Lessons on the Landing: How to be intentional about incrementally training a child for long-term success.
When I was new in my faith, the mother of a young, strong-willed boy, I despaired when I saw behaviors that alarmed me, and I wondered what to do. Adamantly refusing to say, “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you…” bonking his friend with the toy…demanding “I lead YOU, Mommy!” and refusing my authority as parent…would this lead him far from God? Would he grow up and become a drug dealer or a convict?! So I set about to do what I thought would work:
I would nag.
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I would guilt.
I would plead.
I would negotiate.
I would read Dobson.
I would get angry.
I would eventually give up.
And then I would find something new to focus on and start all over again. (None of you good parents out there do that, right?)
Have you ever identified things going on in your children that you suspect could lead them off the path of righteousness and away from God, too?
See, I believe life without the Lord is a dangerous place, especially when you feel lost, invisible, or hopeless. A person’s heart and mind changes when he knows that an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God sees him and knows him and has a hand on all the chaos that happens in the world. When we truly know we are chosen by the King of kings and that He calls us by name, everything changes, especially our eternities.
About ten years ago, I learned the importance of praying for my children through the MOPS program (Mothers of Preschoolers: www.mops.org). Around the same time, I came across a day-by-day prayer prompt, written by Stormie Omartian, from her book, The Power of a Praying Parent, that I use to this day.
Then, from my time in corporate sales, recruiting, and the military, God reminded me about “Training Objectives.”
1. What is the overall objective or purpose for training?
2. What is the gap between current skills/knowledge and the skills/knowledge required?
3. What training is necessary to hit the objective?
They look something like this:
First, we decided what our training objective was for our children’s life, the Long Term Goal (LTG). Then we identified what our child was missing, or if we saw a glaring blemish in character, and we took steps to put words to it (gaps).
(Check out the “52 Traits” listed here in getconnectdad.com to help get you started!)
What’s your LTG?
It can be anything, but I would suggest that it would probably have something to do with whatever keeps you up at night, worrying. It is the end-goal, the finish line. Maybe it is the thing you talk about most with your spouse, BFFs, parents, mentors, or accountability people when the child’s name comes up. It’s probably the thing that makes you the most frustrated about your child but manifests itself in a hundred different ways in any given season.
For both our children, the LTG is this:
“To live to glorify Jesus Christ, to happily submit to and serve His Kingdom, and live for all eternity in His Glorious Presence.”
Once you have your overarching theme, you then can assess where your child is, based on that finish line, and can take steps to moving him forward toward it. We have 3 short-term training objectives that we post for a few months or however long they need to learn them. These are always backed by Scripture. The LTG is always posted, too, as a reminder of ultimate finish line.
For my ten-year-old daughter, her objectives are Thankfulness, Trustworthiness and Blamelessness.
Do what you say you are going to do.
Always tell the truth.
Ahh, praise God for the straightforward, black-and-white objectives of youth!
For my fifteen-year-old son, we identified Purity, Anger, and Words he uses to express himself.
High school, social media, music, Hollywood movies and our American culture make for a tough environment for God-fearing teens. The strains and pulls of secularity are harsh. (Don’t even get me started talking about their hormones!)
I post these lessons on the landing windows with liquid chalk markers. It’s a private space where visitors cannot see, and I explain these to each child individually. You could scribe them on the windows in their rooms, as well. And if times are really tough, I am not above posting them on mirrors, in bathrooms; hiding Scripture under beds, in closets, under car seats; Sharpie-penning them on walls or floors before we paint or carpet!
We do follow-up convos, asking how they think they are doing. When we need to discipline, we come back to these objectives and go over the Scripture verses.
It’s not to shame—it’s to train.
(After all, we love these children dearly!)
They see their objectives every day when they come downstairs. When they’re new, they stop on the landing to recite the verses out loud. My hope is that it helps them focus in the right direction—upward! And we give only three. That’s doable and not overwhelming!
Why do we do it?
We love these kids too much not to pray for them and train them. We love them too much to be idle. More than that, though, we love God too much to dishonor Him and neglect the gifts He’s entrusted to us.
Children = Gifts of God
We can’t forget that our kids are gifts, our legacies to the world. The hardest, most important job on the planet, we cannot be lazy or passive when it come to this. When we are gone, they are what is left of us. Their choices—the world—is shaped by our work as parents. Help us to point them in the right direction and train them up in the way they should go!
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My name is Leigh Mackenzie and I am The Church Girl Writes. I have the best jobs in the world: wife, mom to two terrific kids, caretaker to a hen sorority and an apricot teacup poodle. Far and away, parenting is one of the hardest and most rewarding jobs I have ever had.
By the grace of God, I also work inside the Church.
Published articles include “Leading Through Your CORE Values” and an upcoming piece on domestic child prostitution in the Christian Standard magazine. This fall in Hobby Farms CHICKENS Magazine, check out “The Chicken With (9) Lives.”