Grace and Achieving Children
Grace plays a huge role in turning your children into achievers. Achievement has both a positive and a negative dimension to it. On one side, most kids are born with a lazy streak, which inclines them to aim too low when it comes to personal development. Taking the path of least resistance comes naturally.
Unfortunately, if these children want to have any hope as adults, they’ve got to harness their potential, discipline their desires, regiment their strengths, and face their weaknesses with courage. It’s a lot easier for them to follow our lead regarding these issues than to take our advice. They need to see us disciplining our financial wants, our physical appetites, and our emotional weaknesses. When our children spend their childhood watching us grow intellectually and spiritually, it makes these goals far more a part of their second nature.
Our example is a powerful way that we can help our children become committed to personal achievement, but it is not enough. That’s because of that “lazy streak” I mentioned earlier. We’ve got to add to our daily example a daily commitment to tutoring our children on how to overcome their inclination towards underachievement. Parents who want to build any sense of hope into their children’s future must learn the grateful art of “pushing carefully” by establishing realistic standards and then gently shoving them in the right direction.
It’s easy for a well-intentioned parent to get carried away when it comes to turning their children into achievers. Among other things, achievement can be gained at the expense of character. Cheaters sometimes win. One-dimensional people often end up with more money. Selfishness, cunning, and backstabbing are often the faster tracks to fame.
Grace dictates that we keep achievement goals in context with the children’s bigger role as members of God’s chosen people. They need to see their commitment to achievement as a way to glorify God as well as a way to make them more valuable to others. Grace helps us keep achievement in its rightful place, as means to an end.
Grace also keeps us from unwittingly turning our children into overachievers. In almost every case, overachievement is at the expense of something greater than what is achieved. Whether its sports, academics, entertainment, music, or even their spiritual lives, we’ve got to demonstrate grace in setting a reasonable pace, realistic goals, and willingness to acknowledge when they’ve had enough.
Many disciplines that parents build into their children’s lives don’t make them better people; they just make them more proficient than someone else. I remember reading about a father who sacrificed to educate his children at home. They became tremendous students with excellent academic resumes – and superb spellers. Soon, the firstborn became a regional champion and a state finalist at spelling bees. The next child followed suit. Before long, this man’s family was dominating spelling bees at the national level.
Somewhere along the road to developing a nice skill in his children’s lives, this father lost sight of the bigger picture if they misspelled a word during practice. He physically abused them if they lost, and he turned achievement of skill into a nightmare. His pride needed his children in the winner’s circle – regardless of the price to them personally. Outsiders could easily see that spelling words very few people actually use doesn’t necessarily make you a better person, just a better speller. His abuse became so severe that nobody was surprised when social services came in and removed his children from his home.
Being the best violinist in the city, the best math student in the school district, or the best quarterback in the conference doesn’t necessarily make our children more valuable as people. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with our children hitting these milestones if they are part of the reasonable development of their God-given gifts, but most people in the world come in second, third, or in the middle of the pack.
Children need to know that their intrinsic value has nothing to do with where they place in the race of life, nor is it a statement of how much hope they really have.
Used with permission from Grace Based Parenting
Dr. Tim Kimmel has reached millions of parents with his message of building strong families.