In Proverbs 24:3-4, the Lord tells us that raising a family requires wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Such wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are not of the world neither are they inherited from our forefathers. Rather, they come from God and are revealed to us by His Holy Spirit.
Family is God’s creation and He alone has the knowledge needed to maintain it excellently. Through our relationship with Him in Christ, we have access to this knowledge and are invited to receive and use it that our families may be blessed.
In this article, I write about the God-given uniqueness and beauty of our children, trusting that as you read and prayerfully consider the points discussed, the Holy Spirit will inspire, encourage, and guide you into some of God’s blessings for your family.
The Word of God tells us that every person whom God creates is wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). In other words, before people are born they are assigned unique and beautiful personalities by God. These personalities are designed to perfectly match the purposes He intends them to fulfill here on earth (through an empowering relationship with His Son Jesus Christ). But the question may be asked, “If God made everyone beautifully, why are there so many unpleasant and mean people on earth?” I believe this is because God’s treasures come in earthen vessels; when people arrive on earth, they are like newly discovered treasures covered in dirt and grime. The treasures have to be refined through God’s wisdom and grace for their true beauty to emerge.
I Don’t Think So…
Many parents never get to appreciate their children’s God-given beauty. Sometimes, this is because they have their own ideas about what their children should be and continually try to make them fit that mould instead of God’s. For example, a child given an easy-going, creative personality for the purpose of fulfilling a ministry in music may meet the disapproval of parents who would prefer him to have the type of personality suited to becoming a medical doctor. These parents may become troubled and disappointed because their child does not become what they have worked so hard to make him or her become. The child on the other hand may feel frustrated and become insecure because he does not measure up to his parents’ standards.
Every individual has a God-given personality or temperament. This personality could be a reflection of one or both parents, the grandparents, or other relatives. Each personality type has its own strengths and weaknesses. Upbringing and life experiences have a profound effect on how personalities turn out. Christians who continually submit to the Holy Spirit find that over time, He refines the strengths and transforms the weaknesses of their unique personalities.
It has been found that personalities show up in children as early as two to three years of age1. This means that early in life, parents have the opportunity to encourage a child’s unique strengths and teach him or her how to manage personality weaknesses. For example, some children are born leaders. They like to take charge of tasks and people. They are also focused and have the ability to follow-through effectively. However, they may be unduly demanding, have a tendency to be inconsiderate of the needs of others as they try to achieve their own goals and have problems with bending the rules to achieve their goals. With such children, parents need to encourage their determination, leadership and follow-through abilities. However, they should teach integrity, sensitivity, consideration for others and submission of their goals and aspirations to God.
Other children may be intelligent, thorough, and committed to the people or activities they engage in. They may enjoy striving for excellence and perfection in the things they do. However, they may be prone to a negative self-image and this may make them overly sensitive to correction and criticism. They may also be pessimistic, moody, overly critical, and tend to give up easily when things don’t work out. With such children, parents need to encourage their intellectual abilities, diligence, and sense of commitment. They need to teach them to think and speak positively about themselves and others. They also need to encourage them to endure hardship and stay with things to the end. A good understanding and appreciation of God’s unconditional love is necessary to help children with this personality type overcome their negative self-image. This understanding helps them see that their mistakes and failures do not affect God’s love for them. He knows all the mistakes they will ever make but loves and values them, and wants to help them overcome their shortcomings.
Some children may be boisterous, cheerful, entertaining, and social. However, they may be somewhat disorganized and lack the discipline to concentrate on important matters. Being people lovers, they may also be easily influenced and swayed by peer pressure. With such children, parents should encourage their liveliness, cheerfulness, and love for people. However, through prayer and instruction they should teach them to focus on important issues. They should also teach some degree of organization but not expect perfection! It is particularly important for children with this personality type to be rooted and grounded in God so that they source their direction from Him and not from negative external influences.
Some children are very peaceful and would do almost anything to avoid conflict. Children with this personality type are quite laid back and may regularly slip into passivity. With them, parents need to encourage the peaceful attitude towards people and life’s challenges. However, they need to teach them to work through, not run away from necessary conflict. They also need to prayerfully break them out of the mold of passivity, laziness, and procrastination.
These simple descriptions1 of basic personality types are not exclusive; in other words, children could show different combinations of them. They are also not exhaustive so further reading is recommended. Their purpose in this article is to illustrate the diverse personalities that exist among children and to show some of the ways in which children’s personalities can be positively influenced by their parents.
Our Role as Parents
“Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent] and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 Amplified Bible).
This scripture aptly spells out our role as parents—we are God-appointed teachers for our children. The Lord expects us to (i) teach them His ways through instruction and example (ii) train them in a way that brings out (not changes or destroys) the personality He has put in them.
