by Karol Svoboda
There is a story in the Bible of the wise and foolish builders. When the rains came and the winds blew and began to beat against the house, it was the house built upon a strong foundation that stood. The house built upon the sand fell with a big crash. It is like that with our children. This is the age, from birth to 5 that we need to build a strong foundation under them, so that when winds of troubles and temptations years later blow against them they can stand. And if they do fall they will have the strength they need to pick themselves up again.
Foundations for Growing Together
First things first:
We must begin with ourselves. We can only build in our child what is built and is being built in our lives. If we expect patience, kindness, respect, honesty and love in them, we must have it in our own lives. We come into parenting as imperfect people and the best place to grow is along with our child. As we set character goals of what we would like to build in our child, we must honestly look at our own lives. Do we exhibit that character trait? Am I the model I want my child to follow? Many parents subconsciously follow the motto- “Do what I say, not what I do.” But that will never build true character into a child. Children are very perceptive and at a very young age begin to point out our inconsistencies. I remember trying to teach one of our children to not interrupt when others were talking. We were quick to point out when they crossed the line and interrupted, until one time they pointed out to us that we often interrupted too! They were right and we apologized and tried to change our ways. God uses our children to point out weaknesses in our lives. They are often the mirrors of our weaknesses. We need to examine our own lives and grow in our weaknesses as we put expectations on our child to grow.
Foundations for Love
Commitment to unconditional love:
God loves us with unconditional love. A love that accepts us no matter what. That is the foundation a child needs to grow into wholeness and security. Many of our feelings of insecurity and inferiority as adults today stem from conditions that parents and adults put on us as children. Putting conditions on our love communicates the message to a child that we will love them fully only when they perform well. Unintentionally we put children down by comparing them to others, withholding affection and encouragement when they don’t behave right, making negative comments about their physical looks and abilities and by favoring one sibling over another. God puts children in families for all of them to be loved unconditionally by both parents. Unconditional love seeks to understand and empathize with each child. A family is meant to be a safe refuge for children to know they will be accepted and loved no matter what. The commitment to unconditional love must be the foundation for each stage of our child’s growth.
Foundations for Discipline
Keep the end in mind:
In order to build your “house upon a rock” you must have a plan on how to do it. What are the character traits you want to build in your child? What are the things most important to you? As my husband and I decided on some of the traits we wanted to build in our children, we were faced with the day to day situations that challenged our goals to build. When dealing with a 2 year old who was insistent on disobeying when we wanted to teach obedience there were many days we had to keep the end in mind-building obedience and self control in their young life. If the rule was, “No writing on walls,” the end result wasn’t just no writing on walls, but obedience to that rule. If the goal was to learn kindness and gentleness, stopping a child from hurting another child or animal was part of building kindness and gentleness. From birth to five years is the easiest time to teach a child because they are looking for boundaries and discipline. They are longing to know someone loves them enough to be “in charge.” It brings security to them.
Building for Life:
A child is so eager to learn from us at this age. It is an incredibly fun time in family life because of the development going on in our child. They begin this stage as a very helpless little baby and mature at a rapid pace of development physically and intellectually. It is also a time that our deepest values can be taught and caught by our children. What should we build at this age? As a parent it is very helpful and important to understand the physical and emotional development of a child. There is much material available to learn from through books and the Internet. When we understand a child’s natural capabilities it helps us know what to expect from them so we don’t push them too hard and expect too little of them.
Discipline/self control-boundaries that define right from wrong. This is the main focus for birth to five years old. It is the foundation that brings greater depth and strength to all the other traits they are learning.
Respect for others-learning to be kind, listen to and respond to and value others.
- Confidence: a sense of assurance that they are capable of doing different tasks.
- Independence: according to their age capabilities-feeding and dressing themselves, doing simple chores, cleaning up after themselves, good eating and sleeping habits.
- Creativity: being given a lot of room to explore and experience the world around them with safety.
- Value: having a deep sense of value in who they are. This comes through unconditional love, being listened to and appreciated.
- Manners: learning to say please and thank you. Sharing thing with others as they are capable.
- Structure: providing a routine-not a rigid, unbendable one, but one that a child can depend on, helps to build trust and security.
- Spiritual understanding: knowing who Jesus is, learning to pray, to forgive and be forgiven. Learning to say sorry when wrong.
- Sharing their hearts: if a child feels they can share their heart with you at this age, they will more likely to share their heart in their teen years. Learn to listen and be interested in their lives.
Add the traits you want to see built in your child’s life to the above list.