Our elders knew what they were talking about when they said, “Charity begins at home”. Parents are supposed to be the first teachers of every child. They must instil in the child manners and wisdom for the life they are supposed to live. It means whatever our children will become in future will depend on what we tell them or teach them. It is therefore very important for parents to invest their time on raising their children and enforcing and re-enforcing positive values in them. Parents cannot leave the raising up of their children to the Church or the Schools alone, even though these Institutions have some amount of responsibilities towards children who are part of these Institutions.
Whatever we are able to instil in our children in their early lives would define who they will be in future or what they will become in future. Our children mostly need parents’ positive affirmations to be able to build their character, confidence and self-esteem. A child who has parents who often give him/her positive affirmation will grow up being confident of himself, believe in him/herself to be able start and achieve a project, stay in school and do well in his/her academic work, stay away from peer pressure to use drugs, stay away from troubles that will send him/her to prison, will maintain positive attitude even in the face of challenges and will grow up to be a great leader. On the other hand, a child who grows up under parents who do not positively affirm him/her would grow up being timid, resentment, rowdy, is likely to use drugs, do poorly in school, have low self-esteem, likely to drop out of school and fall prey to peer pressure.
There is a story in the Gospel of Mark Chapter1. In that story Jesus went to John the Baptist to be baptized in the Jordan river to fulfil Scripture. The Bible says John baptized Him and when He was coming out of the water, He saw heaven opened and the Spirit of God descended on Him like a dove. He then heard a voice that came from Heaven to Him and said, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” What a way and time to affirm a child. As parents we should all be in the lookout for opportunities to take advantage of in affirming our children to boost their confidence and self-esteem. The question is whether most of us will be available when these opportunities present themselves, because most of us parents are absentee parents. Can you imagine if God did not keep an eye on Jesus but was busy somewhere in the name of working for money to take care of the family or working to achieve career goals like some of us do. If God had done that, He would have missed the opportunity to open the heaven and let down His Spirit and follow it with words from His own mouth to affirm His son. He said, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
This simple but powerful statement from God touched on three very important keys every child who will grow up to amount to something would like to hear from his/her parents. First, he said “You are my son…”. That is relationship. He was assuring Jesus that the relationship between “me and you” is that, I am your father and “You are my son…”. This was the first time Jesus was hearing that. All along He knew Joseph to be His father, but God had to recondition His mind that Joseph was not actually His father, but He was. We all need to establish relationships with our sons and daughters. It is very important. Children have several people in their lives, and it can sometimes be confusion for them as to who is who. They have their parents, School teachers, Sunday School teachers, nannies/house helps, aunties, uncles, grandma, grandfathers and some even have drivers too. It is therefore very important for them to know “who is who” in their lives. Of all these people it is the parents who must have more contact hours with them, show them more love and provide for them.
The second thing God told Jesus was “…. whom I love…” This is value placing. We all love what we place value on. And everything that we place value on we treat it well and do everything we can to keep it and keep it well. We protect what we place value on. When God said “…. whom I love…”, He was actually saying I value you Jesus so much. I know how we love and value our new cars, phones, shoes, dresses etc. We take comprehensive insurance for our new cars, buy screen savers and phone covers for our new phones etc. We drive our new cars with extra care, especially on rough roads. We should even put more value on our children than we do on our new cars and phones. We must let our children know how much we value them by showing them love with our words and deeds. We should not allocate our spare times for them. They must be our priority. I have always told people to ask themselves this question: “Who will cry the most when I am no more?” The answer will tell you who should be your priority.
The answer to the above question is that, your spouse and children will cry the most when you are no more. Your friends will get new friends. Your business partners will get new business partners. Your employer will employ a new person to replace you. Everyone else will move on but your spouse and children are the ones who will suffer the impact the more. They are the ones who will miss you the more and they are the ones you should value more. However, it is the children who would be tagged orphans. Your spouse may even remarry to a new husband/wife but for the children they will be orphans (fatherless or motherless) for the rest of their life. They will never get a new mother/father.
