Today, I want to talk about how “that child” sees so many things differently than you and I do.
I have some books I want to recommend and talk through. These are works that have completely changed the way I approach mothering and homeschooling.
First, The Way They Learn by Cynthia Tobias. I would highly recommend that you seize any chance to listen to Cynthia Tobias; she is a scream to hear in person. She is a very funny speaker but has tremendous insight. I actually got this book I think all the way back when we were beginning our homeschool journey. It has really helped me see some things I was blinded to.
Second, if you get a chance to hear Dr. Kathy Koch, I would highly recommend her. She is based out of Texas (my beloved state), and frequently speaks at the Hearts at Home conference and on Focus on the Family radio. Her book, How Smart Am I? is another must-read.
And thirdly is an work entitled Awakening Your Child’s Genius by Thomas Armstrong. He maintains, “We want to assist [children] in finding their inner genius and support them in guiding it into pathways that can lead to personal fulfillment and to the benefit of those around them.” He has said his writing is motivated by the desire to ensure that every child gets a chance to fulfill their potential. Obviously, this is an incredibly helpful perspective when you are learning to educate your “that child.”
That Child & The Way They Learn
I was really a struggling learner until about the eighth grade when I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Although I had incredible auditory skills, it wasn’t until we identified my dyslexia that I was able to process the different ways I learned.
So, when I stepped into home education I assumed that my kids would learn the same way that I did. I kind of slammed into the reality that this is not true. Cynthia Tobias’ premise in this book is that there are four quadrants: concrete, sequential, random, and abstract; and then combinations of those quadrants.
I tend to be a concrete and sequential learner. I want concrete examples that you can show me and I want them to go in order. Those are two very, very important things to me. I really believe that by and large, when I’m learning, those things are important to me. That’s how I assumed my children would also learn and need information. I believe this is generally how the education system functions.
Yet what I learned from this book was that that’s not how everybody learns. Our reality is our own normal, not necessarily that of everyone else, and so I was shocked to find out that my son was my complete opposite. I am concrete-sequential and he is random-abstract. I certainly couldn’t get my head around it.
I couldn’t appreciate his many questions, the things that he wanted to chase, the ideas that he had, the way that he saw things because I didn’t understand. I didn’t think the way that he saw things was legitimate. I’m here to advocate for the fact that, no matter where you are on this, how your child sees, and thinks, and takes in information, is indeed legitimate.
Not sure which type of learner you are? Tobias has included a brief survey so you can actually figure out which style(s) describe you and your children.
I wish that I had read the work of Dr. Armstrong when Charles (my first “that child”) was little. I literally had tears dripping off my chin when I read one of his articles on genius and I realized that my current “that child” (who is now taller than me, and in the 9th grade, eating me out of house and home) is so much like his older brother yet truly his own person.
Reading “Awakening Your Child’s Genius” brought me to tears! This was describing my two boys! Moms, if you’ve got a “that child” and you are just continually feeling like you are banging your head against the wall because you do not get where a particular question came from, or why they are interested in that random topic, or why did they do that thing with all of your straws… Anybody with me on this? Anybody?
You had plans for those straws and it wasn’t for that spontaneous craft project that they just completed. Right? Armstrong’s work gives you insight into all of that. Actually, I think it gives a lot of insight.
If this resonates, you can read even more from Dr. Thomas.
How We Are Smart
In her book, Dr. Koch talks about the eight intelligences: word smart, logic smart, picture smart, music smart, body smart, nature smart, people smart, self smart. She validates each one of those, which is so important. So often we try to put everybody in the same box, but that is not the objective of raising the next generation of kids to change the world.
It certainly will fail every time, and twice on Sunday, if we try to put “that child” in a box of everyone else’s construction. We need to validate and affirm “that child” as a very unique blessing from the hand of the Almighty God. Again, as we use these tools to help them understand how God has wired them then we can help, and encourage, and foster, and nurture these intelligences, and maybe even some of the other ones they are not as strong for them.
So, I found this really, really helpful. But I want to get to my really favorite part and give you three do’s and three don’ts.
I’m here to tell you that “that child” is wired to be a world changer. We must not destroy the joy that they have! I get so excited about this. So, let’s go on and look at these qualities of genius. Again, I’m just going to briefly over each of them, give you a little bit of insight, and then you can read more for yourself.
The ways we learn
Oh, my goodness! If you have a “that child” you know that this is true. They have a curiosity way beyond our curiosity. In fact, often, their curiosity seems like they are not paying attention.
You may have heard me tell this story before but one time, and I do mean one time, because the outplay, the effect on my son, was so painful for him I determined that I was not going to subject him to that again. Certainly not at the young age that he was at the time. I took him and his brother to Reading Time at the library. I was literally that mom in the back of the room nursing the baby. Yeah. That doesn’t happen a lot in public anymore but that’s what I did all those years ago. So, I was sitting in the back and Charles, in Charles’ form, was on the front row. Right?
Anderson was dutifully sitting beside him and this woman, oh! I wish that I had the foresight at that time to mark down the book that she was reading. Anyway, he was up on his knees and he was so excited to be there to listen to the story. You know, we had a pattern of reading books at home. Right at the very end of the book, you know the woman, the librarian (I don’t have to say anything more about that), but at the very end of her reading she says, “Are there any questions?”
I literally went, gasp! Because I knew… She, she did that. Right? I knew that this was Charles’ moment and he was going to have a question. Why? Because we fostered that at our house. We were always talking, always having those discussions. His hand shot up. She said, “Yes?” And he proceeded to ask the question. Again, I really wish that I had known to write it down because it was just be so much more full, the story. He proceeded to ask the question that she did not think was on topic.
She, in that moment, said, “I would really appreciate it if the questions pertained to the story we just read. Is there anybody else that has a question?” And I saw Charles slump. Maybe you’ve seen that in your “that child”. Because this is what I knew as the mom in the back of the room, he was on topic! He was curious about something that was related. She just couldn’t see where he was where she was standing.
Often, our “that child” has questions that don’t seem related. It’s their curiosity. I really think that we want to foster that, and encourage that, as we have discussions with them.
This is another thing that we tend to discourage in our children. We tend to not want them to be silly. Dr. Armstrong, in this article, encourages them to be silly. They should be silly! We should have homes, and circumstances, and contexts in our immediate family where their silliness is welcome.
Now, we do need to teach them orderliness, it does have a place and a time. I know it’s challenging, but you know what I’m betting? That we need to die to our self and let them be more silly more often. These books talk about play being the highest level of development.
This is when kids can escape and imagine things being different, imagine things being better, imagining fantasies or dreams. We need to encourage those.
I have a daughter right now that’s writing a paper on Chesterton. He would often just lay in bed, and just think, and just imagine. His whole idea about imagination was that it was never wasted, that daydreaming is never wasted. Look, we often see one of our kids, our “that kid”, and we’re trying to accomplish something and they’re daydreaming. Certainly in the school system, we don’t have any patience for that. But according to this article, it’s valuable for them to have those fantasies, and those dreams, and for us to give them life, and discuss them, and smile when we see them imagining.
This is when we give them permission to come to conclusions in new ways, in ways that we wouldn’t have. This is an example of that. You may think that your “that kid” maybe isn’t very creative. Because see we often have a very narrow definition of what creativity is. We think it’s some artistic display. But it’s not always!
Creative thinking often manifests in answers to questions that we immediately assume to be wrong, and they’re not. For example, if you ask one of these kids, “What is… one plus one plus one is?” If they say, “Four!”, we would say it was wrong. Or if they said it was one we would say it was wrong. Look, if you’re creative in the way that you think the immediate question is, “One plus one WHAT?” Are you talking about one half plus one half?
Because one half plus one half is one. We would mark that answer wrong! But see they are being creative in the conclusions and the solutions that they’re coming to. These are kids that don’t test well because these are kids that argue and discuss through every answer that they are given in a multiple choice situation. We need to foster that creativity.
“How did you come to the conclusion that one plus one is one because that’s not true?”
Or you might have a child that you have taught Biblically and you might have an equation that says, “One plus one plus one equals?” and they wrote “one” thinking the Trinity. This is an example of that creativity. Look, to these kids, it’s not just about connecting the dots for them. They see dots that the rest of us don’t see. We don’t need to make them feel bad about that. We need to encourage that.
This is their natural astonishment at the world around them. This is something that, sadly, many of us grow out of. Again, you might have heard me tell this story but it fits here so I’m going to share it. One night there was a mother standing in the kitchen sink washing the dishes when her son comes running into the kitchen. He goes, “Mom! You’ve got to come right now. The sunset is so beautiful. There’s blue, and there’s orange, and there’s pink. Oh, mom! Come right now. See the sunset right now.”
Mom goes, “Just a minute. I’m going to finish these dishes.” You know what I know? That mom who got caught up in finishing the dishes, a few moments later her son comes moping in and says, “You missed it.” There will never be another sunset like that one that was right there. That child in the wonder, and the amazement, and the astonishment of Creation came in and wanted mom to share it with him. We were distracted, you and I, by the dishes.
May we not do that. May we dare to enter in into the wonder, and the astonishment they have by a sunset, or a bug, or a spider web, or lightening bugs. Anything the wonder of Creation. May we as Christians, Mom, point them to the glory of God’s majesty and His detail in every creative thing. This is an opportunity. This aspect of intelligence is our opportunity to point them to a holy, mighty God.
