I love to go to my girls' music program. I am constantly amazed at what our music teacher can accomplish with a group a of kids. They don't just stand up there and sing -- they twirl, they do hand motions, they bop up and down, mostly in time with the music. Every year, though, one of my girls will come home complaining about how someone else got in her spot.
The girls' music programs only look good when everyone is in their spot. When one child starts encroaching on another child's spot, things go wonky. Kids fall off risers, somebody gets an elbow in the face, props get knocked over. It's not a pretty sight -- funny, but not pretty.
It's the same way in life, too. God created each of us -- you, me, your kids -- to fill a specific spot in His plan. When we're unhappy with who God made us to be or we try to be just like everyone else, we throw things out of kilter. Mostly, the person we mess up is us. If you have a child who loves ballet, signing her up for field hockey will probably make her miserable. On the other hand, if you have a child who loves to play football, signing him up for art class may not be the way to go.
It's tough to be a kid. As our kids grow, they start learning where their spot is. Sometimes that spot is smack in the middle of what everyone else is doing. Sometimes that spot is so far away from what their friends consider normal, your child might as well be on another planet. For most kids, their friends' approval is important to them. They will do some of the craziest things to gain it. The struggle for us moms is to help our children find the spot God has for them as well as their place among their friends.
Raising confident, self-assured children who know they are valuable in God's sight and in yours is a daunting challenge. Mainly, it consists of being consistent and persistent in giving your child that message. I think that outside of "God loves you and sent Jesus to die for you," the message that they are valuable in God's sight is the most important one that your children will ever hear. I've already decided that in our house, next summer's adventure will revolve around this. I'm calling it "The 39 Clues to Finding You." Until then, try some of these quick activities to help your kids find their spot in God's plan.
- When your child brings home artwork from school or creates a marvelous piece of artwork at home, talk about what a masterpiece it is. Ask them what they think God considers His masterpiece. Have them look up or read to them Ephesians 2:10, which says "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Talk about the fact that you are God's masterpiece means you are the best thing He could ever make.
- Let your kids try new things. It's tough to find your spot -- the place where you can serve God best -- if you don't know what you can do. If your child wants to learn to ice skate, paint pottery, play water polo, write books or fly an airplane, do what you can to enable them to learn about those things. Even if doesn't seem like something they would be good at, let them give it a try. You might be surprised. My oldest daughter plays soccer. Honestly, she's not the most graceful child in the world, and she's about the gentlest soul you could meet. We thought she would get eaten alive on the soccer field, but we let her try it. Turns out she has a completely different personality on the field than off of it. She's aggressive, does amazing things with her feet and is a pretty talented player -- and she loves it. We never would have known that if we had discouraged her from trying.
- Encourage your children. Offering encouragement to your kids is probably the single most important thing you can do as they seek to find their spot. Remind them often that you love them for who they are and so does God. Even when they fail at something, remind them that their value is not in whether they succeed in everything but in the fact that God made them. Don't puff your children up with a false sense of pride. Every child is not the next Renoir or Mickey Mantle, but don't put down their accomplishments either. Help your child discover the things at which God has gifted them without destroying their sense of accomplishment when they try something at which they aren't that gifted.
- If you have more than one child, chances are they are good at different things. Have the whole family try the things at which one child excels. For example, in our house, my youngest ice skates well. My husband can't skate at all. Getting the whole family on the ice gives the rest of us an appreciation for what my youngest has accomplished. This is especially good for siblings who have a tendency to put down whatever the other one does as "not that hard."
- Get some modeling clay or Play-doh and a mold for it. Ask your children to make several items with the clay and the mold. Point out how all the things made with the mold look very similar. Talk about how God didn't use a mold to make your child. He didn't want us all to look alike, act alike or be talented at the same things. Tell them that sometimes our friends want us to look like them and act like them, but God didn't make us to all be just alike. He made us different and special so we can take our spot in His plan.
Whatever you choose to do to remind your children that they are God's masterpiece, do it consistently and do it often. The world works hard to force our children to fit a mold. We want them to know the only mold they have to fit is the one God used to make them -- and that mold was broken the day they were born. No one else was made just like them.