Our kids don't want to be the center of the universe. In my new book Get Out Of Your Head we talk about seven enemies of the mind. Last week we talked about anxiety, which is running rampant in this next generation. This week, we're talking about self-importance. I believe these two are tied together, because when a kid thinks they are the center of your world, they feel a lot of pressure.
When we were pregnant with our first kid, a couple spoke the best parenting advice we've ever gotten into our lives. They said, "you've got a choice as you enter this season of parenting. You and Zac care about your ministry and the world, and you can either put this new baby in the center of your family, or you can put the world at the center and raise your kid on mission for God and his Kingdom." We signed up for the second. What did that look like for our family? A lot of things. We missed sporting games and didn't do things other families did. Because we were church planting, starting IF:Gathering, and even through my husband's business. We have not prioritized work ahead of our kids, but as a family, we are going to be a team on mission instead of existing solely for the wellbeing of our kids.
I've got two kids that are grown, and both of them have said thank you for not making us the center of your universe. They're heading out into the world, and they appreciate that Zac and I's lives are not over because they're gone. We like them and love them, and they know that. They enjoy our relationship more, because there's not so much pressure existing around it.
Ephesians 4:1-3 says, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace." Paul is saying here that we should keep our heads down, be humble, gentle, patient, and bear with each other in love. That kind of lifestyle does not come if we think we are the center of the universe. We've seen making an idol out of our kids as good, healthy parenting, and that is troubling on a few levels. God outright tells us to have no other God before him. The pressure put on our kids is enormous when they become the center of our universe. They've now got to measure up to meet our hopes and expectations, and they are crumbling. We can have both relational and achievement oriented pressures for our kids - the way they treat us for mother's day, the way they make mistakes, how much they come home after they go to college, etc. All of the sudden our identity and worth is tied up in them, and that is way too much for our kids to handle.
So how do we apply these verses to our parenting? I think the main way we're able to train up our kids in Godliness is to take them off the throne of our hearts. They get put on that throne the second we get them - through adoption or birth. There is something about a mother's intuition, where they exist to care for every need that child has. That's part of the way God has made us. The problem comes when we don't keep the end in mind - ultimately we are called to launch these humans into the world for the good of people and the glory of God. When we keep the end in mind, we keep looser hands on our kids. We take care of them physically, emotionally, mentally, and relationally but we don't do that so we can get something in return. We're doing that so we can launch the next generation into the world to carry out the plans of God.
When we have this mindset, we don't freak out as much when they make mistakes or let us down. We can handle it in a way that is wise and discerning. Our happiness is no longer tied to their happiness. There is a name for that - codependency. It always leads to unhealthy relationships, and there is a fine line when it comes to our kids. Prioritizing our kids is a great value, but when we start making decisions as a family around a kids' soccer schedule or getting into a certain school, that takes our mindset so inward. Then our kids are so confused when they grow up and get a job or get married, and the world is no longer revolving around them.
To raise kids that are humble, we have to build kids that the world does not revolve around them. They have to realize their mission and purpose is to revolve around the world - to show and display God to their world. I'm not just talking about ministry, but whatever they feel called to do. Get your kids into different experiences where they can serve, try new things, see what their gifts are, and find out how they can be a part of the mission of God on earth. That takes lots of different experiences. A huge value for Zac and I as our kids were growing up is to notice what they're good at, and tell them. Put that in their mind. So that when they left the house, they knew what their gifts were and how to contribute to the world. It started young - our kids would help us stack chairs at our church plant, set up nurseries and Sunday school rooms, and be there with us until after 1pm tearing everything down. Find places as a family you can serve together, get your hands dirty, and learn what they're good at.
We also have to get our kids interacting with all different types of people in the local church. When we were at our church plant, our kids got to know some of the elderly people, some of the teenagers, and everyone in between. I think that helped them build this confidence that they carry into the world now.
Sit down as a family and dream what it could look like to serve and build the kingdom of God together. I promise, it will be worth it.
I've had a dream in the making for over 15 years to give kids a big view of God. I wanted to build tools and resources that would capture kids' imaginations and cause them to want God from a young age. So after 15 years, we're finally launching it. If you want to be a part of it, go check out theolaby.com, put in your email, and let's give our little kids a big view of God.