These are children who have wise insight beyond their years. It’s not based on any kind of experience. They’re very, very young. But they see things, they have this wisdom that they can make connections that sometimes we discount. Sometimes it’s in small pithy statements. I remember one of my kids, we went on a walk one night just around our neighborhood but it … trash and recycle day was the next day.
One of my kids said, “Wow! You can learn a lot by looking in someone’s recycle bin.” Goodness! Yeah, well yeah, you can. But I didn’t expect you to notice that. That would be an example of wisdom. When our children dare to say something like that, again, we need to take the time to unpack that with them.
- What do you see?
- What do you mean?
- What do you think that that tells us?
- What’s in ours that we are telling to other people?
- Why does that matter?
There’s so much opportunity for communication there.
This is about their willingness or ability to use ordinary things around your house for extraordinary purposes. I remember many years ago now when I was doing astronomy with my “that kid”, my original one, and we came to the point in astronomy where we were supposed to build the solar system.
Well me, remember concrete-sequential, I’m thinking, “Oh man! I didn’t get the styrofoam balls to make the solar system. Ugh! I didn’t get that so we can’t make the solar system.” Well something happened and I got called out of the room. I left him with his younger brother. When I came back they had made the solar system with pom-pom balls, and pipe cleaners, and construction paper for the ring around Saturn.
They had constructed it kind of like a mobile. I think the one maybe they had seen over the baby brother or sister’s bed. That is not at all how I would have constructed a solar system. But they were being so inventive with what they did with it. Inventiveness is what we need in order to solve the problems around us in culture and society. We need new inventions. That means you and I probably won’t always know where our scissors are. We probably won’t be able to squirrel away a box of straws for a special occasion.
But we need to be open to their inventiveness and again have those conversations.
- What did you see?
- How did you come to this conclusion?
- How did you solve this problem.
I remember in the movie “Apollo 13”, do you remember that movie with Tom Hanks, and here they had those astronauts up in this rocket ship and they had a major problem?
He comes in and he dumps these supplies on the table. He goes, this is all they’ve got. You need to figure out how to use what’s on this table so that they can breathe and we can get them home. The reason they were able to solve that is because those people around that table had this quality of inventiveness. They were able to look at things that you and I think, “that straw is made to drink something”, but “that kid” doesn’t see it that way. They see the straw having tons of different tools and we need to encourage that.
You and I might tend to think of vitality as having a negative connotation because we think of it as a rashness or impulsiveness. This is the aspect of genius that needs to do it now. They don’t want to wait. They want to do it now. This is an aspect of them that can be exhausting. But it’s also very exciting and invigorating if we allow it to be.
Their vitality is something that really spurs them on. We need to be responsive to them in our environment, in our home, and try our very best to respond to their vitality. This is one of the main reasons why I tried to keep a bunch of random stuff on hand all the time, straws, toilet paper tubes, empty containers of various kinds, I mean I literally had a tub of things. Glue, sequins, all of that kind of stuff, string, all sorts of different things for their vitality to bloom.
This, too, is a beautiful thing because these kids that have these qualities of genius tend to be far more sensitive than we give them credit for. I think this is often because we get caught up in how they make us feel. Like, maybe inadequate or unintelligent because sometimes they are just so far passed us. Sometimes they just make us want to pull our hair out. Sometimes they make us want to cry. They make us want to scream.
So, we discount their sensitivity and we should not do that. These kids have a level of sensitivity that the world has not been able to harden and I am so grateful. They have not been desensitized. These kids see something on the street and they want to do something about it. See, that combination of things, their sensitivity, and their inventiveness like we just talked about, and their vitality? They want to do something!
I took my “that kid” to New York City. I love that city. There are beggars on the streets of New York City and my “that kid” doesn’t want to just walk by. He wants to think of a way that we can help. What could we do? These kids are very sensitive to the problems of this world and that can ultimately be a motivation for them to change it and do something. So again, let’s not wish for them to be hardened. Let’s not want them to be a “big boy”. Let’s not insist that boys don’t cry. Let’s nurture that. Let’s fan the flames of that sensitivity.
Friends, remember that Jesus wept! He was sensitive; he wasn’t cold. And Peter wept bitterly after he denied Christ. Let’s not deny these kids that sensitivity that ultimately can motivate them to change the world.
Flexibility is this idea that they can move from reality to fantasy, to reality to fantasy. They can go from metaphors to facts. They are very fluid in their associations.
Often this is scolded in the system. This was scolded in my house when I was a young homeschool mom. I was so aggravated with his flexibility. We would be talking about, I don’t know, the constitution and he wants to talk about The Hobbit in the same sentence. And I’m confident that he’s not paying attention. But it’s not that he’s wasn’t paying attention. He was just very fluid in his associations. He really was thinking about both of them. He truly was thinking about the concreteness of the constitution and the fantasy of The Hobbit at the same time.
Humor is one of the things that I am passionate about, and I believe in, and that we need to make sure we have lots of in our parenting of “that child”. In fact, according Dr. Armstrong, it is one of the qualities of genius.
Our ability to laugh at situations and things, and more than anything, ourselves, is so valuable. We need to be able to laugh. It’s like a pressure valve when things get tough. It’s not always a time to laugh; but we need to give our kids permission to laugh as they make associations.
This is this core component. We need to chase their joyful things, that which brings them joy, and encourage their joyfulness because that is what is fanning the flames what they are chasing and what they are learning about. Let’s not kill their joy.
I want to challenge you to observe that child. Observe how they learn, how they take in information. Whether it’s random, abstract, concrete, sequential from Cynthia Tobias, or if it’s different kinds of intelligence by Dr. Koch, or if it’s these twelve qualities of genius. Even if you want to journal about different things that you see, observe them.
Next, discuss it with them. When you see them make a quirky connection, or ask a seemingly unrelated question, or take all of your straws and make a spaceship, have a discussion with them. Dare to say, “What? Where did that even come from? I don’t even understand… Help me to understand what popped in your mind that you would ask about a necklace when we are discussing the Treaty of Versailles? How did you get there?”
Look, you and I do not have it all figured out. We have a lot of things that we can learn from our kids. As you start to see them do things differently I pray that it would expand our minds and we would start to consider things. That we would be reawakened in our astonishment of God’s Creation and our wonder, and the connections that we make, and the creative ways we think about different things. We will still face problems and need solutions every day, so let’s learn from them in the process.
Finally, three things don’t do.
Don’t assume that they are wrong. Don’t assume that they are off topic. Don’t assume they are not paying attention. We should not assume. These kids, remember what I talked about so many times when we are talking about “that kid”?
It’s got to be hard for them to them. Because so often everybody assumes that they know that they are off topic, assumes that they are not thinking, assumes that they are not paying attention. Let’s not be one of the people that assumes.
Don’t shame them. Let us not shame them because they do it different from the way that we do it. That genius at your house, “that kid” that thinks outside the box, isn’t going to do it like everybody else. But that doesn’t mean that we need to shame them. We need to encourage them for how differently they do things.
Don’t discount their conclusions or their perspectives. They are valid. Remember, God needs unique perspectives, and descriptions, and conclusions as long as they are based on the truth. He needs those to solve the problems of this world.
I want to talk a little about that darned sin nature that rears its ugly head and often (as least we think) we see it more often in “that child.” It’s often accompanied by some real defiance and an attitude. Even what may be the most terrifying for most of us, is this response to having lied or sinned in any way. This attitude of “So? Who cares?” That is very disconcerting and it should be.
It’s NOT a phase
I have heard before people talk about children and their behavior and different things, and they’ll say things like, “Eh, it’s just a phase. It’ll pass.”
My friends, it’s not just a phase that will pass! It’s sin which is a serious issue. So, if you are in a circumstance with a sinful behavior with your “that child”, or one of your other kids or even in yourself, it needs to be taken seriously. We cannot blow it off. We cannot even have a “deal with it later” mentality.
The first sign of sinful behavior should arrest us. We should deal with it immediately, in ourselves and in our children.
Before we can talk about the whole issue of behavior, though, I want to back up the bus. I think too often we settle for dealing with behavior and we totally leave out the heart issues.
I want to double dog dare you. Don’t reduce the bar of behavior. Don’t settle for the bar of “do it because I told you so”. We are in a world now that is sending a really mixed message to this generation. They are really confused about what it means to be a man or a woman of integrity.
While most of our culture says it’s OK to do just about anything as long as you don’t get caught, I’m fairly certain that’s not the standard in which you want to raise your children. I’m going to challenge you today to raise that bar and elevate it to be, “We obey because God said so.”
We might have compliant kids that will fall in line and they’ll have integrity, and they’ll be honest, at least they’ll try to, but without the power and the might of the Holy Spirit within them to strengthen them, to be all those things, they’re not ever going to achieve and be the young men and women that they need to be to, to be the young men and women that God’s planned for them to be, to be part of the generation that’s going to change the world.
So we must elevate that standard. We’ve got to give them a why. The why can’t just be, “Because I told you so.” It cannot be, “Because you make me look good when you obey.” It’s got to be more than that. It’s got to be deeper than that.
We must teach our children that the importance of obeying is because it glorifies and honors a mighty, living God, the sovereign of the universe.
We hold them up
Where do we start with these issues of sin in the lives of our children? We start the way that Ted Tripp talks about starting in his seminars and that is, we hold up before our children every day a holy, mighty, awesome God, the God of the universe, and we say, “Oh, my children, that you would know God. That you would KNOW God.”
