Our job as parent is to teach and train the whole child: the spiritual, moral, emotional, social, physical, and intellectual spheres. Within each of these areas our kids will have strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes though, when we see a significant giftedness in one area we let the other areas lapse. But we should keep all areas in balance in our training and expectations.
For example, our son Joshua, in his natural state could be the stereotypical distracted professor, off in his own world thinking about things that other people just don’t. But people generally don’t think that of him when they meet him. He is interested in meeting people, talking to them, and helping them feel comfortable.
When he was about six someone suggested to me that if he was in school he would be in the ‘gifted classes’. I had seen gifted children not fit in with either peers or adults and felt that was sad. Unless these gifted classes addressed their strengths and weaknesses I didn’t have much time for them. So we continued on our way, homeschooling as we were, giving him what he needed – not because he was ‘gifted’ but because he was keen to learn.
Around the same time, Naomi (our third child) was a baby. I remember Josh sitting in the lounge reading a book, with Naomi sitting on the floor crying her little heart out. And Joshua not doing a thing about it! Because he was characterised by being a very caring big brother I was bamboozled by this I but quickly realised that Josh simply hadn’t heard her: he was so absorbed in his book that he just didn’t hear. Understandable maybe, but not what I wanted our family to be characterised by.
It was this situation that made me see him for who he was: he was an intelligent kid, who loved knowledge, and his thoughts about what he was learning took him deep into thinking. He blocked everything else out – including people.
One of the strong foundations in our family is that we consider the other person first. And I could see that Joshua was heading to a place where knowledge, thinking and reading was more important than people.
It was at this point that training Josh took a particular direction. Each of my children have different strengths and weaknesses, and I have to encourage them all to understand, desire and walk in God’s ways and as they do, their weaknesses have less impact on their life, and on the lives of others. The social arena was where we needed to focus our training for Joshua and our training focused on loving the other person – being aware of them, thinking about their needs, and getting involved in helping them.
Our mantra for Josh is: God has given you a brain for a purpose – and that purpose involves other people.
Whatever our strengths are we need to use them for God’s purposes. God loves people, and his purposes are centred on people. Jesus command to us was to love God and love other people. This is true for all people – for all kids – regardless of their area of strength.
We have worked on issues like:
- being aware of people in the room
- listening not talking all the time
- starting a conversation that others can join in
- giving to others who have different interests
- asking questions of others, learning from others
- being available to help in practical ways
- helping people understand graciously
Do you have a child with a clearly defined strength? It may not be in the intellectual sense; it may be in the arts, in sports, in practical things, and even in spiritual things. Are you encouraging them to embrace their strengths for God’s purposes? Are you giving them the tools to be well rounded whole person? Are you helping them to see how their strengths can be used to bless others?
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