As you've probably noticed from reading this blog, my girls are far from your sterotypical girls. I have to practically wrestle my oldest to get her to wear anything other than jeans and a T-shirt. And, clearly, my youngest has chosen an unusual sport for a girl -- at least in our part of the country.
I love that my girls are confident enough in who they are that they feel comfortable stepping outside the "typical" box, but sometimes that can be tough. Kids can be mean. For whatever reason, anyone who steps slightly outside the norm can be shunted to the edges of the childhood social circle. That's tough on kids and on moms and dads.
I don't know about you, but when one of my girls comes home upset about some mean comment that someone made, I want to put on my mommy bear claws and wade into the childhood social strata and knock some sense into kids. But that's probably not going to help, and it won't fix the problem.
The best thing we can do for our kids is to help them find their niche. They may never be the most popular kid in school, but they can find their place and surround themselves with good friends. But all of that starts at home.
If your kids are not completely confident that you will back up their "different" choices, then they won't have the confidence to be who they are in a crowd. I'm not suggesting that you back up wrong choices, but if your daughter wants to play hockey instead of taking dance or your son wants to play the flute instead of the tuba, those are choices where your approval or disapproval makes a difference.
God made each one of us to be exactly who we are. He wired each of us differently to fulfill a different role in his plan. I'm not really sure how my oldest always playing soccer with the boys at recess or my youngest preferring to play with matchboxes rather than dolls fits into the grand scheme of God's design, but I do know that He has a plan. He wouldn't have given my girls the personalities that they have if He didn't have a use for those specific traits.
So, how do you go about creating an environment in your home that allows your kids to be who God made them to be?
- Watch your reactions. You can put a stop to a great idea simply by reacting poorly to it the first time it's presented. When my youngest asked to play hockey, my first reaction was "Are you kidding me? I like all of your teeth in your mouth where they belong." Luckily, God stopped my tongue from saying that and instead allowed me to ask her some questions about why she thought she would like to play instead.
- Be interested in what your child is interested in. If your child's passion is science, learn something about science. Do some cool science experiments with your child. If their interest is soccer, learn the rules and figure out how the game is played. If their interest is dance or music, learn enough talk knowledgeably with them about it. I can play neither soccer nor hockey, but I know the rules of both games and enough about the strategy and mechanics to be dangerous. Being interested in your child's passions lets them know that you support their endeavors. It gives them confidence to stand up and be themselves when you're not around.
- Build them up when the world tears them down. It can be tough to go against the grain in anything. The childhood social strata values conformity above all else. Be there to talk with your kids when someone teases them. Let them know that God made them to be the special person that they are. Remind them that they are God's masterpiece.
- Illustrate the importance of each person in God's plan for your kids. Put together a puzzle with your child, but take out one of the middle pieces. When you are done, talk about how the missing piece left a big hole in the picture. Explain that we are like God's puzzle pieces. When one of us is missing, it leaves a gap, a role that isn't being filled. Like puzzle pieces, we're all different so we can fill a different part of God's plan.
Helping our kids become confident in who God made them to be is an important part of our role as parents. As you help your children understand the importance of being who God made them to be, keep in mind these words from Romans 12:4: "For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." Help your child learn to fill their function in the body of Christ.