When we introduce our children to God it makes all the difference! If we are just going to be about trying to formulate their behavior…do this don’t, do this, do this, don’t do this…we aren’t reaching their heart and we are short-selling ourselves and them.
We are not giving them the motive that they need. So, we must start by introducing them to the God of the universe.
When they get who He is, when you and I get who He is, it makes all the difference. It changes how we behave from the inside out, which is what real change is.
I’m sure you’ve heard the one about the little boy who was sitting in his high chair who was 18, maybe 24 months old, and his mother kept telling him to sit down. She says, “Johnny, sit down.” And he won’t sit down. She goes over and sits him down. She turns around and he stands up. She says, “Johnny, sit down!” She goes over and helps him to sit down. She turns around and she notices that Johnny’s sitting down. She says, “Johnny, thanks for sitting down!’ He says, “I’m standing in my mind.”
Look, Johnny wasn’t changed from the inside out. It was a game to him. I don’t want my children to be in a game of behavior. I don’t want them to only do what I want them to do when I’m looking. I want them to do what they ought to do because the God of the universe is on the throne.
I want to invite you, get to know this God of the universe. The bottom line is you and I are not without sin either and our kids know that. As you and I come into a deeper, richer, more abiding relationship with the King of the Universe, guess what? Our kids witness our being changed from the inside out, in subtle and not so subtle ways.
One of my best tools is “Knowledge of the Holy” by A.W. Tozer. This is a very readable book by a man who was sold out to the cause of Christ and to God, the Father, all about having a higher view of God.
We have reduced God in our culture, and I’m going to dare to say it, in our churches, we have reduced God to merely being our bell boy who is supposed to do whatever we ask Him to do, in faith.
Look, God doesn’t owe us anything. He has already given us the ultimate gift, His only begotten, not made, Son who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. He doesn’t owe us anything!
It’s all about Him.
We have an opportunity to glorify Him. This life that we are living here is not about us. It’s all about Him. As we look to Him, as we point our children to Him, as we embrace His sovereignty when nothing makes sense, as we appreciate and give Him glory when we’re confused and when we’re tired and when we’re overwhelmed, when we seek to serve Him in all we say and do, we honor His holy name, and our behavior is like incense to those around us and they’re drawn to Him.
The first step in affecting, for God’s glory, this sin nature of your child, is first you have to acknowledge that they have one. They’re all born with one. If you doubt that visit a friend with an infant. They all came that way.
Selfishness and pride are at the core of our being. We are sons of Adam and we have a sin nature.
But if we want to remedy that, we cannot reduce this to “do what I say”; we must first hold up before them a Holy and Mighty God and get to know Him together. Get to know Him through singing praise worship songs, through singing the old hymns.
Get to know Him in a nature walk, the beauty and the majesty of His creation, get to know Him by reading about him in books like A.W. Tozer, and get to worshipping Him.
Introduce your kids to the God who not only deserves their obedience but is worthy of their praise.
Next, after we’ve had an introduction to the God of the universe, we need to start talking to our kids about what sin is. Again, we have failed in this way, not just in our families to discuss what sin is, we have failed in our churches.
Some churches, in fact, pride themselves in not using the sin word in their services for fear that it might make some people uncomfortable.
The reality is we have a massive, deadly, lethal self-sin issue. If we don’t talk about sin then there’s no need for a savior.
We must talk about sin to our kids. We must acknowledge sin in ourselves and sin in them. There’s no sense in talking about it being a phase. It is an offense to the Holy, mighty God of the universe when we sin. Sin means when we fall short of the glory of God.
In Leviticus 19:2 we are told, “Be holy as I, the Lord your god, am holy.” That’s the standard. We are to emulate Him. We are to be and live as daughters and sons of the king of kings, His ambassadors.
Live a life that’s worthy
We are to live a life, worthy. When we don’t do that, when we fall into sin, we offend the Holy, Mighty God.
So, what’s His response to the sin? Here’s the deal, His response to sin is His wrath. It is a just response. The Holy God of the universe cannot exist where sin exists. It is not possible for Him to be where sin is.
But, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son. That whoever believes in Him shall not perish but will have everlasting life.
Not only does God have just wrath upon our sin but He offered us freely a solution in the gift of His son, who was the holy lamb of God.
Remember when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and he said, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin, whole, of the world.”
That lamb of God lived a perfect, sinless life as he walked on this earth. He laid down His life.
They didn’t take it from Him. He laid it down as he outstretched his arms on the cross of Cavalry and paid our sin price.
Only a perfect, spotless, lamb of God can pay our sin price. That’s what Jesus Christ did.
These are the truths that we discuss with our children. We talk to them about how holy and mighty, and sovereign, and glorious God is. We talk about the issue of sin and the real penalty. Then we talk about the beautiful solution that God has given in the gift of His son.
Because He loves us
As we are having these conversations in an ongoing manner, around our house, as we drive, as we are having these ongoing conversations about God’s glory and His goodness, about our sinfulness, about His goodness and His grace, His everlasting forgiveness, His loving kindness that endures forever, the psalmist writes, we talk about the sin.
As they come into fellowship, as they come to acknowledge and know who God is, there is a natural brokenness that comes when sin comes.
Look, our culture tells us that we don’t need God. Our culture tells us that our sin isn’t so bad. Our culture tells us that we are going to be OK. The reality is that God’s word says that we’ve got a problem. But because of His glorious love for us and His grace, He’s given us a way to come into a relationship with Him. That’s through the gift of His son.
When we frame behavior away around “have to”, we don’t do the right things because we might get in trouble doing the wrong things, we don’t do the right things because we are terrified of the consequences. Our motivation is not coming from a relationship with the Father.
We must do the right thing because it honors God. Not because we have to but because we get to.
We elevate the motive for being honest and good. and kind. and generous. and selfless. and self-controlled. That’s why we do it.
We do it because we have an opportunity every day to give Him glory and praise as we worship Him in all we say and do.
As we live a life worthy of that to which we’ve been called.
Confession: I was “that child”. So, a lot of the “that child” stuff I get because I am speaking from experience! It’s not that hard for me.
For those of you who weren’t “that child,” and have given birth, or adopted a “that child”…let me say that I pray for you. We are unique creatures and it is a journey into our world and to try to understand us. But I really believe that most of the time it’s worth it.
Today I want to talk about a character in the Bible whom you probably just love and admire.
I know that I have long admired this particular character. One day I was thinking there’s got to be a Biblical character we can relate to, and probably you would also agree, there’s probably even several “that child” examples in the Bible.
I am going to suggest to you that I believe the primary example, Biblically, of “that child” and in the most positive of terms, would be Peter in the New Testament.
I believe this so much so, in fact, I have often thought that if I had known that my oldest son, Charles, was going to be as much of “that child” as he has become I probably would have aptly named him Peter.
Could This be “That Child?”
Peter was a fisherman. Historically, most scholars believe that he was the oldest apostle.
Yet, when Jesus said, “Follow me,” one of the most amazing first acts of Peter’s life was, he followed. He followed Christ.
Now, you and I might think of that as rash. He didn’t really know Christ. But when Christ looked at him there must have been something about Christ that when Peter saw that look in his eye, when Peter heard that invitation extended, Peter got it. He was like, “Yeah, I want to follow you.”
He followed. That’s huge, that’s very powerful. We also see examples of brashness. Examples of enthusiasm. Examples of passion, and charisma, that God can used in Peter’s life.
As we are walking through this I want you to consider your “that child.” Are these things that you see in them. Are these examples of things that they do? And that currently may be really driving you crazy and aggravate you?
Could it be that as we look at the life of Peter today we can start to look at those things a little differently, with grace, and with insight, and with wisdom, and stop allowing the enemy to make all of these actions look awful just because they are not the actions we wanted or thought they should have been?
Let’s start to look at these behaviors just a little differently.
Your “that child” also needs to know that they’re not alone. That there’s hope and that God has a plan. Just like God had a plan for Peter, God has a plan for them.
He Dared to Go
Next we’ll look at an account where Jesus has been up all night praying. His disciples have been fishing all night. It says that they were battered by the waves. They were trying so desperately to catch something, catch anything, and then out of the darkness of the storm (they’re exhausted, they’re tired, they’re discouraged) here comes Jesus walking on the water.
Peter sees it and he says, “Lord, you tell me to come and I will come.”
Jesus simply says, “Come.”
We know that Peter, out of all of those disciples in the boat, Peter is the only one that dared to get out of the boat and actually walk on the water.
I want you to suggest to you today, as you consider Peter, how did he get out of the boat? Because I’m betting, if I think of Peter and the totality about what we know about him in Scripture, he didn’t gingerly step over the side of that boat.
I would like to suggest to you that he hurdled the side of the boat.
He was so enthusiastic, and so rash, and so passionate, about everything he did. Look, I believe that Peter had the same mantra that I often live by. Play hard or go home.
That’s how he lived. It was all or nothing for Peter.
So we see that Peter gets out of the boat and actually walks. He’s successful as long as, what? As long as he focuses his eyes on Christ. But Scripture tells us clearly that he got distracted by the waves and he went down. Jesus extended his hand and pulled him up.
That’s “that child”. So enthusiastic, so excited, so passionate about what they’re doing, and yet often easily distracted.
Who Do You Say?
The next example I want to talk to you about is when Jesus asked Peter, “Hey!” (He’s actually asking all of the disciples.) “Who do they say that I am?”
