.

 

WHAT IS MATURITY?

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MATURITY

When we are born we have no dominion or authority. Everything is done for us and we are told what to do. More importantly, we have no skills to live life. Maturity is the task of learning to take on responsibility and authority for our lives in an adult manner.

It is without question that God wants us to mature, but what is maturity and what does it look like?

Maturity, authority, responsibility and adulthood all go hand in hand. One cannot have the one without the other.

Some of the aspects of maturity are:

  • Taking responsibility for how we respond emotionally.
  • Taking responsibility for our actions.
  • Understanding how our actions could impact and affect those around us and our environment.
  • Thinking through the consequences of our actions and then making the correct choices.
  • Knowing what we are responsible for and what we are not responsible for.
  • Being able to implement a course of action in a manner that does not infringe upon the rights of other people.

Our task in life is to develop towards maturity. This can only happen when we examine those areas where we lack maturity. Once we have identified where we still need to mature, we can begin developing that area. We need to take responsibility for our own development. It cannot be done for us – we have to do it.

Here are some keys to developing maturity:

  • Recognise the role we must play in our area of authority.
  • Understand what we are responsible for and what we are not responsible for.
  • Being honest with ourselves in recognising those areas where we are not fulfilling our role.
  • Seeking to equip ourselves with the necessary life skills to fulfill our role.
  • Seeking outside help and assistance in learning new life skills.
  • Finding someone who will hold us accountable, while at the same time not condemning nor judging us.

Lastly, we must not be too hard on ourselves. We are in a constant state of development, learning and acquiring new life skills. We all have to start somewhere. We all are going to make mistakes – this is how we learn.

Think of mistakes as stepping-stones of how not to do something, so that the next time we are more equipped to achieve our goal.

Knowing what we are responsible for

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Knowing what we are responsible for and what we are not responsible for is vital to be able to live life successfully. If we don’t know these boundaries we are in serious trouble. We call this our limit of personal responsibility.

Imagine we own a plot of ground. The boundaries of that ground are where our responsibility ends. We are only responsible for what lies inside the boundary.

So if we were mowing the lawn we would only mow the grass up to the boundary. If someone violated our boundary, by throwing their rubbish onto our plot of ground, we would become annoyed.

In life these boundaries may often become confused as in the example of trying to keep someone happy. We cannot keep another person happy. Their response to our actions is their responsibility. We are only responsible for doing the correct thing. While we are trying to keep others happy we are unable to make a good or a Godly decision.

Likewise, when people invade our boundaries by telling us what to do or how to behave, we become cross. As adults, we must take responsibility for our own behaviour. If we forget to pay a parking fine we cannot blame other people. Other people may advise us but they should not force or manipulate us.

Lastly, we should not take other people’s responsibility away by covering up for them. For example, we should not pay their parking fine if they are being irresponsible. They will never learn to take responsibility if we won’t allow them to suffer the consequences of their actions.

Most boundary problems begin within family relationships where emotional manipulation can feature strongly. When these boundaries become confused we are not able to live the life we were created to live.

Even God applies this principal. It was His responsibility to provide a way of salvation and a manual with the principals to live by. It is our responsibility to accept that salvation and to learn how to live life. God is not going to take that responsibility from us.

Discouragement

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We become discouraged when a desired result is deferred or when we are unable to achieve a goal. The desired result may vary from a heath issues to just plain living life. It can be in the area of work, study or relationships. Discouragement is different from hopelessness or depression – it is that sense of ‘I am getting nowhere fast’.

The dictionary describes discouragement as a loss of confidence and enthusiasm. What is interesting is that within the word ‘discouragement’ is the word ‘courage’. The word ‘courage’ is defined as the ability to do something regardless of the danger to self. It is acting on our beliefs despite the opposition or hardship we may encounter.

Here lies the key: if we can keep our hearts, our minds and eyes fixed upon the goal, regardless of the opposition, we will be able to persevere. With this attitude there is a disregard for personal comfort; it is not about me, it is about the goal I want to achieve and the belief that I can achieve it.

So when we are feeling discouraged what should we do? How can we restore confidence and enthusiasm?

  • Form a picture in your mind of what life will be like when you have achieved your goal
  • Draw upon the success of what you have already achieve
  • Understand that we only learn by mistakes; only by knowing what not to do, do we know what to do
  • Treat each ‘mistake’ as a stepping stone to success
  • Become inspired by reading the stories of others who have preserved under difficult circumstances
  • Draw on the strength of Father God; get His perspective by drawing close to Him
  • Draw on people around you who are encouraging, supportive, confident and full of hope.

    Ultimately, it is hope and faith that will overcome discouragement.

    What is God’s part and what is my part?

