When I was a teenager, I can remember thinking that mum and dad were so old fashioned and out of touch with reality. I can remember thinking that they would never understand how I was feeling. Parents, your kids will no doubt feel and think the same as that at some stage in their growing up. What can you do about it so that you don’t ‘lose’ your influence over them before they mature enough and so that your relationship with them doesn’t suffer?
I believe part of the answer lies in helping them to find mentors that will speak positively into their life. They will always have heroes they look up to. I see my role as a parent is helping them to find those heroes and great role models so that they are positive role models and speak life into my children.
Princess was 8 years old when we lived in Mozambique for three months. A group of amazing young women spoke incredibly into her life whilst we were there. One day, some of these young women crowned her princess for a day, styling her hair and placing a tiara on her head, showing her how to apply makeup, painting her nails, gifting her with chocolate, and speaking words of life into her about her identity and how God saw her. It all occurred within one hour at 7 o’clock in the morning but it was a very memorable hour. These young women were role models to her and took the time to speak positively into her life. Their actions and words made a huge difference to Princess.
Princess (now 10) loves reading anything about Princess Kate and Bethany Hamilton. When I find great articles about either of them, I will, within reason, purchase the magazine for her. I believe these two women are both great role models. She also has an exhaustive collective of missionary biographies. These missionaries are role models to her as well, in how to live a lifestyle that is sold out to Jesus. Never discount the effect that a book can have on a child.
There are also a number of great role models at church and I have no hesitation in Princess looking up to a number of the older ‘girls’. Our children join us in being part of the Healing Room ministry and I love seeing Princess each time find a couple of girls in their 20’s to join in their group to minister to others. I can trust that these girls are imparting into Princess’ life, even just by their modelling. She needs to have beautiful girls five and ten years older than her that she can look up to and see that they can be amazing girls and have a passion for Jesus at the same time. She needs to see real “go-getters” in the Kingdom, girls willing to pursue God to the ends of the earth, totally sold-out on Jesus. The effect that these young women have on my daughter is far more than what I could do.
Our babysitter is also a great mentor for the kids. She is mature enough to speak into their life virtually what we would say but being only ten years older than the kids, they hang off what she says. This amazing young lady is about to be released on the world stage as a singer/songwriter and my kids love that they get to hear her songs. Only this morning they shared how they had heard her latest song that she is releasing this week and they both just take it for granted that it will be a huge success. A great bonus has been that they now believe they can also ask God to give them words and music to compose new songs and they have begun experimenting with this. Songwriting looks achievable to them because they have heard this young woman share her method.
We love having different people around for meals and my kids observe them and interact with them and learn so much, whether it be a missionary living on faith support, a famous sportsperson, an engaged couple, an entrepreneur etc. They are great life role models and all speak into our children’s lives. Our children hear and observe how others do life, how engaged people are meant to treat each other, how a person has achieved a high level at sport through training hard and having to sacrifice a lot of social stuff.
Princess’ friends mothers also have an impact on her. The way they speak and model values is so important as I know that Princess is observing them and taking it all in.
A friend was sharing with me the other day how she runs a monthly community meal for people who are wanting community. There is one teenager who comes along. You can guarantee that even if she is sick, she will still be there. This girl has had a dysfunctional upbringing but at the community meal, she is observing all the time. Observing how people eat in public, observing how people interact in a polite, friendly manner, observing how life is done ‘normally’ so that she will know what to do and how to do stuff in the ‘real world’.
Parents, your kids are observing all the time. They observe how other families interact, how they fight and make up, the “pecking order”, the good and the bad.
Also remember that they will be role models to kids younger than them. Princess was sharing with me yesterday that our neighbour’s girl aged six copies her with what she likes. When Princess’ favourite colour changed from pink to purple, so did this girl’s. Princess commented how she had to be careful what she did because this girl was always watching her and copying her. That in itself is a great lesson.
Parents – who are your mentors and role models? We all need to have people we look up to and learn from in our various different parts of our life. None of us are perfect. We all have room to improve. Who are you seeking out to speak into your life, whether personally or through books etc. In my role as a parent, I love asking other parents whose kids are “stand outs” what the secret is, what they have done to help their kids turn out with great character etc.
I believe our role is to ensure our kids have enough positive role models around them. Sometimes it is not convenient for us to make the effort to surround our children with role models but if we don’t, then who will? Who are you putting in place to be role models and mentors to your kids and who are your mentors?