Raising children is a difficult job.  I still remember the first time I was asked to teach on being a parent.  I felt completely inadequate.  After 12 years in the pulpit and almost 12 years as a father, I often feel completely inadequate.  This is why I have really appreciated the commercials I have been hearing the past several months concerning being a foster parent.  One really has stuck with me and I want to share it with you.
It is a father and son recalling their Saturday again.  The father talks about how they broke a window throwing the ball around and how ultimately he broke his arm trying to retrieve the ball and how his son had to drive him to the hospital.  The father called it a disaster of a day.  The foster son called it the best day ever.  I don’t know if this is a made up story or if this is the account of one foster parent as he explained to the social worker why his arm is now broken.  Either way, the commercial ended with the thought that you don’t have to be a perfect parent.  The point was the you simply needed to be an involved parent that cares about your kids.
As Dawn had her miscarriage I learned to really appreciate my own kids just a little bit more.  I hugged them a little tighter.  I watched them a little longer while they slept.  And I was sure to play with them a little longer each night.  I wanted them to know I am glad they are in my life.  I wanted them to know how much I loved them, needed them and longed for them to have a good life.  Even in the midst of my hurt, I know that I needed to be strong for them.  I still needed to be Dad.
So, I started reading my books on how to raise godly children again.  (I own a lot a it is likely the most important subject in my life right now).   John Croyle, a former University of Alabama football player under “Bear” Bryant, wrote a book called Raising a Princess.  It has to be one of the best books I have read of raising children and at the same time on of the saddest books I have ever read.  Croyle is the founder of Big Oak Ranch (one for boys and one for girls).  He recounts not just stories of his own daughters, but the “daughters” that have found their way through Big Oak Ranch.  It breaks my heart to the very core to see how poorly some parents have treated their kids.  Most of the girls that come through the Ranch see themselves as having no value.  They have been not just physically beaten down but emotionally beat down.  Without places and people like Croyle these girls will end up entering a very dangerous cycle.  One that I have seen all too often. 
When a person doesn’t believe that they have worth or have value they end up thinking that they don’t deserve any better.  Young girls marry abusive men because they don’t think a real man would ever love them.  Young men marry woman who cheat on them, but he keeps crawling back to her, begging for another chance because he believes that she is the only one that would ever love him.  They kids will grow up believing that being happy, successful, college graduates, etc is impossible.  And with their dreams squashed they never fulfill their true potential for greatness. 
Now, I am not saying that we should be hoping to give our children an inflated view of themselves, but we ought to be careful not dash their value of self worth.  I get that being a parent is hard.  I get that sometimes we fail (after all we are no perfect) but you need to remember that your kids are valuable.  God blessed you with them.   Every child is a gift from God.  Never forget that.  As I lost one of my own, I have learned to really appreciate how wonderful the four gifts I already have are.  Furthermore, God’s own son died for your kid(s) too.  They are going to make mistakes.  They will likely make you pull your hair out, but we do that to God all the time (so to speak).  And even still Jesus died for us and them.  So, when you look at your kids, even when they lie to you, don’t forget that Jesus died for them.  He died to give them hope.  He died so that they can be forgiven!
Today I issue you a challenge.  I want you to find a way to praise your child everyday this week.  I want you to find a way to let them know that they are indeed valuable and worthy of praise.  Don’t make it an arbitrary “good game” type of praise, mean it.  Praise their good choices.  Praise them when they repent.  Tell them their birth story (what parent doesn’t recall their child’s worth when speaking of the day their child was born). 
For those with children out of the home, this doesn’t absolve you from the challenge.  There are numerous “grown” men and women that have never been told by their parents that they are proud of who they have become.  Grown children still longing for that affirmation from mom and dad.  Find a way to praise even those kids.

-WTK

Grinnell church of Christ
 
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Praise Your Children

The Light
Volume 6 Issue 6