They said, “Well, some say that you are Elijah. Some say you’re this person.” And Jesus looks squarely at Peter and says, “No, no, no. Who do you say that I am?”
And Peter said (get this, get the insight that Peter has), Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Whoa! Peter got who Jesus was. In the midst of the confusion, in the midst of the teachers of the law, and the scribes and the Pharisees who studied the Old Testament, who had all the prophecies, who should have got who Jesus was, they didn’t get it!
If they did, they denied it. But Peter, a fisherman, got who Christ was. He made that bold statement saying who Christ was. You’ll remember that Jesus said, “On this rock, on the rock of that confession, I will build my church.” It’s just beautiful.
Another example is when Jesus took the inner circle of Peter, James, and John. So you remember, there was Peter and then James and John were called the sons of Thunder. They were actually the sons of Zebedee.
They had quite a reputation. The three of them were like Jesus’ inner circle. And there are several occasions in Scripture where we see Jesus takes those three, in a special way, aside to teach them something or show them something.
In this instance, He takes them up on the Mount of Transfiguration. You’ll remember that Peter was elated, literally beside himself. If you’ve got a “that child” you’ve seen that. There are times when they are just so enthusiastic, and so joyful, and so into what’s going on that they are not thinking straight. That was true in this instance with Peter.
In this situation Peter is like, “Ah! This is awesome! We’ll stay right here on the mountain and I’ll build a tent for you, and for you, and for you!”
You can just kind of see Jesus go, “Ugh, Peter! No! That’s not the point of me bringing you up here. It wasn’t for us to stay on the mountain, Peter. I brought you up here on the mountain so that we could go back down off the mountain.” The Lord Christ did not explain that to Peter but it’s implied in Scripture as Jesus just moves forward.
Remember the Last Supper?
The lowest job that any servant would have had at this last supper, indeed in this culture, would have been the servant who would have washed the feet of all in attendance for this dinner. These feet would have been really dirty, and yucky, and grimy, and smelly. But even in all the preparation that the disciples had made for the last supper there had not been anyone chosen to wash their feet.
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, saw again (this is the pattern throughout Christ’s walk on the planet), he saw a need and he responded to it. We call that compassion.
Here once again, in the Biblical account of what Jesus did, we know that he saw the need. Instead of doing what I would have wanted to do, and maybe what many of you wanted to do, and assign the task to someone else, he simply (Scripture says) lay aside his outer garment, just like he had laid aside his right to be equal with the Father.
He girded himself, it says. He poured water in a basin, to symbolize he was about to pour out his life. He then got down on his knees and began to wash their feet. It’s really a powerful picture!
I think a hush must have fallen across the room. As Jesus is down on his knees, washing their feet (and it’s a story for another day, but let this sit on you for a minute), Judas went to deny Christ with clean feet. Because Jesus washed their feet before Judas left.
Anyway, he comes to Peter, and it’s time. It’s clear what Jesus is doing. Peter was not the first person, not the first set of feet that Jesus washed. And Jesus comes to Peter and Peter goes, “You’re not washing my feet!”
Do you see that? Do you see the passion again? Do you see the pride, the arrogance of Peter? “You’re not going to wash my feet!” Yet Christ, who is our example, responds compassionately, and patiently, with Peter.
As the dinner goes on Jesus tells them again that he is going to be betrayed and he’s going to die.
Peter says, “I will die with you.”
Jesus looks at him and says, “Peter, before the cock crows, before the rooster sounds his morning call, you will deny me three times.” Ugh! That had to hurt. That had to sting. To hear the lord and master that he was pledging allegiance to, turn to him and says, “Oh, Peter, no. Not this time.”
Yet there must have been something in Peter that was like, “NO! It can’t be true!”
The Bible says that they sang a hymn and they went out. They go to the garden. Once again, we have another example of how Jesus let the disciples “stay here” and he took that inner circle, Peter, James, and John, a little further Scripture says, and he asked them to pray. Then it says that Jesus went a little further and fell down and prayed to the Father.
He just went and called out to the Father, and begged, and begged, and begged for another way to save mankind and to glorify the Father. Finally, Jesus comes back the third time. They’re sleeping and he says, “Here comes my betrayer.”
He goes to meet those who had come to arrest him. It’s really remarkable in Scripture when you hear how many people came to arrest Christ. He, himself says, “Look. I was in the temple many times. I was in the marketplace many times. You could have taken me. You don’t need all of this.” In fact, when Jesus said, “Who are you seeking?” and they said “Jesus” he said, “I am.”
You’ll notice, in Scripture it says they fell back. That was the power of who he really was. It is at this moment, when they have come to arrest Christ, that Peter takes his sword out and hacks off the ear of Malchus.
I want to promise you that Peter was not aiming for Malchus’ ear. I’m confident that in that day and time it wasn’t the way to defeat your enemy, to cut off their ears. I’m pretty sure that Peter was aiming for Malchus’ throat, and Malchus ducked, and all Peter got was his ear.
Again, you see Jesus going, “Ugh! Peter! Put it away. That’s not what this is going to be about.” Then it says they went on to arrest Christ. Peter followed, at a distance. See, Peter is now wanting to watch. But he’s probably forgotten about that prediction that Jesus made. In fact, we know he has! Because John helps to get Peter into the inner courtyard where Jesus is being tried.
Three times, Scripture tells us, that Peter did indeed deny his Christ there. When the cock crowed upon the third time it says he went away despairing. He knew in that instance everything that Christ had said, the whole ministry, must have come rushing back to his mind.
But here’s the turning point, on Sunday morning when there came a knock at the door, and the women were saying the tomb was empty, it says that Peter and John ran to the tomb. In fact, it’s more specific than that. When John’s gospel is written, John says that he beat Peter but when Peter got there he didn’t respectfully stand outside of the empty tomb. Peter went all the way in just like we would expect that child to do! He didn’t stand aside. He went in to see for himself that Christ’s body was resurrected and was not there.
Do You Love Me?
Then, the next time we see Peter he’s fishing and Jesus is on the seashore. He’s asking them if they have caught anything. Peter says,“ If you say to put the nets on the other side that’s what I’ll do.” He does and they make a catch. It’s on that seashore that day that Jesus looks at Peter and says, “Peter, do you love me?” Peter at first flippantly answers, “You know that I love you!”
Jesus looks at him again and says, “Peter, do you love me?” Peter answers, “Yes, I love you!” Then Jesus says, “Tend my sheep.” And a third time, three times, once for each one of Peter’s denial, Jesus Christ affirms Peter back, all the way back, as a disciple of Christ.
So this Peter who denied, this Peter who was rash, this Peter who acted before he thought, Jesus pulled him all the way back, forgave and affirmed him for his denial, and launched him into ministry that still blesses Christians today as he was an example on the day of Pentecost. You’ll read in the book of Acts that it’s says, “…And Peter, taking his stand.” Yes, it was on the day of Pentecost that among all the other disciples, when everyone was criticizing them and assuming that they were drunk, it was Peter who stood up and made the case for Christ.
Obviously, he went on to write first and second Peter. We also know that when it came time for Peter to die he refused to be crucified in the same way that Christ had been and was actually crucified upside down.
Be Encouraged, Mom
Look, it’s very easy to get discouraged with our “that child” and it’s very easy for us to think that God cannot use them. But I think today’s example of Peter is a primary example of the fact that God does need strong men and women, often we refer to them as “that kid”, to grow his kingdom, to stand up for Him.
They’re going to make mistakes, just like Peter did.
They’re going to be rash, just like Peter did.
But do you see how beautifully Christ kept drawing Peter in, and affirming him, and being patient with him?
Mom, that’s our job. Our job is to not break their passion, to not steal their charisma, to not discourage their enthusiasm, but to bend it in the direction of Jesus Christ so that they can change the world for the goodness and the glory of God.
Go and enjoy your “that child”. God has great plans for them, and God has great plans for you, too, Mom.
I want you to think for a moment of the little precious face that is your “that child”.
When I am speaking at a women’s event on the topic of “that child”, I’ve started sending around a sheet so that all the moms can put the name of their “that child” on the piece of paper. Then I pray over all those names because I figure we are in this battle together for the hearts and minds of these little ones. At one conference recently, one of the mothers wrote six names. I think she was thinking all of them were her “that child”. I’m here to tell you, I pray for that mom!
Whomever in your family is your “that child” I want you to keep that face at the front and center of your mind today as we discuss “What they aren’t and what they are.”
Before I start my list, I want to remind you that my “that child” journey has been a long one. My oldest son is actually my original “that child” and I have one that I am currently working with. Some days are better than others just like probably in your home; if you’ve got a “that child” you know exactly what I mean. They’re unpredictable. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. They might be in a fabulous mood and when they’re in a great mood you wouldn’t sell them for anything. But when they’re in “that mood” you might just give them away!
Three things to remember about “That Child”
I was just confident that some of these things are not true. I was sure that they were true. I want to help you get over these lies faster than I did and reframe “that child” for you.
- First of all, I want to assure you that your “that child” (whether you have one, or six), I want to assure you that “that child” is not divine payback for your childhood.The God of the Universe loves you, and me, enough not to leave us where he finds us. He is constantly in the process of glorifying himself and growing us. Often, he will allow things to show up in our children to get our attention. If you have a “that child” they have your attention! God should have your attention. That ought not mean they have your frustration and your resentment.
