Growing up in a loving family, I knew I had 2 parents who loved me albeit they may have struggled to show it. I had siblings I fought with but played and enjoyed being with. I had friends. I played sport and did well at school. If you asked me who I was I would describe myself in terms of my name, family, my accomplishments and my sporting achievements. When I was in my 20’s, I realised that my identity was based on performance. This came to a head when I couldn’t get what I so desperately wanted (the ability to have children).
As I have mentored various women over the past few years, I have realised that this is a familiar battle. Our identity becomes established and based on our performance and what we do and not who we are in God.
This is something that I desperately wish for my children to not have to battle with. Fair enough, they will have to tread that path themselves, but surely there are a few things that I, as their parent, can help them with.
I have listed below several suggestions that help in children getting their true identity from who they are and not from what they do.
- Pray for them to realise their true identity in God and for them to operate out of who they are in God.
- Regularly bless their spirits with their true identity. I love calling my children’s spirit to attention and blessing them with knowing that they are created by God, loved by God, desired by God since the world began and that they are His son/daughter. Find Bible verses about who they are in Christ and bless them with it, pray it over them.
- As a family, memorise Bible verses that say who you are in Christ.
- Regularly tell them that you love them and that nothing they could do would ever make you love them less.
- Praise their character attributes when displayed and not their performance. Eg Praise them for their perseverance and not their winning or playing as a team instead of a great soccer kick.
- Be careful of your words and what you say. This is especially true when you are angry or when you are joking around. Words said in jest can be taken seriously and can be internalised so that the child believes that is who they really are.
- Be careful of perceptions. With kids especially, perception can be reality. Eg, they can leave homework until the last minute and pull it off and then that becomes who they believe they are internally. Thus, they will leave homework to the last minute at all times as that is ‘who they are’. That was my identity at Bible College. I managed to pull off incredibly high marks by completing my assignments at the last minute so I would go to night church and then supper after church but I couldn’t relax. I was desperate to get home and start my assignment that had to be handed in by 9am in the morning. This would inevitably result in extremely late nights and early mornings but I would achieve it. I internalised that that was how I worked best because the first time I did it, it resulted in a high distinction. Then I just followed my internal pattern.
- Be careful of how you treat you children and how they perceive it. On a adhoc basis, it is good to ask each of your children how they believe you love them and whether you or your partner have any favourites. It may surprise you what they say. When you spend more time with one children reading to them as that child can’t properly read themselves and it is also their love language, you may find that the other children perceive that as favouritism and that you love that child more than them.
- Occasionally ask some leading questions eg
- “How do you know I love you?”
- “What’s one thing you wish I had never said or done?”
- “What can I do to show you I love you?”
- “Have I ever said or done anything to you that has hurt you? (& if so, what is it)?”
- Have a family vision statement of who you are as a family and have it written on the wall somewhere where you can all see it.
- Regularly tell stories about your family, your ancestors, growing up and your children when they were younger and their antics. Birthdays are a great time to share their birth stories and how much they were wanted. Children love to know that they are a part of a bigger family and to know some of their history and their place in it.
- Embrace failure as a part of learning. Failure in our home means not having a go in the first place. Failure in our home is not failing or losing. Having a try automatically means that you have succeeded in some way.
- Celebrate milestones, your children, your family. Make celebrations part of your family lifestyle.
- Encourage them to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
- Regularly have a time where you spend one on one time with each child, asking them how they are going, if anything is troubling them etc. Allow them to share openly with you without the fear of being judged.
- Develop appropriate strategies to help your child unpack some of their negative emotions and feelings. This is especially true when our kids react unusually or out of character to a situation or a person. Spend a couple of minutes after the situation has been resolved to go through the process of the following steps:
- “Princess, let’s ask God if there is a lie (sometimes saying a “faulty belief” is easier for a child to comprehend than a “lie”) you are believing just now?” (Wait a few moments).
- “Princess, what was the first thing that just came into your head when I said that?” (Listen attentively to her answer)
- “Princess, let’s ask God to show you why you believe that?” (Wait a few moments for the answer)
- “Is there anyone you need to forgive?”
- “God, I’m sorry for……. I forgive…. for………. Can you please bless…..now. Thank you.”
- “Let’s ask Father God to give, show or tell you the truth just now”. (God is always good so He will always give, show or tell them the truth to replace the faulty belief with. This is a very important question to ask God.)
- Every so often it is a great time as a family to stop and have everyone quietly ask God if there is a lie they are believing about themselves. This can be a quiet exchange just between the person and God but the first few times you might like to model it or ask questions to help them with the next step. The outline above is a great one to follow.
- Be aware that sometimes it may well be the thing we haven’t said or done. Not saying “I love you,” when we said it to the other child or when we struggle to say it at all can have a huge negative impact.
I would love your suggestions on what you have found has worked for you and your children. Please comment below so that everyone else can also share in your wisdom.