The Toughest Parenting Lesson to Embrace

Learning to see our kids’ unique gifts

I grew increasingly frustrated as my oldest son struggled to finish a school essay. “It’s easy. Here’s all you need to do,” I said through gritted teeth.

But for my math-minded middle schooler, what I was asking him to do wasn’t easy. It didn’t come natural to him because he had different talents and giftings than I did. He excelled with handling numbers and explaining those concepts to others. In elementary school, he was so far ahead in math, the teacher asked him and another similarly skilled friend to create a board game for the other students that would help them learn as they played.

I don’t appreciate having to work through the rigid structure of numbers and equations. I’d rather play in the free-flowing river of words and sentences.

My son and I were (and are) different people. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn this all-important parenting lesson as early as I should. Each of my children, while sharing some similarities with me, are created differently than me. It sounds like such an obvious truth, but I believe parents don’t realize how often they regard their children as miniature versions of themselves.

Especially key to our growth as parents is acknowledging our own giftings and encouraging our children to recognize, develop, and use their own talents and giftings. This enables both us as parents and our children to become the persons God created us to be.

The first step, perhaps paradoxically, is to recognize and appreciate our own skills and giftings.

RECOGNIZE YOUR TALENTS

Part of what I came to realize that stressful school day afternoon is that I failed to see the difficulty in the assignment for my son because I failed to see the giftings I had that made it come naturally to me.

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As an individual, you have been given unique talents and abilities. Some of those may pass down to your children, but their Creator-given swirl of skills will not exactly mirror your own. The accountant may have an artist child and the singer a scientist. Part of the way we can best appreciate their unique gifts is to acknowledge our own.

Because I frequently dismissed my writing ability as “just putting words together,” I assumed it would be something my son (or anyone) could do just as easily as I did. The undermining of my talents made me place unfair expectations on my son. If you do not first recognize the unique talents and abilities that God has given you, your children will deal with similar beyond-their-reach standards.

It’s not humility to behave as if you don’t have God-given talents. It’s arrogance under a humble mask. It still places yourself at the center and judges others by how much they are like you. A way you can spot this thinking is if you only regard things as “easy” because they are easy to you.

You have certain giftings. To acknowledge that is honoring to the God who gave them to you and is beneficial to your children as it allows them to flourish under better realized expectations.

HELP YOUR CHILD DEVELOP THEIR TALENTS

As I thought about how to help my kids find their own personalities and giftings, I thought about how my own dad had parented a son very different from himself. A football player and a Vietnam veteran, my dad worked in manual labor all his life, including more than thirty years as a farmer. While I helped him on the farm, I was a far cry from a natural.

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Working with his hands came easy to my dad. If something broke, he could fix it. Meanwhile, my wife has dubbed me “the least handy person who ever grew up on a farm.” He was at home bow hunting in a deer stand or by the pond with a fishing rod. I would rather take my shots on a basketball court or spend my days in a book. Yet, he loved me well and allowed me to flourish with my own talents and personalities. He never made me feel less than for not being him. Despite my early struggles, I hope my kids will say the same about me as I seek to let them discover who God has created them to be.

Let your children try things—even things that make your eyes roll or your ears bleed. Allow them to stumble from art kit to musical instrument, from volleyball court to swimming pool. Encourage them as they find a new hobby or explore a new interest. Challenge them to find an area where they can serve in church and in the community. Remind them that God gives us gifts so that we can better serve others.

As you take your eyes off of your own passions and proclivities and turn your focus to what talents may be bubbling up in the life of your kid, you’ll start to appreciate even more what makes the two of you unique. You have talents and so does your child. If you recognize your own, you’ll be in a better position to spot and encourage theirs.

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This article originally appeared on LifewayVoices.com and is reposted here by permission.