- Number two, they are not broken. When I first had my oldest son, Charles, I was confident that he was messed up and he was broken. God loved Charles enough to send him to me because I could fix him. Do you hear the arrogance and the pride in that? Yes, I thought that he was broken and he needed to be fixed.We talked about last week the issue of the sin nature in “that child” which sometimes is far more evident than in the other children we have that might be more compliant. Those children might be more prone to apologize, or repent, if you just look in their direction. They’re convicted by the Holy Spirit and they respond to that. “That child” however, their defiant rebellion, makes the sin nature often more visible and vile to us.
“That child” isn’t broken but they a are sinner just like you and me and we need to treat it like that.
Remember, the way we deal with the sin nature in “that child” is the way we need to deal with it within our own lives. That is, we need to make sure we are getting to know who God is every day. My dear friend talks about this as a high view of God. When we get who God is, we are broken by our sin because we realize that our sin separates us from a loving, holy mighty God in who’s presence sin cannot co-exist. But because of his great love for us, He sent his son.
- Finally, your “that child” is not THE problem at your house. When we were first parenting Charles, and as we had six more children come along, I often felt that pain of not spending time with one of the other children because I was having to deal with him!I just want to say to you something none of us want to verbalize, but there were moments when I thought, “What if…” That’s raw and that’s ugly, because in those moments I thought the whole problem was HIM!
Look, your “that child” is not the problem in your home. They’re just NOT!
I know a lot of people who would say, “If it weren’t for “that child…” But, I promise you, they’re not the problem. We need to keep that in mind.
Look, if you’re thinking that your child is divine payback, if you’re thinking “that child” is broken, if you’re thinking that your “that child” is the problem at your house, you may think that you’re hiding it from them but they know. They know how we feel about them. Even if we think that we are hiding it, even if we are telling them we love them…. Because, look, there was a point in my parenting my oldest, my original “that child”, that I loved him… Because I had to, I was his mom. But let be honest. I didn’t like him too much. The reality is, you can’t hide that, Mom. You can’t hide that!
We’ve got to deal with these lies that we’ve chosen to believe about “that child”, we’ve got to acknowledge them as lies, and they are not true! These are not true about “that child”.
Here are three things that are true about “that child”. Three things that I want challenge you to embrace.
- Your “that child” is a divine invitation to draw closer to God.If my original “that child”, my first born, had been compliant and obedient, cooperative and calm, and all the things I thought I wanted my kids to be, I wouldn’t have needed God. I would have thought I was doing it. I would have thought that I was the most amazing parent on the planet.
I have a friend who had three compliant children. THREE! She told me that she used to criticize and judge from across the room other parents with “that kid”. She didn’t even realize what she was doing. Her first three children we so cooperative and so obedient. She would look at other people whose children who would throw fits and not behave she would think, “Oh my goodness! If you would just know how to parent. If you would just this… If you would just that…”
If you’ve got a “that child” you’ve heard that kind of criticism! You’ve encountered that kind of judgment.Then my friend had baby number four. Guess what? She gave birth to the most consummate “that child” I have even known! He would give my oldest a run for his money. All that judgment, and all that criticism, she had been so happy to dole out to everybody else? She had a lot of repentance and work to do with God. This is a story she shared with me. She is now so grateful to have had her own “that child” and to walk in the grace that she’s been given.
That’s the divine invitation; is to draw nearer to God! Your “that child” gives you a front row seat to your own sin. An invitation to walk in the grace that you’ve been given, and to continue to live a life of repentance and conviction, and let His grace, and forgiveness, and mercy wash over you. Embrace the patience that He has with you and me. I am overwhelmed with the patience that God has with me when I deal with my “that child”.
The reality is it’s an opportunity for us to look in the mirror and own our issues that sometimes we’ve not dealt with. God divinely allows it to show up in one of our children. Know what? Our sin is usually a lot more hideous when it shows up in somebody else’s face. But it’s just as hideous to God.
- Your “that child” is a blessing not a curse. A gift from the hand of God. Do you remember Psalm 139 when it talks about the Master of creation is weaving inside of you a unique person? This child is a gift from the hand of God. That’s one of my favorite things about being pregnant, feeling that child move within me and just imagining God weaving this person together. A gift from the hand of God.It’s not a curse, not a curse!
We often will think of “that child” as “THAT child”. If we could just do something with THAT one. Right? No!
They’re a blessing. Your “that child” is a blessing from the hand of God. Not a menace but a blessing. Given for your happiness and your well-being. God loved you enough to give you “that child” to you to draw you closer to him and to show you the marvelous works of His mercy and His grace.
- Finally, your “that child” is a unique person for God’s glory. Your “that child” is going to have questions about things that none of the rest of your other children even think about. They are going to just connect dots when no one else in the room can. They are going to see dots that no one else even sees, and connect them in unique ways.Your “that child” is out of the box. They’re not a round peg that fits in any hole at all. They’re never going to be able to be characterized by a formula. Your “that child” is totally unique! God has a plan for “that child”, uniquely gifted, uniquely talented, unique perspective, unique solutions! Your “that child” is totally unique for the specific purposes that God has made “that child”.
He Has a Plan
We know that the overriding purpose for each one of our lives is to glorify God. God has a plan to use those unique perspectives, those questions that are probably driving you crazy, those answers that you have never thought, or those questions that you have never even thought of, God has a plan to use all of that.
Let us not be the ones that just berate them and allow our exasperations to characterize our relationship with them. Let’s hug that child as the unique gift that they are from God. Let’s cradle their face in our hands and say to them, “I’m so glad that God sent you to this family. I’m so glad that you’re here.”
Mom, I want to give this as an invitation to you not just because you love that child because you have to, but to like that child, and be grateful for that child, because you are blessed to be raising “that child”.
“That child” is a world changer.
Go give him a hug!
It is my heart’s passion to encourage you in raising that child. As the mother of at least two, probably more like two or three or four of “Those Children” myself, they really do have my heart. I know how challenging they can be but I also know what a joy and what a privilege it is to be their mom. I’m here to encourage you.
Today I want to look at something very near and dear to my heart. That is the issue of how to bend “That Child” without breaking “That Child”.
I know what it’s like to have a day with “That Child” where you just want to yell and scream. You just want to tie them in a knot. You’re just at the end of your rope. Whether it’s the incessant questions or it’s the confronting your authority, or the belligerence, or the inability to focus….I remember one time sending my “That Child” who is now much older to the mailbox to get the mail. I was distracted by all the other children in the house and didn’t realize how long he had been gone. When he came back in, about 30 minutes later (p.s. It’s only about a minute walk to and from our mailbox!) he had done everything but what? Get the mail!
Yes, I know about those long days when focus flies out the window.
Another time I sent him downstairs to get a roll of paper towels. He came back with…. A hammer! It can be very frustrating. I get it, my friend.
I get the frustration that can just build. I know that you do, too. I don’t know if it’s been that day at your house. I want to talk to you about how do we bend these kids and not break them? We are not called to break them.
My two youngest sons that are now 14 and 13 have recently gotten really kind of deep into entomology. That’s the study of bugs. They procured a beetle for this unit of study. This beetle was very, very, very stiff. There was no way that they could spread out the legs of this beetle, or his antennae. They couldn’t do anything. In fact, this beetle actually had wings underneath this hard shell; but there’s no way that they could expose those wings in order to see the beauty of this beetle. Enter the softening chamber. This is just a piece of Tupperware with an airtight seal, some damp paper towels, and a moth ball so that this little beetle becomes movable.
He had to sit in that in that airtight chamber for 3 or 4 days. The boys could just wait for this beetle to soften up and be malleable, to be movable, so that they can go in and manipulate the parts and study this beetle.
What does that process have to do with bending and not breaking “That Child”? I want to suggest to you, a whole lot! Very often our kids are a lot like that atrophied beetle…really hard and really stuck in a single position. We want to come in and just force this beetle to do what we want it to do. In fact, the boys have had an experience or two where they didn’t wait long enough. Apparently, the anticipation of studying this beetle really builds. They would get impatient! (Sound familiar?!)
They would just jump right in and start opening wings, moving a leg or antennae. And guess what…wings broke off, legs broke off, antenna broke off and the boys would end up really frustrated. Because it probably only needed another 24 hours.
I think this speaks directly to us as moms because all too often, just like my boys see in these little beetles, we can see in our children what they could be. We can see the beauty of what God’s created and the position that God has formed them for in this universe and we have a vision for what they could do in God’s kingdom.
But then we go and we don’t wait for them to grow into that position on their own. We want to cut to the chase instead of enjoying the journey. We end up, breaking that child, just like my boys would break a beetle that simply wasn’t ready to be handled yet. Now, I don’t think we mean to do this, but we are capable, of breaking “That Child”.
What I want you to know is this: they’re a lot more sensitive than you might think they are. I know with my original “That Child”, I was confident that he was behaving the way he was behaving just to get at me. I was confident that he knew exactly what he was doing. But all this time later I can tell you this, let me just tell you, young mom of a “That Child” who has driven you crazy today… they are not doing it on purpose. They really are unaware of what they are doing in most instances.
Look, I get that there are times when they push every one of our buttons at the same time. I know what that’s like. But I also know that there’s a lot of time when they are just wrestling through being them. They’re really not trying to push all your buttons. They really kind of accidentally rubbed up against them.
