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If you’re like me, you probably keep a measuring tape close by. Perhaps in a kitchen drawer. You use it to measure your child’s growth, marking it on the wall or on some adorable chart. In our family, it’s a well-used door frame with marks and dates etching the sides as my five children grew taller.
We sometimes carry an invisible measuring tape as well. We use it to measure our child against another child’s accomplishments or one sibling to the other. In this futile exercise, a child rarely meets expectations. It’s usually their worst compared to someone else’s best. They feel our unrealistic expectations, their deficiencies, and our disappointments. “Why can’t you be like your sister!” “Andrew got straight A’s. Why didn’t you?” Measure. Compare. Contrast. No wonder a child can feel defeated doubting, “Will I ever measure up?”
Christ taught us through his example how to measure the worth of a person. He used the “as if” principle. When he called Peter as his first apostle, Peter was just a rough fisherman who protested, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). Nevertheless, Jesus saw the good in Peter, accepted who he was, and had faith in who he would become.
He offered Peter discipleship and lifted Peter to walk on higher ground. He saw Peter and all his disciples as if they were great men and women. They were not great yet, but with patience–much patience–they grew and reached a higher spiritual stature.
I once heard a story about a father whose son’s friends took a joyride in a stolen car. They got into an accident and were punished by the authorities. When the father heard of the incident, he told his son, “Oh how tragic! I wish you would have been there with them. Then, none of that would have happened.” Do you hear the confidence that father expressed in his son? How more likely will that teenager live up to his potential?
We need to be gentle with ourselves, as well as our children, when weaknesses can be so glaring. There is no need to ruminate over faults. There is no need to throw accusations in frustration, such as, “Why don’t you ever…?” or “Why are you so…”? What we focus on will be what we get. Christ warned, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:2).
I follow this example by using the “as if” principle in very small and practical ways on a regular basis. I used it today when my son came in the door from school. We have a take-your-shoes-off rule in our house, and this 11-year-old seems to forget this when he comes running into the house (mud, grass, and all!). He came bounding down the stairs, and I walked toward him with open arms for a welcoming hug and kiss, from which he quickly turned and ran. I said, “Oh, you’re going to take off your shoes. I’m so glad you remembered.” Shoes came off quickly.
Do you have a child like mine that is resistant to doing chores? Respond with, “Thank you for mopping the floor anyway, even though you don’t feel like it. You are awesome to be so helpful.” After a child’s mistake, a gentle reminder might be, “That’s so unlike you. You are such a dependable/honest/kind person. I know you’ll do better next time.” More often than not, my children turn pliant under an encouraging hand.
The “as if” principle is the power of believing. We nurture the better angels of their nature and our own. In doing so, we acknowledge our desire for the same treatment from God when we stumble and fall short as parents. His grace his boundless. He loves us without measure.
QUESTION: Do you pull out a measuring tape on your child(ren) and use it to highlight their shortcomings?
CHALLENGE: Use the “as if” principle and see your child through the eyes of someone who accepts who they are, believes in their potential, and fosters faith in who they will become.
For more on this excerpt and parenting insights from the author of Parenting With Spiritual Power, visit www.nelsonjuliek.com
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