“Work at everything you do with all your heart. Work as if you were working for the Lord.” Colossians 3:23 Initiative – acting on your own. It means not having to tell your kids what to do. This is our mom dream, right? How do we make it happen? Most often we long to see initiative in our kids where it concerns work.
In the most famous devotional of all time Oswald Chambers tell us what initiative looks like in the Christian life:
“To take the initiative is to make a beginning— to instruct yourself in the way you must go. Beware of the tendency to ask the way when you know it perfectly well. Take the initiative— stop hesitating— take the first step… Be determined to act immediately in faith on what God says to you when He speaks, and never reconsider or change your initial decisions. Burn your bridges behind you, saying, “I will write that letter,” or “I will pay that debt”; and then do it! Make it irrevocable.” My Utmost for His Highest
We want kids never to be afraid to take initiative because they are afraid of failing or of criticism. It is our job to create a safe environment for trying something out and failing. Our kids need a safe place to fail.
God created us in His image to work! Our work has value. Although we can’t understand how quite yet, the good work we do now is impacting the world to come. Though we are responsible for quality work with a good attitude, God is responsible for the results.
First and foremost I want my kids to take initiative in reading God’s Word on their own. A lot of that has to do with training good habits.
We want initiative in prayer – We want our kids to pray on their own. A month or so ago my youngest told me she was playing that she was a mom and I was her baby. It was Sunday afternoon and time for my nap, so when she left the room I plopped down on my bed, curled up in my blanket and was drifting to sleep. Then I heard a 4 year old affecting a British accent calling, “Baby! Baby? Where are you? Mummy is looking for you!” She entered the room, didn’t see me and kept searching elsewhere. I drifted back off until I heard another, “Baby! BABEEEEE!” I finally answered, “Here I am, Mummy!”
She comes back in the room and still doesn’t see me. I am just waiting for her to spot me now. Instead she folds her hands and prays, “Dear Jesus, Please help me! I have lost my baby! I can’t find her anywhere and I am so scared! Amen.”
Wow- prayer initiative! We are even praying during play in a transatlantic accent! At this point I speak up right next to her and she jumps a mile. She begins to scold me “Now baby! You frightened mummy! That was very naughty disappearing like that! I still love you no matter what, but you were naughty!”
This is the kid that the next night, when asked to pray told me “I did nothing wrong. No sins to confess.” I said, “Really? I remember a few.” She smiled, “Then, you confess them.”
In order to take initiative our children need a sense of purpose. Purpose comes with knowing why you are here on this earth! Sally Clarkson inadvertently tells us how to teach purpose in her excellent book, Awaking Wonder when asked how she passed her faith on to her five adult children who are serving God faithfully:
“Basing faith on works that focus on the right laws to keep, the right rules to follow, is soul killing if that is all that is offered…Rules and formulas did not hold them fast in their faith. It was actually the community of belonging that we built, the traditions and fun, the growing knowledge and love, embracing their roles to be light bearers in their lifetime, and their understanding of personal God engaged in the real issues of the world that held them fast to the faith of their youth… Neglecting to engage their whole faith training in actively living out purpose is why many fall away from the faith. They have not connected knowledge to their own story, their own version of what they were made to do… (Our children) could see why they should be faithful because they knew their lives and their choices had an effect on others…they were created for the purpose of taking God’s kingdom message into the stories of their own lives and into relationships they would develop.”
There is no initiative where there is no sense of purpose! My oldest daughter felt called to start a Bible study for younger girls, middle and high school, based on the book of Ruth and the Lady in Waiting series. She called it “Waiting for your Boaz while you avoid a Bozo.” I loved her initiative. So I opened my living room to the project. I got the word out for her. She had no idea if anyone would come. She wasn’t sure if anyone cared what she had to say. But she stepped out in faith, put a date on the calendar, planned and prepared, and bought snacks. Seven girls joined her for four weeks and studied how to apply God’s Word to life.
Facilitate, encourage and reward initiative when you see it! And create a safe place for your children to practice initiative and fail. We honor children’s souls when we require them to practice virtue by producing quality work. Good character is formed over time, by habit. The motto of some medieval monasteries was laborare est orare, “to work is to pray.” Meaningful work is soul formation. (Heidi White)
How do we teach a good worth ethic? By example. We are teaching them when they watch us work, whether we intend to or not. Whether we like it or not. Prioritizing family. Work-life balance. We model it! FIRST do this, THEN you get to do that, should be a family motto! Rewards come from getting our work done.
We want to make our kids happy. Because that makes us happy. Making them happy sets them up for a life of unhappiness. They must do difficult things. You must let them fail. You must remove privileges, technology, toys, whatever it is they really enjoy or value, until they master work.
Don’t do things for them. Let them problem solve. Do not dress them if they are able. Do not clean up after them as soon as they can do it themselves. Please do not rush to help when they are stuck in a non-dangerous situation. Here are example conversations:
I spilled cheerios. How should you clean them up? Or I can’t get this doll dressed. What could you try? I can’t fit these blocks together. What is the problem? What are some solutions?
Life is not endless fun and entertainment. You set them up for major disappointment if you let don’t let reality rule. My middle daughter, whom everyone knows as a really hard worker with lots of initiative was not always so. Her line as a little one was, “I don’t wike hard work!”
Limits and boundaries create security. Reward effort and initiative when you see it. Encourage, encourage, encourage!
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