Three keys to raising that child
- Humility is key. In order for us to mold these children into the young men and women, the warriors for the Kingdom, that God intends for them to be, we ourselves must come to this task broken. Humble. We cannot come to this task of molding our children, and discipling our children, if we have not dealt with our own brokenness. If we have not yet come to terms with how desperate we are for a Savior, if we are not aware of how much forgiveness, and grace, and mercy has already been bestowed upon us, then we are not in a position to bend anyone.We must first bend our own knees before we can invite our children to bend their knees. Guess what? They know. We might be able to fool everyone else in our lives but we can not fool “That Child”. The key is for us to come humble, for us to come submitted. Look, your kids get to see how you live this every day of your life. If Mom is submitted to God, does she worship Him? Does she sing praise to Him? Does she point others to Him? Does she have the joy of the Lord and the confidence, and the hope of salvation every day?
Mom, before we can begin this task we must deal with our own hearts.
- Build that relationship. Next, I want to suggest to you that we need to focus on making our kids malleable and moldable. How do we that? We do it by loving them.
Remember in the Bible when Paul wrote, “Christ loved us while we were unlovable?” That’s true! God didn’t wait until you and I had it all together and all figured out. I’ve known people in my past who were waiting to get it all together before they came to Christ. But it says in the Bible that He loved us while we were yet sinners. He loved us!That love, as we start to embrace that love, and learn about that love, it makes our hearts malleable towards Him. It’s the same with our children.
We must first point our children, as we’re seeking to mold them, and to bend them, and not break them, we must first point them to God. The wonder of His creation, His majesty, all of His attributes… I’ve recommended to you before A. W. Tozer’s “Knowledge of the Holy” and I commend it to you once again. Introduce your kids to the God of the universe after you’ve dealt with your own need for him.
Just love on your kids!
When my boys put this beetle into that chamber, the whole point is to make it moist so that it can move. The best way for our kids to want to respond to our bending is that they know how loved they are by God, how wonderfully he has planned a life for them, given them hope of salvation through the gift of His son, and placed him, this child, in your family, and how much you love them. It is the light of that love that we can bend them.
In the Bible we are commended not to exasperate our kids. That happens when we are just on them all the time without engaging in a conversation. It’s easier to exasperate because exasperation doesn’t take any time at all. It doesn’t take any self-control. It doesn’t take any patience. It doesn’t take any wisdom or insight. It’s just as responding in our frustration. It’s really easy to exasperate.
Engagement takes time. It means that right when we want to explode we exhale and we get a hold of ourselves. We do what we want them to do. We allow the spirit of the Holy, Mighty God to come and grant us patience, and wisdom, and insight. Let us not exasperate our children. Let’s engage, especially with “That kid”.
Rules without relationship lead to breaking. When you are just going to insist on them doing x, y, and z without having a relationship… Look, it’s just like that the key to our relationship with God. It’s not that we have to obey Him, it’s that we get to. We get to this place when we understand the love that He’s given in His son’s dying on the cross to pay a sin penalty that we can never pay. The more that we know this truth, the more than we accept that love, and embrace that love, the more love we have to give to others.
I have a policy that now that I have four out of the house anytime any of those four call, I’m answering the phone. I don’t care what time of night it is or what time of the morning it is.
- Demands without discipleship make for breaking. Let’s not just demand that our children do what we want them to do. I know that early on as a mom, the number one thing I wanted was for my kids to make me look good. I am pretty confident that I am not the only one who has had that as a priority.But I am so grateful to be liberated from that one. My priority for my children now is that they would be disciples of Jesus Christ. That in everything they do and say He will receive all of the glory. That they would grow their sanctification in him every single day. That takes discipleship!
Do you see the trend here? Exasperation, rules, and demands don’t take any time. They’re quick, and they are easy, and they are a result of our impatience and our frustration. But engagement, relationship, and discipleship are the three things, through love, that make our kids moldable and helps us not break their little hearts. Not break their little wills, but bend them.
Look, mom, if you have been given the trust of a “That Child” in your house, I want to tell you boldly and with great confidence today, your God does not need the will of “That Child” broken. This world needs more strong-willed women and men of God who will stand boldly on the truth of Jesus Christ. We just need to make sure that their will is not broken but bent to the things of God. The enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. He knows that one of the strengths of your “That Child” is their strong will. He seeks to steal it, to destroy it, to kill it.
It is our job, it is our joy, it is our opportunity, it is our delight to bend their will towards the things of God so that can use that strong will that He gave them to glorify Him and point others to Him. My friends, raising that child is difficult. It’s frustrating. It is also an incredible journey. Embrace it, don’t fight it.
I want to take a little break from all the serious talk about That Child. Don’t worry, I still have more insight to share about raising That Child, but I think it’s important for us to keep laughing and understanding that God has a sense of humor even in the midst of all the hard stuff. At the end of the day He’s always trying to do two things glorify himself, and grow us. It’s really good for us to use the gift of laughter that He’s given us, to create a little levity in what can be very overwhelming circumstances with “That” Child.
So I just want to go through this little list, I actually have eleven items, and i’m hoping that at the end of this you will be able to add your own items in the comments below. I’m sure there’s a lot of other ideas that we could all add to this list, let’s start with these:
You might have a “That” Child if…
#1: You might have a “That” Child if they demand all of your attention.
Can I get an amen?! If you have “That” Child, they demand all of you, they demand parts of you that you didn’t even know you had, they demand the exhausted and the tired and the overwhelmed parts of you. The spent parts of you, the parts of you you don’t know what to do with. They demand it all, and they demand it all the time. Yes they do.
I’m here to tell you that when my oldest “That” Child was still at home, I used to go in at night and just watch him sleep, cause he was so still and he looked so innocent. Laying in there in the bed he wasn’t demanding anything of me. And then I would just go cry.
If you have a “That” Child you know exactly what I mean. They demand parts of you, and so much of you, and the glorious part of them demanding so much of you is it means you need that much more of God. See, the blessing of God sending me “That” Child, more than once was that it caused me to have to lean into Him. I knew that I needed Him, because of how much my “That” Child needed me. And when I ran out of me, I needed God. That was the blessing of it.
#2: You might have a “That” Child if their mood is completely unpredictable, moment to moment.
If you have “That” Child, you don’t always know who’s gonna wake up in their room in the morning. They might be totally agreeable and joyful and cooperative and you will want to know who woke up in their room. And they might be that way to breakfast…but after breakfast, you don’t even know what happens, it completely changes. “That” Child’s mood is all over the map, as are their interests, and their curiosity, and their attention, it’s all over everywhere.
“That” Child they can change, and turn around on a dime, and you keep trying to figure out “What did we do to get the cooperative, and what did we do to get the not cooperative”.
Here’s one thing I’m going to tell you over and over about “That” Child for all those times we’re thinking “I don’t know how to do this, this is so hard, this is so tiring” I want us to take the opportunity to pause, and consider what might it be like to be “That” child.
I’m going to propose this: it is hard to be “That” Child. It’s hard for their emotions to be all over the map. It’s hard for them to not know what they’re interested in, or how to pay attention, or how to focus, or how did they get on this, that, or the other thing? They’re wondering all that too.
It’s not just us.
And they deserve more than a little bit of our compassion as they navigate the intersection in those pre-teen and teen years of not just their “That” Child wiring but also those hormones when they kick in. They don’t know themselves – so we could stand to be compassionate and more caring with them.
#3: You might have a “That” Child if you cannot hear them, you know you must find them.
I had two boys before I had any daughters, and I had friends who had girls first and I remember going over to one of my friend’s house who just had daughters and I was like “Uhm, where are the girls?” And she said “Oh they’re in their room playing” And I thought to myself, Wow, what must that be like? My boys, If I couldn’t hear them I needed to find them, and I needed to find them quickly because you know what? They were probably doing something, that they shouldn’t be doing, and that’s how it is!
Not necessarily sneaky, not necessarily deceptive, although that was certainly true, but I’m talking about doing things because they were just so curious. Things they shouldn’t have been messing with. It’s truly what they needed to do. They needed to chase their curiosity but I needed to be around them when they did, giving them permission to be curious.
“That” Child is very curious, “That” Child wants to know things and investigate things, and if we can give them permission to do those things when we’re with them it cuts down on their need to do those in a sneaky way. But you know what I mean, “That” Child is not generally quiet, so if they are, ya need to find them!
#4: You might have a “That” Child if their thinking rarely precedes their actions.
Yes, you know what it’s like. You’ve told them a thousand times, you know you’ve told them, you’ve trained them, you’ve intentionally interjected truth in their lives, and guess what they do? Not what you say.
But it’s not because you haven’t said it, it’s because they aren’t thinking.
Many many many times I would say to mine: “Wait, think. Were you thinking? You need to pause and think. Make sure you’re thinking.” See, they just rush into action. But the good news is, they’re home with us and we can teach them!
If we can have the patience of the holy spirit over and over again we can teach them the power and the importance of thinking before they act.
#5: You might have a “That” Child if graduation seems really far away.
On The heels of one of our most difficult years with “That” Child as a homeschooling family, we went to our state conference in May. We had just been through 9 months of really challenging character issues and self control issues. I’m not even sure how much we actually accomplished in school that year because we were constantly dealing with these issues. Anyway, it got to May and we went to our state homeschool conference. Our state conference offers a senior graduation and I went in to watch it because I felt like I’ve just gotta get some inspiration, it just seems impossible that we are ever gonna make it to graduation with “That” Child.
