“Did you know that glass is stronger than steel?!”
My husband was having a lively conversation with my oldest son as the kids ambled around their bedtime routine. My husband had just remarked at one of my son’s latest Tinker Toy creations, which he carefully displays on his dresser next to complex Lego structures. The kid’s a natural architect, or maybe an engineer: A spatial, problem-solving brain that loves to create and to understand how the world works. My husband happens to be reading some basic books on architectural and engineering principles. So he initiated a conversation with my son. “See, glass is more brittle, so it doesn’t bend likes steel does when it faces pressure. That’s why it breaks.”
Their conversation tumbled forward, my son asking fascinated questions and my husband meeting them with enthusiastic dialogue.
On a whim after the kids’ bedtime, I Googled “architecture for kids” and “engineering for kids,” and unearthed books on Amazon. I couldn’t believe it: The same author of the books my husband was reading had one for kids!
Fostering my kids’ individual makeup has been a passion of mine for a long time. It’s one of the factors that tipped the scales on our schooling choice, because I saw homeschooling as a way to “shepherd” my kids in the specific ways God has made them and pour into their strengths. I personally went to public school, so my parents fostered my creativity with lessons (voice and piano), the occasional class (I remember gingerbread house-making and watercoloring), and carefully selected Christmas gifts—like a creative writing book, or even a drafting table like real artists used. They encouraged my love for cultures and languages by finding a woman who would converse with me in Spanish and tutor me weekly. I’m so grateful for the short-term missions they released me to pursue, and the various lessons and mentors they sought out to help me fully embrace God’s plan for me—which now involves raising my family in a developing African nation. God used the fires they stoked in me to prepare me for His plans in so many ways! So raising my kids according to their bent, like we’re told in Proverbs 22:6, never fails to capture my interest. My view of their future keeps catapulting me toward intentional, prayerful, eyes-wide-open parenting for their very own unique “species,” like some sort of people-gardener.
I am continually amazed at the depth of meaning in Ephesians 2:10: That we (and our kids!) are God’s workmanship—particularly crafted to express God, especially in the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do. So here are a few ideas to discover and foster God’s remarkable plan for your child.
1. Prayerfully seek out the ways they’re wired.
Chat with people who know your child well (teachers, relatives, coaches, etc.). Pray that even from your child’s earliest days, God will reveal how He’s made him or her, and help you to pursue the right opportunities—even when you can’t see the big picture. Think and talk with your child about his or her heart, passions, experiences, and strengths. How does your child reflect who God is?
2. Get professional help.
Apply the principles from spiritual gifts tests, personality tests, books like The Treasure Tree by John Trent, and even your child’s report card to see the things they naturally like to do and areas to which they are consistently drawn. Understand concepts like Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and Raising Kids for True Greatness by Tim Kimmel to help you expand your thinking beyond academics and other more typical, occasionally toxic ways of viewing success, intelligence, and giftedness.
Pray and dialogue with your husband about ways to simplify your activities so that you can concentrate on areas of strength, and not just every passing interest or trend. Doing too much can occasionally cause us to excel in very little.
4. Train it.
Search out classes, lessons, mentors (which can be as casual as letting your daughter who loves children tag along with an older babysitter), library books, Christmas gifts, experiences, camps, and Scriptures that can encourage your particular kids. But the goal is not more activities or stuff: This is another area to work smarter, not harder. Focusing on your child’s makeup is a way to focus these areas, not make them messier.
5. Cheer them on.
When you see your child in their sweet spot, let them know. Once, my husband purchased a worship songbook for me and left it on our piano with a note: Just because I love the way you’re made. …Yup. I was pretty much a little puddle on the floor after that.
6. On the other hand…
When my youngest was just starting to toddle around, I thought I was going to need therapy to cope with all his crazy exploration antics. It took my laments to his pediatrician for her to observe, “Wow! It sounds like he’s really mechanical! Maybe he’ll be an engineer or something.” Some of the things that drive us the most crazy about our kids—like my creativity blustering around my Queen of Clean mother—are the weaknesses that also happen to be some of their greatest strengths.
Help us out! What have you seen work well to grow a child according to their particular bent?
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