As parents we do not need to be judgemental or give destructive criticism. We need to constructively criticise and provide positive feedback and directions to our children with love. We need to deal with the issues they have with them and stop attacking their personalities. When we receive their School reports, we need to ask the right questions and receive the right answers. Where they fall short of their potential, we need to take appropriate action that will help them to unleash that potential inside them that they are feeling lazy to unleash. The fact of the matter is that we should not expect our children to be super children in all their subject areas, but we must encourage them to do well at least. We were not super in all our subjects but we are doing very well. So why do we all of sudden put so much pressure on our children to perform magic in School as if their lives depend on it. Do not get me wrong. I am not against asking our children to go for the best. I am for parents encouraging their children to go for the best but I am against parents pushing their children to go for the best. If we encourage our children to go for the best they will work hard towards it but if we push them to go for the best they will do everything (fair or foul, but mostly foul) to go for it. Most parents get so worried when their children do not come first in each subject or in Class. We should not worry ourselves so much to that extent. I would rather look at my children raw score. So far as their raw score can give them excellent, grade 1 or grade A, I am not worried. Some parents are happy if their children get 50% and are the best in their Class but get angry when their children get 85% and it is the sixth highest score in the class.
Some parents even get angry when their children do not win any prize in a Speech and Prize Giving Day. Life is more than winning prizes. I am not saying it is not good to win prizes. It is very good to win prizes and we must encourage our children to win prizes, but we should not make winning a prize the ultimate. Winning prize alone should not be our yardstick for measuring our children progress and intelligence. Examination has never been the best yardstick for measuring intelligence and it will continue not to be but since the world has not yet found the best alternative, we continue to use examination to measure academic success. The bottom line is that we should build relationships with our children as our most valuable treasures. If we do, we will be able to know them very well in terms of their strengths and weaknesses so we can know the sort of support we need to give them to build their self-esteem and confidence.
The third thing God told Jesus is that “…. with you I am well pleased.” This is called the effect. If there is no cause, there will not be an effect. This means a cause must happen for an effect to show up or be felt. The effect of building strong and close relationship with our children and showing them love with our deeds and words is that we will have children that will turn out very well in life that we can confidently tell them, “I am well pleased in you”. It is not every parent who can tell his/her children that “I am well pleased in you”. However, the burden to be able to tell your child “I am well pleased in you” lies more on the parent than on the child. Proverbs 1:8 admonishes children to “… hear the instruction of thy father and forsake not the law of thy mother”. So, parents must have given instructions and laws for children to follow and obey. We cannot blame children for not following instructions when parents have given none or being disobedience when there is no law for them to obey. What are the instructions you have given to your children as a father? What are the laws you have given to your children as a mother? That is why I said earlier that the burden to be able to tell our children that “I am well pleased in you” lies more with the parents. Parents must create the cause and the children will produce the effect.
The ultimate aim of parenting is to raise children for the life ahead of them in the world. No parent knows what awaits his/her children in the world ahead of them, but we all know our children will meet both challenges and opportunities. We must raise them to take advantages of the opportunities that will come their way and stand strong in the face of all the challenges that will come their way. Immediately after Jesus received His validation from His father that “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased”, Jesus was taken to the wilderness and Bible says “and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him”. This typically describes the life our children are likely to face in the world. The world is their wilderness and immediately they get to the world (the wilderness), they will not only be tempted but they will also contend with “wild animals” (wicked people of different backgrounds, believes and characters). Bible says in Hebrews 4:15 that Jesus “…. has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin”. Just as Jesus survived all the temptations in the wilderness with no sin because of His Father’s validation that “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased”, if we also do same for our children they will not only survive in the world but they will impact it with their lives like Jesus did.
I know it takes courage to boldly tell your child that “You are my Son (or daughter), whom I love; with you I am well pleased” but it is necessary we do it. We do not need to set any parameters for them to meet before we can say that or wait for them to become perfect before we can say that. The fact is that they will never become perfect as we are not ourselves. It is sometimes troubling to see some parents demand full perfection from their children when they are not fully perfect themselves. I am not by this saying we should not demand the best from our children, but we should not demand unreasonable deliverables from them. Let us use our relationships with them to assure them of what they mean to us and show them love to build their self-esteem and confidence to face the world. I know it will not be an easy task but since we have a target to achieve, which is “…. with you I am well pleased” we can pursue it and achieve it. God bless you all.