So I’m sitting there, by myself, and there was this woman behind me and I began to cry and in her compassion she put her arm around me and she said “Which one’s yours?” She asked this as they filed across the stage and I said “none of them, my oldest one is twelve!”
But as I was looking at those graduates I was like “Oh please God, can we get to that? Can we make it to that? Would you give us what we need to make it to that?” On that day, that graduation seemed really far off.
If that’s you today I wanna encourage you to hold on, God’s got this. You’re on a journey, He’s got a plan, hold His hand, and take one day at a time.
#6: You might have a “That” Child if nothing seems to work.
Yes, it’s difficult with “That” Child. I went through all the books, I read The Strong Willed Child, The Sensory Sensitive Child…I mean I read everything I could get my hands on. I was looking for something that I could actually do to help. If they gave me any indication of time out, or putting them over here or doing a chart or whatever they said I was like “Ok we’re gonna try this”
And I tried, and I tried, and I tried, and I tried, but nothing seemed to work.
And I felt like “My goodness, what am I gonna do?” But again, I wanna tell you, the fact that nothing worked made me again, lean into God, made me go to God. The numbers of times I was on my face just trying to call out to God and say “What do you want me to do? I don’t know how to do this, I don’t know how to train him, I don’t know what to say.” And I would go and God always provided. He always gave me some creative Idea of something to try, He always gave me discernment and the wisdom I need as he dried my tears, and he bonded our hearts together as I leaned into God for that.
So even though it felt like nothing worked from what the world was offering, it gave me an opportunity to go to God and ask God “What do I do for “That” Child? For this specific “That” Child, what do you want me to do?” And He always answered.
#7: You might have a “That” Child if you worry about the effect they’re having on your other children.
This is one of the more serious ones on the list, and I had this in spades when we were going through this really intense time with our oldest, who was “That” Child. I remember just crying out to God and saying “I don’t understand, you sent me 6 more after him, how is it possible? He needs everything! I don’t even know how to do this and I don’t even know if I talked to this child today, I don’t even know if I hugged this other child today and I know I didn’t read to this other child today.”
And I would just cry and cry and cry.
I want to tell you, all of these years later one of the things that we would say to the kids when our “That” Child was having so many problems and one of the other kids would come up and say “What’s wrong? I don’t understand. Why does he have to get so angry? Why does he have to argue with everything? Why does he get so mad?” And we would talk to the other children about this and I would always encourage them to pray for him and we would always pause and pray for him and obviously we prayed with him many many times. Today I can tell you that my kids don’t resent it, that’s not how they remember it because you know what?All of my kids have had issues and we’ve had to pray them all through different things, that just happened to be his thing.
Look, I’ve said this before and it’s very valuable, I wish I knew who to credit with this saying because it is so poignant: “What defines you as a person, is what you believe about God.” And everybody will know that by the way you live, how you give, what you do, and what you don’t do, what you watch and what you don’t read, ok?
What defines you as a family is how you deal with your weakest link, whether that link is a behavior problem today, or some sort of a physical issue, or a mental disability, or an illness, you know like, at your house when somebody is sick at your house it doesn’t mean that you carry on as usual, you tend to the needs of the ones thats sick. And if someone has a learning issue, you tend to the needs of that learning issue.
So, as you’re dealing with “That” Child the rest of your kids are watching and they’re seeing how you deal with that kid, and it is ministering to them, you’re giving them an example of how to deal with their weakest link when they grow up and get married and it’s all about compassion and patience and love, and love, and love, and grace, and grace, and grace.
So the effect it’s having on your children is they’re getting to see God intercede in your family and in you, and do something amazing, as long as you keep pointing everyone to God. The effect on your other kids can be amazingly positive.
#8: You might have a “That” Child if you’ve cried yourself to sleep.
Night after night after night I remember my pillow being just soaking wet cause I just kept feeling like a failure. And you know what? My enemy wanted to keep me in the place where I felt like a failure, he wanted to keep me under condemnation for the days I lost it, for the days I did not allow the Holy Spirit to come and fill me with patience, for the days when I was frustrated and I let him know it, for the days that I didn’t handle it well in a God-honoring way, for the days, you know what, I didn’t wanna ask God, because I knew God was gonna ask me to be patient and I didn’t wanna be.
I would cry myself to sleep, and cry myself to sleep, and ask for forgiveness, and ask for a fresh new day, and you know what? God always gave it.
I wanna tell you, God, in our brokenness that is where He meets us. Over and over, and over in scripture it’s in our brokenness and our desperate need that He meets us, and He comes and does something glorious.
As long as we think we’ve got it, we don’t need Him. But when we know we don’t got it, that we need Him, that He is glorified and we get to grow in our dependency on Him.
#9: Yes, you Might have a “That” Child if you know they know all of your buttons, and they know how to push them all at the same time, regularly.
Yes, My “That” Child was able to find buttons that I did not know that I had, and he was able to consistently push all of them at the worst possible moment. Again, I really believe that the God of the universe, sovereign over all things, has blessed you with “That” Child. This is not a burden, it’s not payback, it’s not a curse, it’s a blessing that God has given you “That” Child To show you your need for God and the opportunity he’s granted you to grow this child into somebody that will glorify his name.
Pushing all your buttons is a blessing!
It’s a blessing to find weaknesses, and failures, and faults that you didn’t know you had, or in my case, I had covered up so well I had learned to ignore. I’m glad that I’ve had that child to point out the issues in myself that I really needed to work on. And that was again when God came and began to heal.
#10: You might have a “That” Child if discipline dominates every day.
Now, I used to have a thing with my “That” Child and when he would disobey during the day I would take away his favorite toy for that day. So let’s say that it was this little train, But, I wouldn’t just take it away from him and put it away, I would take it away and put it somewhere where he could see it and want it, but not be able to get it. And so my husband could walk in, and within five minutes of being in the door he could look at the mantle, and assess how the day had been.
I was looking for creative ways to get this child’s attention all the time. Whether it was putting him in time out, taking away things that he wanted, not allowing him to go and participate in things that he wanted to do, I had charts and graphs going, I was constantly trying to discipline him. Because with these kids what I know is they thrive in consistency but I fail at consistency.
So the discipline was not just disciplining him, but it was learning to discipline myself. The discipline of spending time with God every morning, of praying, of choosing to glorify and focus on God, even in the midst of a really lousy day, just going “Ok God, I’ve blown it. But I Praise you. Thank you for sending me this kid. I thank you, and I praise your holy name for the plan that you have, even though I don’t know what it is right now.”
That’s what it means, everyone of these issues gives us an opportunity to lean into God, or, we can choose to continue to lean into ourselves.
#11: You might have a “That” Child if giving up is really tempting.
I want to encourage you with every ounce of my being, don’t. give. up. Don’t give up on you and your ability to allow the Holy Spirit to work through you and to bless “That” Child, and don’t give up on “That” Child. Too many people already have.
When I started doing this presentation a couple of years ago, I actually called and talked to my “That” Child who is now a college graduate, married with my first grandchild, and pursuing a master’s degree. I called him and asked his permission to continue telling our story, and he said “You know what mom? Tell our story, and tell the moms this: don’t give up on us.”
That is the message from my “That” Child to you as the mom of “That” Child. Now, your “That” Child may not be able to say it to you right now, and it may seem like they’re screaming at you right now to give up on them. But I am begging you, don’t. give. up.
Determine that you are going to trust that God has a plan, and that God has in them a mighty warrior for His kingdom, that He’s given you an opportunity to raise for His glory, and yes, to grow through your junk.
God has a plan.
Remember this mamas: you might have a “That” Child if God has blessed you abundantly, and I pray that you will hug “That” Child, and you will seek God, and you will lean into Him.
In His Grace-
If you would like to read more of my “That Child” series, click here.
It’s easy, when you are facing That Child every-single-day, to get into a place where you feel so incredibly alone.
When you are just sure that you are the only one who had that kind of day with that child.
Dear That Child Mom, you are not alone.
I’m glad you’re here.
I want you to know there’s a whole bunch of us out here.
And we all need each other!
I’ve had a couple of those kids come through a household with seven children, and my current one was just wired today.
Could not sit still.
Was asking the same question over and over and over…
You get the picture.
You completely understand what I’m talking about.
So, Yeah. It was one of those days.
I assure you, if you’re coming to our discussion today, and it’s been one of those days…
Welcome. And you are not alone.
I gave a presentation a couple of years ago where I was sharing about my That Child to a group of moms in Minnesota. And before I even started, I looked into the middle of the crowd, there must have been seven hundred moms in the room, and this woman just started crying.
I hadn’t even said anything yet.
I can remember while I was being formally introduced to the crowd, I was actually praying for that woman saying “God, just hold her, I don’t know what’s going on… but she needs you right now.”
I watched her.
As she sat and cried.
The entire presentation.
After I was done she started coming towards me, and I was thinking…
“Oh sweet Jesus, give me the words of encouragement that I need for this mom in her brokenness and exhaustion!”
She came up to me and said “You have no idea. Just sitting and looking around this room at all these other moms and to realize I wasn’t the only one, was so powerful for me. The enemy had me so convinced that I was the only one and no one understood.”
Look, you’re not sitting in a room with me presenting to seven hundred moms right now, but maybe you will someday and I look forward to that time with a lot of hope that I can actually give you a hug.
But for right now…. from this computer screen, I want to assure you, you’re not alone.
You are joined by thousands of moms across the country who are in the everyday battle that you are.
To maintain your sanity and find a way to love That Child that God has sent you.
