by Karol Svoboda
A baby enters our lives with our hearts full of expectation, hopes, dreams, fears, uncertainties and many unknowns. We are given a wonderful gift yet a great responsibility when a baby comes. A baby comes into a home of imperfect people with sometimes little or no training in how best to raise this new life. Where do we begin? We begin by dedicating ourselves to the Creator who knitted our child together in his mother’s womb with a unique and divine purpose in mind. It is the responsibility of the parents to do their very best in raising their child to be who they were created to be.
A baby is like a piece of soft moldable clay in our hands and it is up to us, with the help of the One who created them to mould them in character to become all they were created for. We are born with a unique personality that will be who we are for the rest of their lives. Some children are born with a very strong will ready to take on the world and often more challenging to mould. Others are born with a very pliable will, eager to please others and do their best without much coaxing. Then, they are others who are naturally shy and are internal processors. They have a lot to offer but it takes an wise adult to draw their gifts and talents out of them. We need to understand early on the unique personality traits of our child in order to build life skills and character traits necessary to for them become productive, God fearing, loving, responsible adults.
As young parents we felt God directed us to have a vision for our children. Not a vision of what they would do or become such as a doctor, a pastor, IT engineer or full-time worker etc, but a vision of who they could become; intentionally aiming to build character traits into their lives. We began to see clearly what character traits we would intentionally build into their lives. Galatians 5:22 became our vision for our children. Building the fruit of the spirit in their lives. Those fruits being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. It meant always trying to keep the end in mind in every day life. Taking our adult definitions of what love, patience or kindness means and modeling and building that into their lives in the times when they don’t share, don’t obey, hit other people or demand what they want.
As parents we often forget that the immediate challenges our children bring at each age gives us the opportunity to build character that will last into adulthood. It doesn’t mean quoting scripture or demanding them to be loving or patient, but consistently training them in their every day life. Patience is a difficult one for children and adults. I struggled with it and wasn’t always a good model for my children. Our actions will always speak louder than our words and if we see our children developing bad habits of impatience, unkindness, complaining etc we need to first examine our own lives and what are we modeling to them. I began learning to be more patient along with my young daughters. Waiting for long periods of time for busses or people turned into games of counting or observing the world around us. As we learned to take our focus off the thing making us impatient, we all learned more patience. Ask God to give you specific vision for what He wants you to focus on in character building in your child. By focusing on building who they are rather than what they might become we give a child value and security to become all that God wants them to be.
There are 4 overall stages of development in a child’s life. When we understand those stages it will help us to understand the areas we need to put our greatest emphasis on at particular stages in our child’s life. If we develop the crucial traits in a child at the ages they are most ready to learn, we can more smoothly progress on in growth and maturity. Through each stage love and encouragement must be the foundation we work from as parents. Love that truly loves no matter what! Love that accepts and understands a child for who they are.
Birth to 5 Years
From birth to 5 years the main focus is building discipline or self control. It is the time for a child to begin to learn boundaries that will teach him right from wrong, protect him in times of temptation, and learn the ability to guide themselves as teenagers and adults. This is the best time to begin to learn how to love and be kind to others, how to do small chores, learn life skills(dressing, eating, bathing etc) on their own and learn about God. This is the age that children are the easiest to discipline and want boundaries built in their lives. We may often think it is easier to just let them be and hope they will learn discipline from school or other experiences. But it takes consistent, intentional effort on our part each day and must begin as early as possible with a child. External controls/rules that are lovingly and consistently built at this age easily become internal self control that a child so needs as they get older and face the temptations that life and peers bring into their lives.
6 to 12 Years
The main focus at this age is training. At this age a child is learning many skills. They need to have many opportunities to develop their talents outside of school and academics. School can be a very difficult place for children who do not do as well in the school environment. Their self image can plummet at this age if talents unique to them are not developed. Whether it be sports, music, drama, art, gardening, poetry etc, a child needs an outlet that they can succeed in. Training in life skills are crucial. Learning to be responsible and complete a task, to be punctual, have good hygiene, develop positive social skills to relate to peers and adults, do chores around the house and so on. These years are putting them on the track to becoming a teenager on the road to adult hood. It should be a time with a good balance of fun and responsibility. It is in this time that a child is most open to know and follow God. Parents should find many opportunities for their child to learn about and experience God. Also, the father is a key figure in this stage of a child’s life, particularly sons. Role models are very important to 6 to 12 year olds and the best role model they can have is their father.
13 to 18 Years
This is the stage for coaching. As a parent if you have built a good level of discipline and self control into your child, they are secure in who they are and have learned loving kindness towards others, it often makes the teenage years more enjoyable for all. The role of the parent becomes like a coach who is always there for their child, on the sidelines encouraging and bringing correction when necessary, but letting their child begin to make their own decisions, become their own persons separate from their parents identity. The stronger a parent holds on to a teenager because of fear that they will lose them or they will fail, the more they will pull away from the parent. A teenager who knows their parent trusts them and is there for them on the sidelines will more likely come to a parent for input and wisdom. They are naturally becoming adults as they go through puberty and develop adult bodies. Parents cannot stop that and to hold on will create either an over dependency or rebellion. The role of the parent of a teenager is to always be available to listen to them, to love them no matter what and to finally let them go.
19 Years Plus
This stage is Friendship. Parenting doesn’t ever stop, but the relationship changes as that newborn who changed our world 19 years ago becomes an adult. If you have done well at giving them roots in those training years and finally giving them wings to become their own person as a young adult, then you can enjoy the friendship that a parent child relationship brings. To give your child wings means to release them to become independent, responsible adults