So what possible harm can it do to tell a kid he’s good at something he’s not really good at? It might even encourage him to put more effort in and actually get good at it.
Well, that’s one way of looking at it, I suppose. The other way is to call it what it is—a lie.
Sure, I believe in encouragement—cheering our kids on all through life. In fact, there’s no bigger cheerleader for our kids than me (except perhaps, their mother). But it’s the areas in which we provide the praise and encouragement that matters most. What I see a lot of parents doing these days is pouring it on thick in the arenas that offer the greatest glory—singing, athletics, academics, etc.
But what else is there, Rob?
Oh there’s more. Lots more.
Here are a few that we highly value in the Singleton household:
- Serving others
- A Christlike attitude
- Spending time (without being told) in God’s Word (The Bible)
- Tithing (Yes, even from something as small as their allowance
- Learning to save
- Taking responsibility for their actions
- Studying hard (no matter the outcome)
- Doing their chores (without being reminded)
- Going above and beyond
- Good sportsmanship
Really, the list could go on and on. And here’s how I figure it. These items I’ve listed all address the heart. Whereas, things like physical beauty, singing ability (depending on how it’s used), athletics are more or less up front things in our society. And you’re either born with these or you’re not. Nothing wrong with that—some with these abilities are very careful to give the glory to God. Most are very careful to take the glory for themselves. And each one has its own version of the ‘end-zone dance.’ It seems strange to me that we are so self absorbed about something that we had no control over to begin with—giftedness and ability comes form God and He deserves the praise for our abilities.
Oh, I know that is politically incorrect and all, but it’s also true. Still, I can almost hear some saying, ‘but what about working and studying real hard to improve? Some have started out showing no real signs of greatness but eventually—through hard work and determination they got there.
They became the next Einstein? Number one ranked volley ball player in the world? They ended the search for Bobby Fisher?
“Listen, smart-alec pastor, what about Michael Jordan?! He was cut from his high school basketball team. What if he would have listened to your hokey advice?!!!”
What advice are you referring to? I never said that you shouldn’t pursue those dreams. Pursuing dreams isn’t the issue at all. Even parents encouraging their kids in these pursuits isn’t the issue. It’s the encouragement in the wrong areas for the wrong reasons that I’m concerned about. It’s heaping praise upon praise for things we think will bring success instead of encouraging our kids according to how God made them—according to their shape. And most of all, it’s the piling on of such praise to the exclusion of the heart that deeply troubles me. We seem to believe we have to make a choice—that it’s one or the other—the self esteem or the heart. We even go as far as twisting God’s Word in order to get it to line up with our preconceived notions rather than following what God is really saying. Now I know you, you want examples. And I don’t want you to merely take my word for it, so here’s a prime example,
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
This verse is almost always misapplied to discipline. In other words, people use it to support spanking and whatever discipline is necessary to keep kids on the moral straight and narrow. The only problem is that this verse is not talking about that at all. It’s talking about raising our children with careful attention given to the unique way that God has wired them to do life. In fact, a literal translation would read, “Train up a child according to their bent…” Or, according to their shape. If they show promise in science and math don’t glue a tennis racket to their hand and insist they eat, drink and sleep tennis. That might be your bent, but it’s clearly not theirs. But if you force it, you will do lasting damage to their hearts. And the heart is what matters most.
And in the end, what are the chances that little Johnny is going to be the next Tom Brady? What’s the likelihood (really) that little Suzi will win the grand slam of tennis and end up ranked number one?
Maybe you are the exception. Maybe the likelihood is actually fairly strong. I congratulate you if that is the case. I’m not saying we shouldn’t dream big. But I am saying that you can see your child gain all of that and still lose his or her soul because you didn’t think the heart was all that important.
If that’s the case. You made a poor trade for your kids.
The Bible says,
For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:26