We often tell people that we have one child who will save the world and one child who will rule it to explain the difference in my girls' personalities. While my girls are nearly polar opposites in personality, we have the same goal for them -- we want them to be world-changers.
That seems like a tall order. It seems like we're setting the bar really high. It may even seem like we're setting them up for failure. But we're not asking any more of them than God asks of us.
You see, God wants our kids to be world-changers -- even if the only piece of the world they change is the small corner that they live in. God tells us to be a light in the world, a light that shines His truth into the world. Simply following Jesus changes the world around us. It affects our decisions, our friendships, and our families.
But to be world-changers, our kids can't always be nice. When we raise our kids to be "nice" instead of raising them to have Godly character, we put the focus on pleasing others. People who change the world, people who stand up to injustice and stand firm for what they believe, can't always please everyone around them. When advocating for change, you're guaranteed to ruffle someone else's feathers.
I don't want my girls to be so caught up in being "nice" and worrying about other people's reactions that they're unable to do the things that God asks of them. I want them to be kind. I want them to consider the feelings of others, but I don't want them to be so concerned about making waves and having someone disagree with them that they're paralyzed with indecision and fear.
Jesus changed the world. He made such an impact in this world that we count time around His birth. He changed not just the lives of the people around Him, but He's still changing lives today. And He didn't worry about upsetting people with His actions. He made people so mad that they killed Him.
We want to raise kids who follow Jesus' example and aren't afraid to follow wherever God leads. We want to raise kids who can make a difference in the world -- whether they end up as a nurse in a third-world country or they end up the leader of a first-world one. To do that, we have to teach them to stand strong and follow wherever God leads -- even if it means people don't always agree with them.
Getting our kids started on the path to being world-changers may mean we have to change the way we're parenting. It may mean we have to change the way we do things in our own lives. It definitely means we need to throw off the mantle of "nice" and put on the armor of God. Use these tips to get started on raising world-changing kids:
Lead by example. Our kids learn more about how to interact with others from watching us than they do from anything else. Are you a world-changer or are you too worried about what others think to follow the path God has for you? Are you letting fear of what others think hold you back from the plan God has for your life? Do you treat others with respect but choose to follow God even when it bucks the norm of this world? Your kids are watching and learning from what you do. If we want to raise world-changers, we have to be one.
Teach your kids to accept criticism. No one likes for others to think what they're doing is wrong or weird. No one likes to be criticized. However, if we're going to raise world-changers, then we need to teach our kids to deal with criticism. We need to teach them to listen to what others have to say, then decide what of it is true and what is not. Then, they need to compare what is true with what God is telling them to do. If the criticism is fair and it lines up with what God is saying, then we need to teach our kids to use that criticism to do a better job. But if that criticism contradicts what God is telling them to do, then we need to teach our kids to respectfully thank someone for their opinion and continue to follow God's path for them.
Teach your kids to stand for truth without spreading hate. Too often the message of God's love gets lost in a sea of judgment. If our kids are going to be world-changers, then we need to teach them how to share God's love without judging others. We need to teach them that it's our responsibility to do what God asks, but it's God's responsibility to change other people's hearts and actions. All we can do is follow God's plan for us and share His love with others in whatever way He asks us to. It's up to God and the other person to make changes in that person's heart.
Raising world-changers isn't easy. It takes persistence and perspective. It takes changing our parenting mentality from wanting our kids to be "nice" to wanting our kids to follow Jesus no matter the cost. It takes changing our own lives and perspectives so our kids can learn from us.
Raising world-changers isn't the simplest task in the world, but it is the one to which God has called us.