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    What is God’s part and what is my part in living life?

    I was reading an article in a Christian magazine, which said, “If you commit your problem to God, He will sort it out for you”. As I pondered that statement I began to realise that is not entirely true. There is a part we need to play and then there is God’s part.

    Here on earth we have been given a free will. We can choose and God will not interfere with that choice. Secondly we have an intelligent brain, which God intended us to use. We are intelligent enough to work it out that we cannot out-think God. We are intelligent enough for us to realise that He actually knows what is best for us. We must use our intelligence to reason that if we don’t do it God’s way then we could suffer the consequences.

    So the question is, what is God’s part and what is our part?

    Our part:       we need to enquire from God what is the best solution to our problems.

    God’s part:       He will instruct us how to solve the problem.

    Our part:      we need to listen and follow His instructions, even if we would prefer not to.

    God’s part:      He will equip us with the power and courage to carry it out.

    It all looks deceptively simple but it is a bit more complex than that because:

    • We need to own our problems.
    • We cannot blame others.
    • We need to acknowledge we need God’s solution.
    • We need to confess, forgive and get rid of the resentment in the heart.

    If we commit our way to God, He will direct our path by showing and telling us what we must do.  But it is up to us to do it – that’s our part!

    Performance Base Living

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    Performance Base Living.

    From an early age we are taught that we need to do something to achieve a goal. We learn very quickly that we need to do our school work and study to pass our exam and so progress to the next level. If we do this well we get praise and recognition. When we don’t do well and fail to achieve a minimum requirement we are rebuked and criticized. This may often cause us to feel inferior. Unfortunately failure can lead to feelings of worthlessness. This experience heightens our expectation and fear of failing again. It now becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and confirmed when we don’t reach our and other people’s expectations.

    Because we all need to feel we are accepted by those around us, we will begin to strive to achieve the next goal. We may think, “Maybe if I achieve this goal, I will be recognized and accepted. Maybe even loved.” The problem is that there is always another goal. We are now into performance based living.

    In itself, having goal and achieving them is not wrong, but it becomes a problem when we seek to find our identity in our achievements. We should never derive our value from our achievements but from who we are. Likewise our value as a person should not be determine by what we have not achieved. We are all unique and have distinctive talents. Because we have not yet discovered what that talent is should not undermine our value of ourselves.

    So who are we? As a person, we are spirit and soul expressing ourselves in a physical body. We are completely unique, one of a kind and therefore extremely precious. If God were to lose me He would lose the only one He ever created. I cannot be replaced.

    We have the ability to express ourselves uniquely in many ways that no one else can. We have the wonderful privilege of a free will and the ability to choose. And we can choose our attitude in any given situation. Even when we may be limited physically, be through misfortune or by others, our soul and spirit can still be free[1].

    Because we are trapped in a time-space continuum it is often very difficult to get a correct value of who we are, especially when our beliefs and thoughts are distorted by world opinion. To get a true value of who we are we need to adopt the value of the One who created us.


    [1] The author acknowledges the fact that there are people who have mental and spiritual impediments – this article as aim at encouraging those who are not impeded in that way.

    I am not good enough!

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    Performance base living:

    One of our greatest human needs is to be accepted. If we do not feel accepted or think of ourselves as unacceptable then we will do stuff to achieve it.  When we try to get this acceptance in the wrong place or in the wrong manner, we are on a slippery downhill slope of performance.

    Often this feeling of, ‘I am not good enough’ begins in childhood. A child experiences emotion but is often unable to understand the cause or able to process it correctly. For example, what is intended as encouragement by a parent may often be interpreted as ‘No matter how hard I try, it is never good enough’. In many cases this may be a reality where we had a demanding parent or grew up in a dysfunctional home.

    When we feel not accepted we try harder. When we manage to reach the ‘target’, we find that the bar is raised and we are still not accepted. So we just try harder and harder until eventually we get to a place of hopelessness. We are worn out, exhausted and depressed. We may try to find comfort in substances or by treating ourselves, which in time may cause us more problems.

    The reverse may also apply where we cannot accept another person unless they meet ‘our standards’. This in essence is a pre-determined and expected level of behaviour. Unfortunately when our expected level of behaviour of people is not met, we become critical and judgemental.

    So how do we get out of this destructive way of thinking ‘I am not good enough’? The first step is to realise that we have formed the value of ourselves from another person’s point of view and that their opinion of us may not be valid. Everybody is different and will see things differently. We need to realise that it is impossible to please everybody. We need to realise that other people are not perfect.

    We also need to re-establish the value of ourselves from the one who created us. This may not be easy on our own but with the help of non-judgemental counsellors or therapists we are able to become who we were created to be.

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