There’s an often-quoted verse from the book of Proverbs that you’ve likely heard. “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) It’s a verse packed with meaning for parents, but there’s a critical pronoun in the verse that can get overlooked: they. Train up a child in the way they should go. Not in the way you went; not in the way their sibling or cousin or neighbor went; train up a child in the way they should go – based upon the unique calling God has on their life, utilizing their individual gifts and abilities.
The idea of a unique calling is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. As parents, how in the world are we supposed to know God’s unique calling on our child’s life? And how do we steward them in that direction? It’s a beautiful journey, and it’s important to keep in mind that God is bigger than a singular narrow path for your child. However, as you disciple your children and guide them deeper into the person God designed them to be, there are some practical ways to discern the direction He has mapped for them.
The Image of God
As Christians, we believe in the idea of the Imago Dei, a Latin term that means each and every human is created in the image of God, and therefore reflects His divine nature in unique ways. This not only distinguishes humanity from the rest of creation, but also places intrinsic worth within the life of every person throughout the history of time, regardless of how culture perceives or values their capabilities.
This means that every human being has been bestowed with characteristics of Christ. These are traits to be grown and developed, but they exist within our natural state, simply because God designed us this way. Reflections of this divine nature vary from person to person, but nobody – as his creation – is without his representation.
As parents, it’s our job to help identify these traits in our children and then assist them in fostering and growing these unique attributes of God so they can glorify Him with their lives.
Pay Attention to Your Child’s Personality
There’s a level of intentionality that’s required of our day-to-day living to be able to identify these attributes, not because they’re difficult to notice, but because they can seem so simple. Elements of your child’s personality, toys and activities they’re drawn to, the questions they ask – each of these things can point to God’s fingerprints on their life.
Be on the lookout for moments that reflect His character, and then openly acknowledge them with your child. It can sound as simple as “I noticed the way you checked in on your injured teammate; you’re such a compassionate friend,” or “The way you’re drawn to puzzles and LEGOs reminds me so much of the way God brings order to our world – I think he created you with that special trait, too.”
It’s important that when we see these things, we don’t just internalize them, but say them out loud. It may not seem like it’s resonating at the moment, but your children will soak in these spoken blessings throughout their childhood, and the Holy Spirit will provide recall later in their lives when they’re investigating God’s vocational calling for their life.
Attributes of God to Look for in Your Child
It likely goes without saying that it’s impossible to create a comprehensive list of the attributes of God! At Life Architects, we pay particular attention to four identifiable categories of God’s nature reflected in the people he specially created.
Creator of Beauty
Do you have a child interested or particularly talented in the arts? Whether you have a student who loves to express themselves through their wardrobe or spends time drawing on their iPad, beauty can be created in all sorts of day-to-day forms.
Seeker and Saver of the Lost
Whether they’re bringing home stray animals or keep a special eye on a new student at school, these children have hearts for reaching those beyond the fold.
Creator of Order Out of Chaos
Is your child’s room regularly tidy? Are they methodical in their play, their chores or their schoolwork? Children who appreciate organization and structure reflect the perfect order God brings to His creation.
Healer and Restorer
These tender-hearted kids are quick to lend a hand to others, provide a hug or listening ear, and can be eager to right wrongs, no matter the size.
How do We Handle Areas Where Our Children Struggle?
There’s such power in the words of a parent, so we need to see and say carefully. The more we say something, the more it’s believed by the recipient. And if what we value in our culture isn’t what we value in our children, that can indirectly send a hurtful message, too, and ultimately lead to culture defining our children rather than God.
So what do we do about the areas where our child is struggling?
It’s important to be mindful that everyone has an area in which they struggle. If every person were gifted in all areas, unique callings wouldn’t exist. Straight As, while worthy of celebration, aren’t necessarily a reflection of the nature of God. However, work ethic is. Helping others is. Giving of our other gifts is. When the report card comes, speak to those characteristics in your child, rather than focus on areas where they’re coming up short.
Our culture is pain-avoidant, understandably so. But there’s value in the struggle. Jesus promised us we would have trouble in the world, and the perseverance your child is developing in challenging areas is a critical form of discipleship, as well.
To learn more, visit lifearchitectscoaching.com.
Life Architects Founder and CEO Tami Peterson is a designer by vocation, creating lesson plans, curricula, and experiences her whole life. She holds an undergraduate degree in Christian Education from Ozark Christian College in Joplin, MO, and an MA in Leadership, Theology, and Society from Regent College in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Her occupational titles have included elementary, middle, and high school teacher, librarian, admissions director, career coach, and director of college advising.
Her title at Life Architects is founder and creative engagement officer, where she designs and directs a variety of projects and helps everyone flourish by connecting with individuals, families, and institutions. Tami is married and has two adult children.
This blog is part of a larger conversation from Life Architects Founder and CEO Tami Peterson’s interview on The Journey: PCA Parent Podcast, hosted by Worldview Director Dan Panetti. You can listen to the full episode here.