“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” Ps 127:4-5 ESV
As I was thinking about writing this blog, there’s a part of me that wrestles with what it takes to be tough. I’m not talking about being the baddest kid on the playground, but being able to handle the setbacks, blows, stings and betrayals that life often throws our way. That’s only half the story as not all people rise up, overcome, move on or become better through life’s tragedies. One author writes that “a significant minority, as a result of trauma, feel called upon to engage in a wider world.¹” That’s the type of toughness that I’m referring too.
I’m not discounting that some trauma can take years to see the bright side and maybe even some will never fully be relieved this side of heaven. The reality is that without a measure of pain, discomfort and suffering in this world, our children will never be strong enough to make an impact. My parents said it and I find myself commenting to my kids that things are truly going from “bad to worse” in our society today. Today, circumstances of persecution or ridicule may be avoidable to some degree, but that may not always be true.
Certainly life is a great adventure and has so many wonderful memories that seem close to heaven on earth. I would be foolish to believe that only concentrating on what’s wrong with this world would somehow prepare my children better for the effects of the pain, suffering and tragedy present today. I believe the opposite is true and may be bedrock to our topic. The goodness of God in this world is what gives any tough kid hope. Without hope, we are tough in vain, we suffer without cause and bear the pain in sheer agony.
Raising tough kids who are resilient, stand for truth, courageous and that never give up is not an easy task. Whether brought on by recent events or just a burning is my soul is a desire that questions my ability to raise “tough kids”. Like you, there’s so many traits that I want to infuse in them. Some so mighty that it seems only the hand of God could ingrain in them. Below is an attempt to set some starting points for raising tough kids.
This is not exhaustive and definitely not the full standard, but again it’s a start. The road to having tough kids is not an easy one for you as a parent or for the child, but I guarantee it’s worth it. God willing for all of us, our kids will rise up to be tough kids that can make a difference in this world despite the many challenges they will face.
Resilence: One person has said it this way: “Of all the virtues we can learn, no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.²” Teaching out kids to bounce back after failure, after trauma or tragedy is crucial to their success as a person.
There are far too many people that spin out, never to regain traction again in their journey of life. We simply have to teach and pray that every circumstance (whether good or bad) fortifies resilience in our children’s hearts. Part of the way we can help as parents is to be there to make sense of it all, and when we can’t do that, we teach them about a God who can.
We believe in the One that is making everything turn out for good, even if we can’t fully understand in this life. That is the foundational truth behind resilience and one our children must grow up understanding. Don’t just give your kids an easy way out all the time, make them learn the lesson and help them see the opportunities among the difficulties.
Character: It’s hard to find people who stand for truth these days. We must teach our children absolute truth from an early age and show them how to apply it their everyday life. Most people never understand how to have truth move from their head down to their heart and the dutiful life gets old after a while. It’s the relationship that keeps us trusting, keeps us pursuing God even when we don’t understand.
Character is much more than a set of rules and regulations, but has its most powerful roots in a person. We strive to be like Jesus and that gives us the strength to flourish in life. Focus on how your kids are responding to truth, teach them at every occasion that you have and help them personalize God’s truth in each area of their life.
Courage: It goes without saying that every true warrior has to face his/her fears at some point. Humanly speaking, there is a lot to be afraid of if we dwelt on all the negativity, but that’s not how a tough person reacts. Raising kids who are courageous takes a parent’s encouragement to help kids drive beyond their fears. It could be that first day of school, that first date, moving to college, starting a new job, etc. There are always things to be nervous and frightened about, but we can help our children rise above and reap the rewards of a courageous life. When it comes to spiritual warfare, “once we decide to enter God’s doorway to salvation, we align ourselves against the forces of hell.³” Raising brave kids goes beyond just the physical aspects of the world. Give them the “whole armor of God” to fight back. Don’t let fear get an early grip in your child’s life, but teach them early on, that all fears can be overcome if we take that first step of faith.
Perseverance: As I reflect on my own life, I think some of the most destructive things that have hampered my growth stemmed from me giving up. I’m typically not a person that gives up, but in certain times of my life, my ship lost its sails, I stopped believing in the power of God and I lost hope. By God’s grace, I’ve regained much that was lost and my sails are full. It didn’t have to be that way, but that is the way I chose. One youth pastor comments that one of the most frustrating challenges of dealing with teens is their addiction to the easy road. They simply don’t have what it takes to stick it out during hard times⁴.
It’s very true that our children will have plenty of challenges to snuff that persevering spirit from them. You must be that rock solid example that shows them never to quit. It’s easy to quit, but we’re not looking to raise quitters. Children do sometimes follow in the footsteps of their parents and unfortunately many kids give up long before they enter adulthood. We simply can’t allow that among our kids.
It’s the just man that rises the 8th time, no matter the difficulty- it’s always worth it to rise back up. Pull your child up when you need to, push your child forward when you have too, but don’t ever leave them down to wallow in despair and determine it’s not worth it. Life is always worth it and we have to paint that picture through lenses that speak of truth beyond this life and not only reflective of the circumstances around us.
Adventure: Are you teaching your children to take healthy risks? Life is an adventure and should be squeezed for all the legitimate satisfaction that one can draw out of it. Life doesn’t have to be drab, or without risk. Teaching kids to move out of their comfort zone, follow their passions, live as if it was their last day are all freeing actions that lead to an elevated life. You truly only live once and those that always play it safe are definitely not the ones making history and changing people’s lives.
Help your kids make wise judgments, take those leaps of faith, and pray for the extraordinary life that God is waiting to give. Just trust God to do better than we could imagine and allow Him to create masterpiece out of our children.
Hope: Turn on the news and you’ll see plenty of assassins to hope. Hope is such a powerful emotion that people will do extraordinary things as long as that candle of hope flickers in the wind. Your kids will have a sense of hope based on your outlook of life. If you have a habit of crushing their spirit, be overly criticizing or being abusive; you will put your kids on a trajectory that is liable to lead where no hope resides.
Fan the flame of hope as often as you can. With God all things are possible and therefore there is always hope. Never give up hope on your kids and don’t allow them to give up hope on life. Again our hope is rooted in a Person who never changes, not circumstances that change as quick as the weather.
One author points out that “Christian and Non-Christian parents alike are raising children who are passive, pleasant, and malleable rather than innovative, proactive and bold.⁵” So where does your family stand? Are you raising tough kids who will have the anchors they need to stand and flourish in life? If the answer is yes, then generations to come will be impacted by your resolve. But if some of these aren’t true, don’t let your own problems eclipse your need to help your children navigate the storms of life. Get in the trenches with them, teach them the life skills, the values and the fortitude necessary to take life by the horns and live it to the fullest!
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¹Feldman, D. Phd. Kravetsz, L. 2014.SuperSurvivors . The Suprising Link Between Suffering and Success. New York. Harper Wave. Pg 3 quoting Judith Herman, Harvard Medical School Professor of Psychiatry
²Greitens, E. 2015. Resilience. New York: Hougton Mifflin Harcourt. Pg 8, quoting Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi
³Parshall, Craig & Janet. 2003. Traveling a Pligrim’s Path. Wheaton, IL. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Pg 25.
⁴Parshall, Craig & Janet. 2003. Traveling a Pligrim’s Path. Wheaton, IL. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Pg 25.
⁵Coughlin, P. 2007. No More Jeffyfish, Chickens, or Wimps. Minnapolis, MN. Bethany House. Pg 24