The Trouble with NOT-focused #Parenting

As parents, we all know many things we do NOT want our children to do.

We don’t want them to get hurt. We tell them not to hit their sibling. They are not to take candy from strangers. They should never talk back to their parents!

We tell them that they may

…not eat food from the floor.

…not run out into traffic.

…not pitch a fit.

…not say bad words

….not do drugs.

….not disrespect authority.

….not go into debt.

…not, don’t, never, no, NOT!

I’m NOT saying we should stop saying these things. We long for our children to do grow into healthy, compassionate, strong adults.

But here lies the question – What CAN they do toward that end?

Knowing what NOT to do is not enough to actually DO what’s right.

As a parent following Jesus, we have all heard the verse in Matthew 18:6–“If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (NIV). It gives a strong sense of the responsibility with which we have been entrusted by God.

But, we can often focus so much on keeping our children from stumbling that we forget to guide them in their walking.

My wife has given our three girls a task recently. They were to sit down and write a list of things they CAN do. Each one had great ideas of things they could do to help around the house, and they each had a good sense of their abilities according to their age.

It is a way for them to begin focusing on what they CAN do as they seek what is right and good.

Perhaps you’ve read in other posts that, recently, our now 10-year-old daughter Anna had a desire to go to Africa and start an orphanage. At first, we could have responded with all of the reasons she can NOT do that, but what does this teach her about loving others? She had been praying that God would give her the opportunity to go overseas and help children. We could have talked about how that might NOT be what God intends. But we prayed and asked God for grace and wisdom that we would not squelch a God-sized dream in our daughter.

We asked God how Anna CAN follow His leading in her life.

After time, prayer, and research, we found an incredible opportunity for Anna to serve children in churches and orphanages in Honduras. We were able to help guide her into finding out how she COULD follow God no matter what her age. So now, we as a family are supporting Anna’s passion by going together.

Our children need us to be the boundary and give them a framework for living according to God’s will. But may we never forget that the guidelines we give them are meant to propel them forward into the adventure of living for and serving Jesus for the rest of their lives.

May they grow to know what it means that…“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, ESV).

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