If you have not read my confession about my first that child, I encourage you do to so.
I think you will quickly see I’m right there with you!
Lots of us are.
Join us for the rest of this series as we discuss, vent, and pray over our own version of That Child.
I hope to challenge your perception and encourage you in your mothering.
I pray that you will be blessed as we lift each other up and mother These Children.
Every Thursday at 3:00 pm Eastern, I’ll have a new live discussion on my Facebook Page about That Child. Meet me there! Bring your questions. Bring your struggles. Bring your heart. I’ll meet you where you are and do my best to help you work through this very challenging stage.
In His Grace –
Welcome to my new series on That Child. If you missed my first article (and my confession) about my That Child, you can read it here.
We are about to really start digging in and having the hard conversation about our That Child, but before we get too deep, I wanted to remind everyone to not let yourself fall into the habit of living frustrated and grouchy.
Instead, really try to find the beauty and humor in our everyday life. Believe me, you will need that perspective some days!
Remember to laugh (and breath) on a regular basis. And to help you out, I’ve compiled a list of the top 8 things we say to That Child. Leave me a comment and let me know if any of these sound familiar to you.
Or if I left any off that I need to add!
In fact, probably several times a day you find yourself saying “Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop! Stop, stop.” Right?
I used to love to go in, at night, and watch my That Child sleep.
He was so still.
He was never that way when he was awake!
So I loved to go in at night, and just pray over him, and just stay, because he was finally still.
They ask outrageous things.
At outrageous times.
And unfortunately sometimes it’s just our go-to answer.
Truth is, we don’t even really listen to them.
And I’m going to challenge you to work through that.
6. Pay attention!
Because so often, they’re off in some other land. So it is another very common thing to say to That Child.
I used to cradle Charles’s face in my hands and I would say “Look at me.” Because sometimes he would be looking at me, but the lights weren’t on, right?
The lights are on but no one’s home?
That’s the look that I got from Charles’s face.
So we want them to pay attention because we have something very powerful we want to say to them.
5. What were you thinking?
Things that you and I would never have thought to do.
And we need to pray for, as mothers of a That Child, we need to pray for discernment.
For the ability to see when they are really being rebellious, and when they’re just being curious.
Oh, and that God would grant us patience, when curiosity reigns the day.
4. Slow down!
Because they’re just running.
Running, running, running, running, running.
Everything is at full speed.
Glasses of orange juice on the table, not a good setup when that child’s around.
They need to learn to slow down, when it’s appropriate mom, but not all the time. We need to give them outlets for all of that energy.
With my grown That Child and the one I currently have at home, I often will send them out to run laps around the house.
You’re gonna think that’s crazy, but instead of just sitting there, asking him to slow down over and over and over, something he just can’t do. I want to give him an ability, an ability to use that energy in a positive way. So running around the house, go out and shoot some hoops, something, to get the energy out.
3. What are you supposed to be doing?
See, That Child is very often not doing what they are supposed to be doing and it’s not that you haven’t been clear… they’re just easily distracted and they’re curious.
And so a caterpillar was crossing the road and they were supposed to get the mail, but, there’s a caterpillar.
And they had to put it back in its home and it’s home was three streets away, and…
You get the idea. I’m gonna tell you, they get a bad rap. I get that, they need to do we’ve asked them to do, and we say this a lot, but we need to build in grace when we’re saying these things to them.
2. Are you listening?
And the answer is often no.
They’re not listening because there is so much going on in their head.
So many ideas.
So much curiosity.
So much imagination.
So much going on that they’re probably not listening to you.
But again, it’s not always, rebellious. Sometimes it’s just childish immaturity.
1. How many times do I have to tell you?
This is one of the things that I like to say often to my That Child regularly.
Yeah, I have a book by that title.
Anyway, I had a friend one time that was calling her husband on one of those mornings with her That Child, and she was recounting to her husband all of the things that had gone wrong that morning,
“…he did this, and he did this, and he did this.”
And I think she told me it was 7:45 in the morning, her husband was already at work, and the day was already in shambles.
And she went on, and on, and on.
And the climax of her story was, “How many times do I have to tell him?”
And her husband responded “That’s, your job.”
Yeah, that IS our job as moms… we get to tell them over and over, and if we keep making it a “have to”, that’s when a root of bitterness can spring up, which we are warned about.
Hebrews 12:14-16 (NASB)
14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.
Here we have an opportunity to tell them over and over in a loving and patient way.
Your That Child was sent to you as a blessing, and even if right now, today has been a really hard challenging day, I hope you’ll drive a stake in the ground and determine to go forward with grace, and a new vision for that child.
I want to suggest to you boldly and courageously today that what our world needs, is strong young men and women, who are totally dedicated to the cross of Jesus Christ. That’s the opportunity that lays before us as moms of That Child.
To raise a generation of World Changers – young men and women who seek to serve God – and it’s not gonna be easy.
They’re gonna fight.
They’re gonna question.
They’re gonna push back.
And we have a profound strength with the Mighty God of Heaven, to raise a generation, that’s going to point others to the cross of Jesus Christ.
Join us for the rest of this series as we discuss, vent, and pray over our own version of That Child. I hope to challenge your perception and encourage you in your mothering. I pray that you will be blessed as we lift each other up and mother Those Children.
In His Grace-
Today I want to share a story with you. It is one that I kept hidden and didn’t talk about for many years. Because I didn’t know how to fix the situation. It is a story about my That Child.
It is our story.
And I have a confession to make …
I had been sharing about him without my That Child‘s permission! Yes, all the details.
All of it.
As I started sharing bits and pieces, more and more people started asking me about my That Child. And they wanted to tell me about their That Child…
How their That Child was “the one” driving them crazy.
And their That Child was the reason they put everybody on the bus.
Or the exact opposite, their That Child was the only one on the bus and they kept everybody else at home.
So I was getting more and more questions about how I managed. I knew God was saying it was time to start sharing about what happened. And I knew I needed to call my That Child, who is now 26 years old, has graduated from college, is married, and is, in fact, the father of my first grandchild.
To tell him that I felt God encouraging me to talk about our story.
To ask him for permission.
When I called him and said – “Listen, you know I’ve been speaking around the country telling our story for a while now, people are asking me to help them. To share how we did it. But I need to ask your permission before I do that.”
So here I am- with the full permission of my That Child, here to tell you our story and hopefully encourage you.
Now let me tell you a few stories so you can know for sure that I have one. Because let me tell you, one of the main things the enemy wants to do, is convince each one of us who have “one of them”, that nobody understands, and nobody else’s child behaves like our’s does. But let me assure you, I get it.
My That Child used to rage- and literally, froth at the mouth. I would hold him crisscross applesauce and rock back and forth and sing him hymns just to try to calm him down. And in response he would say “You’re trying to kill me, you’re making me bleed!” At the top of his lungs. All the while he was yelling, I was just trying to calm him. And those tears of mine, were dripping off my chin into his little scruffy hair.
That was my That Child.
The one who ran into traffic, twice.
The one who if I said “No” to, looked me straight in the eye, and did exactly what I had asked him not to do.
When he was really young I used to have a policy, that when he disobeyed I would take away his favorite toy and put it on the mantle of our home. See, I didn’t just want to take it away and put it where he couldn’t see it.
I wanted him to want to have it back.
To remember why I had taken it from him.
So my husband could walk in the door after a long day at work, take one look at the mantle, and know exactly how the day had gone.
And believe me, some days when he came home, every toy we owned was tottering on the top of the mantle.
So I do get it, I really do get it.
These are the kids that make us want to pull out our hair.
Make us want to run, yelling and screaming from the building.
Make us confident that we are just a complete failure.
That we’ve lost it.
That we can’t.
These are the kids that we think we have failed.
The kids we love- but we don’t like them very much, not at all, actually. And it’s not something that we would say out loud, or in bed, or put in a journal or anything. I’m saying it for you, because I know it’s true.
You love them cause you have to.
Because their your’s.
But you don’t like them very much.
I hope that’s not true by the time we are done discussing That Child.
I hope that during our time together you come to love.
And cherish and like That Child.
I pray that you can catch a vision for what God has blessed you, yes, blessed you with.
See, that child in your home, is the one that your mother prayed you would have some day! When I was young my mother would say to me “Rachael Dawn” (you know, anytime they say your full name- you know you’re in deep weeds). Well she would say “Rachael Dawn I just hope you have someone like you someday.”
And you know what, I did.
I remember calling her one night on the phone when my oldest, my That Child was throwing another fit. And when she picked up the other end of the phone, after she said “Hello”- I just began to apologize over and over. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
But I want you to know today, that the That Child that God has blessed you with, He hasn’t sent them to punish you!
Not to get you back!
Not to teach you a lesson!
He has blessed you with That Child so that you can draw closer to Him.
So that you can point That Child to Him.
So that you can raise a world changer.
Whatever face came to your mind when I said That Child, I want you to purpose today with me, not to give up on That Child. Because I promise, with God’s help, you can do this.
Join us for the rest of this series as we discuss, vent, and pray over our own version of That Child. I hope to challenge your perception and encourage you in your mothering. I pray that you will be blessed as we lift each other up and mother Those Children.
Every Thursday at 3:00 pm Eastern, I’ll have a new live discussion on my Facebook Page about That Child. Meet me there! Bring your questions. Bring your struggles. Bring your heart. I’ll meet you where you are and do my best to help you work through this very challenging stage.
In His Grace-