Rise and Shine! On he Younger Generation
BY: TCLeach at http://throughanewlens.blogspot.com
My aspiration has never been to work with kids, and my heart always goes out to those who do have the heart to do so. Teachers, foster caregivers, mentors…there are a plethora of people dedicated to the “raising” of children. There, wasn’t that an especially delicate way of admitting that kids aren’t my favorite people? I don’t hate them or anything, and I certainly have a bunch of them in my life that I love, but I’ve just never been drawn to the careers that center around children. That being said, children are drawn to me. My kids even used to get aggravated when they would find their guests in the living room chatting with me! I never knew what drew them to me, but when I began walking with God, I saw what a great position this put me in! I could use my easy connection to children to shine His light, and that has been my aim ever since. I will have an impact on each youth I meet, what kind of an impact will be up to me.
I understand that communicating with younger people doesn’t come naturally to some adults. Especially in these days, our youth can seem more like they are from another planet than the one we were raised on. The world is bent on teaching the young a different set of standards, morals and values than what we had. History gets rewritten for school books, and tolerance is taught at such a level that kids are beginning to think that anything is okay. Don’t despair! There are ways to connect with children, whether it’s a kid of your own, or just the youth in your community. Children are the future, and perhaps the most important people we can shine God’s light on! Whether the person is 3 or 17, they have the same basic need, to be heard and appreciated for their own thoughts and opinions, and to feel validated for having them. As in any area, before we go about shining God’s light, we first check our own connection to its source. Unless we are walking in light ourselves, we are casting shadows. Repent of anything that stands contrary to The Father in your life, and be full of His Word every day. Only then can you go about shining His light! When shining on the youth in your life, keep these helpful hints in mind: (note: I will use the term “child” for ease and continuity, but these tips apply to anyone under the age of “adulthood”)
- Listen with your ears and eyes. Not feeling heard is a common complaint among children. When you listen quietly and with focus, a child is encouraged to share even more of their thoughts. Whether you are listening about the struggles with Leggos and match-box cars or the struggles of peer pressure, understand that to the child doing the talking, these are the most important issues in their lives at the moment.
- Never tell a child they are wrong in what they think and feel. Instead, validate how they are feeling, and begin a new habit of helping them to always look at the many “sides” to any issue, including their feelings. Knowing there are many views to any issue helps a child to broaden their horizons, and strengthens their capability to experience empathy. Be sure, when it is applicable, to include what has been written in Scripture concerning any subject matter. Never do this in a condescending way, only in a positive way.
- Check yourself for hypocrisy! Children, more than anyone, scrutinize us. They are always watching to see if our talk matches our walk. If we are saying one thing but doing another, they are quick to pick up on it, and it becomes harder for them to respect our thoughts and opinions, or to trust us. We can’t tell them not to lie, and then lie ourselves, even with little “white lies”. We can’t tell children to walk in love if we are walking around complaining about others, and insulting them or gossipping about them.
- Admit your own mistakes and shortcomings. There is nothing worse to a child than an adult who claims to know it all. There is not an adult alive who doesn’t make mistakes! Talking about our struggles honestly makes us more approachable. A “know it all” attitude slams a door in the face of the one who is trying to connect with us. Of course we should share “age appropriately” with our audience. Get in touch with your own memories of being a child, and share according to those! A child needs to know that, as children, we faced many of the same issues they did. They were just “dressed” differently. Being honest about the issues and how they made us feel invites a child to listen to the solutions we found ourselves, and encourages them to find solutions, too.
- Apologise when necessary. It’s not hard to find ourselves being short with a child. The stresses of the adult life can sometimes spill over onto our children, and that shouldn’t be. If you find you’ve been short, inattentive or even rude with a child, sit them down and offer your heart-felt apology. This also includes breaking promises, embarrassing them, or any other thing you discern was an offense in their eyes. Don’t follow it with a list of excuses, just be short, sweet, and very, very honest. Our sincerity is more accurately perceived by children than even other adults!
- Ask questions. Nothing will make a child open up more than knowing you’re happy to hear more! Whether they’re 5 or 15, children are happy to talk about themselves and their lives when they know we are interested, and not standing by, ready to judge them. With teens, we tread a little more lightly, understanding that they value their privacy, and are still trying to find their own identity and place in this world. Don’t let your questions make them feel defensive, let your questions be an invitation for them to openly express their thoughts…even if they are different from yours.
- Don’t be a “fault finder”. Children of any age desire approval. If you see an attempt being made at any project, find the good parts about it, and concentrate on those. Too often, as adults, our eye is trained on what remains to be done, and not on what has already been done. If a child vacuums, don’t point out that they forgot to move the coffee table, and don’t go behind them to redo what they’ve done. If they bring home a bad grade on a test, start with what they got right, and then ask them what they think went wrong. Don’t insult their style of dressing, or their taste in anything. Really, blue or green hair isn’t as bad as you think it is! There’s a tender heart under even the toughest exterior. Taste isn’t right or wrong, it’s just different for different people. Look past the mask a teen might wear to as they learn to express themselves. Don’t insult them. Set limits with them in regards to their friends, but do not insult those friends, either. When a child feels like you will criticize anything they bring to the table, they will stop bringing anything.
- Demand respect. We must have clear boundaries in regards to being respected by children. We do not do them any favors by allowing them to disrespect us. Be transparent and concise about what is acceptable or not acceptable, and then be consistent. For instance, in my house, my grandchildren know that after 9 at night is grown-up time. They may still be awake because they are on summer break, but they know that it’s time for them to read, watch a little TV, or entertain themselves. I remind them of how important they are to me, but that I do “clock-out” at 9.
- Give respect. Once the adult boundaries are in place and in practice, it is important that children feel respected, too. Age appropriately, allow them to have boundaries, and clearly and purposefully respect them. Let a child know that you can be counted on, while still being clear that you will step over a boundary if they are in danger. As adults, sometimes we have to do just that, for their own good, but don’t make “stepping over the line” the norm! Respecting a child and letting them rule over us are two different things, it’s important that we know and exhibit the difference. Sometimes, respecting them means allowing them to make some mistakes, as well as face the consequences of those mistakes. If they do not learn how to solve some problems on their own (with only guidance and advice from you) they will have difficulties doing so in their adult lives. Let a child make a decision (when it is safe for them to do so) even if you know it’s the wrong decision. They will learn from their mistakes, just like we do.
- Love outloud. Perhaps this is the most important one! Let the children in your life know how much they mean to you, and how much they mean to the future. Each one is valuable, with unique talents and gifts to offer this world. If there aren’t any children in your family, reach out to the ones in the community, and let them know they are important and valued. Too many children are hurting these days. Many are coming from a broken home, and many more are being raised by proxies instead of parents. If you look around, you will find a child who is in desperate need of God’s light. Be the one to shine it on them!!
Children might seem like they’re from another planet, but they’re not, they’re just a product of rapidly changing times. Like anyone, children have a need to feel heard and understood. Even though “understood” might be a difficult stretch for us, a child knows when we are making an honest attempt to see things from their perspective, and when we are not. When our mind is closed to anything they are trying to tell us, eventually, they will stop trying, and that is sad, indeed. Even the teens, who can seem difficult to connect with, have the desire to be heard and accepted. Reach out to a child, even if you don’t have any. Somewhere in your family or community, a child desperately wants to be heard…and loved!