We know a lot about how the human body grows in our house. On one hand, I have a child whom I can't keep clothed because she's growing so fast. On the other, I have a daughter who's endocrine system (the system in your body that controls growth) needs a little help. My oldest grows like a weed. Just this fall I've had to replace her entire wardrobe of pants because she's outgrown them. And don't even get me started on how often we have to buy shoes for the child. All the right ingredients are there for her to grow, and grow she does.
However, we have the exact opposite issue with my youngest. Her body doesn't produce the correct amount of growth hormone. Despite the fact that we feed her a well-balanced diet and everything else she needs to grow is in place, that missing hormone would keep her from growing if we did nothing. So, six nights a week we administer a dose of growth hormone to help her grow.
Just as my youngest can't grow well without the extra growth hormone, our kids can't grow spiritually, socially and emotionally without the right inputs from us. If we stand in the way of our children's growth by always protecting them from hurt or not offering them spiritual guidance, they won't be able to grow in these areas. We want our children to grow like the Bible tells us that Jesus did in Luke 2:52, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."
Sometimes it's hard for us parents to step back and let our children grow. Growing isn't always easy. Sometimes it hurts. When kids grow physically, sometimes they get growing pains where their limbs will hurt. The same is true when they grow in other ways as well. If we keep them from anything that might hurt them, we remove opportunities for them to grow.
Now, I'm not advocating that we intentionally throw our children into painful situations, but sometimes its best to see if your children can work out an issue with a friend or if they can solve a problem for themselves. If you jump in and fix everything for them every time they might experience some hurt, you keep them from growing.
Illustrate this concept with your kids by planting a flower.
- Ask your children what you need to plant a flower and gather those supplies. Make sure you have a pot, a seed, dirt and water.
- Help your kids plant their seed in the pot. Make sure the seed has enough water and sunlight to sprout.
- When it sprouts, point out to your children that the seed had to push its way to the surface to get to the sunlight so it can grow. Talk about how sometimes we have to push through difficult things -- a fight with a friend, a mean kid at school or learning to be comfortable with who we are -- so we can grow.
- Put your child in charge of watering the seedling. Point out that rain doesn't always seem like a good thing. It's wet and sometimes cold, but to the flower, rain means growth. Without the rain, the plant can't grow. Talk to your children about how tough times in our lives are like rain -- the death of a loved one, difficulties at school or even the loss of a dream -- but without those tough times, we wouldn't grow like we need to. If everything was perfect all the time, it would be hard for us to have compassion for others going through difficult circumstances. Tough times also help us to rely on God and not on ourselves.
- As your flower grows and blooms, remind your children that despite the hard work and the rain that the flower had to go through to grow, it became a beautiful bloom. We are like that, too. When we come through life's storms, we are always more beautiful on the other side if we allow God to help us grow through the trials.
I want to be clear that while it's OK to let a some challenges into your kids' lives, don't abandon them completely. Step in when things get beyond their age-appropriate ability to handle it. And, always be available for advice and comfort to help them handle the situation in which they find themselves.
Create the appropriate growth environment for your child, just as you did with your flower. Then, nurture them and watch them bloom.