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Mom and dad, you underestimate your influence with your children.

I recently watched the movie about the life of Jackie Robinson entitled “42.” It was centered upon his life as a baseball player, both in the minor and major leagues. It was for me, a powerful movie. One scene in particular was deeply moving, probably because I have spent so much of my adult life working with children and their parents.

This scene occurred at a game played in Cincinnati, OH, after Jackie went up to the Majors. As was usually the case early in his career, when Jackie walked onto the field, racial slurs and epitaphs where hurled liberally at him by white fans. (I imagine it to have been a lot worse that could be depicted in the movie.) At this point in the movie the camera zeroes in upon a father, who loves baseball, and his son attending with him that day. It is obvious the father has communicated his love for the game to his son. But that is not all he communicates. As the father joins in with the crowd and begins to hurl verbal insults at Jackie, the son sits stunned for a brief time, looks at his dad, then the crowd surrounding them, and as he looks back to the field, the little boy joins in the insults and epitaphs. The little boy’s expression suggests that he did not really understand all that was happening or that he was saying but the example of the adults around him was validation enough to convince him to join in.

I recently had a conversation with a very frustrated single mom. Abandoned by the father of her son, she is left to raise this young fellow alone, with some help from her parents. Not being a member of a Christian community (a congregation) she has little human assistance and wisdom available to her, which further contributes to her feeling of isolation and frustration.

I listened as the mom expressed her frustration, near tears, that many, many parents of young children express similarly: “it doesn’t matter what I do, nothing changes!”

She wanted to make her child the problem when in fact it was mom that was the central problem. Her biggest issue was herself. Children look to the adults around them for cues about the acceptability (or not) of their behavior. Verbal and non-verbal cues are indicators to the child. They are powerful indicators that will evoke clear responses from young child.

Try this. Make eye contact with your child and then widely open your eyes while simultaneously putting a big smile on your face. Keep a lock on their eyes, and whether they smile or not, continue to smile until they do. Body language is a powerful tool to affect your child.

Mom and dad, NEVER EVER underestimate the influence you have in the life of your child. You, and the peer group of adults who regularly have contact with your child, have an immense opportunity to direct and shape them.

The problem with children is usually not children. The problem with children, especially very young children, is the adults that surround and direct them.

Have you heard the old saying, “how do you eat an elephant? The answer is: “one bite at a time!” How do you train a child? One moment at a time! Day-by-day, little-by-little, “…line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.” Remember that the cumulative effect of that incremental and inescapable training will be see in the life of your child.