About Me

I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure (using font only to enable access in settings with poor internet)

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Priorities and Affirming our Children

Recently we led a seminar on career choices at a Christian conference for young professionals, and one key them that emerged was that of life-work balance. People want to glorify God through their work, and to serve Him with their heart, soul, mind and strength. But at the same time, there is an awareness that career aspirations can easily become idolatrous; it is a fine line to walk in certain professions, but there may come a time when something which is good and commendable is keeping you from the best thing of all, which is serving God wholeheartedly. But how does one know what God is calling them to do? Is guidance an easy thing to discern? How do we choose godly priorities? Do other priorities (family life, Christian service etc) not also run the risk of becoming idols? And thinking about it all, it becomes so clear that we need to pray, as did the Psalmist, ‘Search me O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’ Psalm 139:23-24

There are some secular tools which can be helpful in considering priorities, and one which is frequently used is a ‘wheel of life’. But it was interesting when I did this exercise for myself, because I considered some of the main areas: Personal relationship with God, Christian activities, Work, Marriage, Children (including their education), Friendships, Extended Family and Leisure Time. My diagram looked very unbalanced (the final three scored very low), and actually made me question. But the main question I asked myself was what our priorities ought to be as Christian families? There seems to be a presumption, even amongst Christian circles, that leisure time spent with friends is a right rather than a privilege and a blessing. How many young mothers hear people telling them to take some ‘me time’? How many couples talk about putting off having children for a few years, so they ‘can enjoy some nice holidays together’? How many people live for the weekends? How many people see their regular hobbies as essential, rather than a bonus? I do not wish to sound puritanical, but I do think as Christians we need to prayerfully consider how we best use our time. And whilst it can be a helpful starting point, I think Christians must beware of secular resources which feed the myth that we need so much personal and leisure time. Instead, a more healthy diagram would be one which has God at the centre of all. I also came across this very helpful blog with a diagram showing how all previous areas become squeezed when we have children, but that none of these should be lost, and we should attempt to maintain balance for overall spiritual health within the home.

I liked this final one so much, that I continued to read the blog, and found an excellent series entitled: ’29 ways to affirm your children’. Now, along a similar line to my sceptism about priorities detailed in the preceding paragraph, I tend to run a mile from things that talk about ‘affirmation’ – the word brings to mind mantras of ‘you are a good person’ (no you aren’t, you are a sinner in need of salvation!), ‘you have strength within you’ (no you don’t, God’s power is  made perfect in weakness) etc… Anyway, I was glad that I did not get put off by the title. Let me encourage you to read the series! In summary, the 29 points were:

1)      Create a positive, loving and secure environment in your home
2)      Be sensitive to your child’s thoughts and feelings
3)      Give your children choices
4)      Give everyone an opportunity to speak
5)      Nip the self-criticism
6)      Minimise sibling rivalry
7)      Discover the gift in your child
8)      Develop your child’s gift
9)      Teach your child to compensate
10)   Help your child to compete
11)   Develop self-confidence
12)   Discipline in an emotionally healthy manner
13)   Teach self-control
14)   Encourage positive character qualities
15)   Teach your children to work
16)   Teach your children to complete their chores
17)   Make sure they keep up with their schoolwork
18)   Teach your children to communicate with adults
19)   Encourage friendships of high character
20)   Follow a family schedule that reduces fatigue and time pressure
21)   A healthy amount of sleep
22)   A healthy diet
23)   Keep your promises
24)   Laugh with your children
25)   The importance of physical touch
26)   Reward effort, not results
27)   Teach your children to serve others
28)   Celebrate life
29)   Develop a healthy pride in being part of something bigger than themselves.

Each of these areas is discussed in a balanced, Biblical way. I was refreshed that the importance of hard work, discipline, sensible choice of friends, good communication with others including adults (!) and serving others are all considered as means to ‘affirm’ our children. It leads back to some of the most fundamental questions regarding what our aims as parentsare in the first place. If ‘affirming’ means to us giving in to every whim of the child, allowing them to make foolish choices and sheltering them from the realities of life and responsibility, then we are not lovingly preparing them for life in the real world.

I was encouraged as I read through the list, that as a home schooling family we already have prioritised many of these areas. I pray that we can continue to make wise choices, and that as we walk through life together with our children that they see our joy as we seek to put God first. I pray that they see relationships and service as essential ways to serve God in this world which has so much need. And I pray that we can continue to take opportunity to minister as a family. May you be encouraged in these areas too.

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