Although we are responsible for teaching and training our children, it is God that actually brings fruitfulness to their lives. This is similar to Paul’s experience with the Corinthian Christians of which he said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God [all the while] gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6 Amplified). In the early church, Paul was used by God to birth and raise spiritual children among the Gentiles. Paul preached to them, taught the doctrines of Christ, and exhorted and rebuked as necessary. Thereafter, he prayed and committed them to God, trusting Him to bring forth Christ-like fruit in their lives. Our role is similar; we cannot cause our children to bring forth fruits of righteousness (only God can). However, we can and God expects us to consistently teach them His ways both by instruction and example. We should carefully align our training with their God given personalities, encouraging their strengths and helping them deal with their weaknesses. We should pray for them frequently, asking the Lord to bring fruitfulness to the seeds we sow in their lives. Finally, we should trust God concerning them. Coming to this place of trust entails believing that God is deeply interested in how our children turn out and that He is faithful to keep and bless them when we truly release them to Him (2 Timothy 1:12).
The Role of Grace
Fulfilling our God-given role is challenging in today’s world. This is because the tides of culture are contrary, and many systems of our world subtly or overtly oppose raising godly children:
- There are few godly role models; therefore, children hardly have opportunities to see God-honoring behavior in the public arena.
- The demands of daily life put such a squeeze on parents that teaching and modeling righteousness are challenging.
- The lines between good and evil have become so blurred that Christian parents inadvertently allow their children get involved in things that open doors to the enemy in their lives.
Because of these and several other challenges, we should continually ask God for grace to fulfill the task He has assigned us. We should also seek His wisdom on how to sow positively and effectively in our children’s lives. We should ask His Holy Spirit to teach us how to instruct and discipline them without destroying the beauty of their God-given personalities. We should also ask for His grace to be able to consistently teach and model righteousness day after day, week after week, and year after year.
The good news is that God’s grace is available in abundance. God’s grace is the power that motivates and enables us to do excellently what we have difficulty doing in our own strength. If we recognize our insufficiency and look to the Lord for help, He will pour out His abundant grace on us (Hebrews 4:16). As a result, we will find ourselves having wisdom, strength, and joy as we go about raising our children for Him. We will also find that our strength for the work is renewed every day (Isaiah 40:31).
The Role of Prayer
Believing prayer is a powerful tool for raising our children. When we see their weaknesses and the difficulties they encounter trying to overcome them, we should bring God’s power to bear in their lives by praying for them. James 5:16b says that the heartfelt, continued prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available (Amplified Bible). Our prayers, if offered in faith, will surely make a difference in their lives. We may not see the results immediately but the Word of God says that if we do not give up sowing seeds of righteousness, we will reap a harvest of life in due season (Galatians 6:8b).
The Role of Love
As parents, we are God’s love letter to our children. We cannot convince them that God loves them if we do not model His love. Before I proceed, let me briefly differentiate between God’s love and human love: God’s love remains the same even when the person being loved fails; human love increases when its object performs well and decreases or is completely withdrawn when its object fails. God’s love is full of mercy and kindness and does nothing for selfish gain; human love is judgmental, hard to please, and selfish. When disciplining, God’s love disapproves of the behavior not the person e.g. “You acted unwisely.” When disciplining, human love disapproves of the behavior and the person e.g. “You are a fool.” This list could go on and on but its key point is that there is a huge difference between God’s love and human love. When we say that we show our children love, we must think about the type of love we show them. If we consistently show them God’s love, we will make a positive and significant impact on their lives.
Showing God’s love is possible, but cannot be achieved by mere human striving. If we want to be true conduits of His love, we must ask God to empower us. He will do this by causing us to receive His love for ourselves first and then work through us to give it to our children. We need to clearly experience God’s love and mercy in our lives. It is as this happens that we are able to extend the same love and mercy to our children and others (John 15:12; John 13:15).
Bless and Curse Not
When children misbehave, parents may be tempted to speak negatively, cynically, or abusively to them. However, we should remember that God has appointed us to be their teachers and intercessors, therefore, we should not allow the devil to use our mouths to destroy them (James 3:6-12). Words are powerful (Proverbs 18:21). Abusive words cause deep hurts whereas words of wisdom tenderly spoken bring healing and change (Proverbs 12:18).
When we err, God rebukes us firmly but never with cynical or abusive words. When we are rebuked of Him, we are humbled but we never come out feeling worthless and useless (feelings of worthlessness are Satan’s weapons). What we receive of the Lord, we should give to our children. We should rebuke and discipline them but do so in love.
We should also learn to praise and bless them for their good behavior. This may be difficult because children make a lot of mistakes. However, they do behave well sometimes and we as parents should recognize and praise them at those times. Doing this will reinforce their self-esteem and bring them to believe that they are truly loved.
Reflect and Pray
Raising children in a way that preserves their inner beauty and fulfills God’s purpose is an intricate process. I have merely flagged key aspects that merit attention and further meditation in this article. I pray that you would take the nuggets shared here to the Lord and allow Him to point out portions that are relevant to your situation. As you submit to Him in this and every other aspect of life, He will lead you into His grace and breakthrough in the area of raising your children for His glory.
Beverly LaHaye, Understanding Your Child’s Temperament (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, Copyright 1997), pp. 23-46