Yes, you could be handicapping your child…
My elementary school had a “Special Education” department. Many times when my class was on the playground, the special ed kids would be enjoying recess too. I remember some of them, very clearly.
There was Mark, a 22 year old who was afflicted with Down’s Syndrome. He LOVED pushing the merry-go-round (you remember those… back before the days when parents would sue the school because their kid fell off the playground equipment?). And we LOVED for him to push us when we were ON the merry-go-round. We smaller kids held on for dear life when Mark pushed, because he pushed with the strength of a 22 year old. And he loved the delight he produced in our little-kid hearts.
There was Chris, a boy my age who was blind from birth. His teacher would walk him out to where a group of us were playing and the laughter would begin. He told jokes, made funny voices, and surprised us all with his true “sense” of what was funny and what was not. I have happy memories of Chris.
Those dear people and others like them are who we tend to think of when we hear the word “handicapped.”
But there are other ways a person can be handicapped….
The sad truth is… many parents are actively, consistently, and certainly handicapping their own kids.
They don’t mean to do it. They don’t think they are doing it. In fact, they are intending to do the exact opposite. But in the end, they wind up keeping their children from growing and developing in a healthy way through the way they treat, manage, or deal with their kids.
I’m going to tell you 9 ways I’ve seen that parents do this, but before we hit the list… I have to say that they all boil down to a simple but difficult thing… learning how to teach your kids to be wise in the way they think and live.
Here are 10 ways I’ve seen that parents handicap their own kids…
1. Shelter them.
Your kids are sinners who live in a sinful world. So are mine. They will live in a sinful world their entire lives.
How does it make any sense to shelter them to the point that they graduate high school or finish home schooling and don’t know what “homosexual” means, how to think about it, or how Christians should act toward those who practice homosexuality? And that’s just one example…
Yet in the name of protecting their kids from “worldly” influences, many parents keep their kids from knowing about the sinful realities of the world.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have standards in your home for movies or video games or the type of friends you allow your kids to hang out with. I’m not saying you adopt a “whatever” sort of attitude.
What I am saying is that you need to learn how to teach them wisdom about living in the world as it is, not as you wish it would be. That’s called a fairy tale, and none of us live in one.
Keeping temptations or wickedness entirely outside the view of your kids sets them up to be shocked and overwhelmed by it when they do finally discover it. Too many “sheltered” kids run headlong into the practice of sin once they discover it, because they weren’t taught to understand and assess it from God’s perspective from the time they were young so that they could deal with it rightly.
That is a handicapped child.
2. Withhold information that might upset them.
Again, your kids need to learn to deal with life as it is. In their lifetime they will likely move, change jobs, say goodbye to friends and have to make new ones, learn new skills, step into situations where they are uncomfortable, deal with the death of a loved one, and a host of other things.
When you as the parent see those sorts of things could be coming and withhold that information from your kids because it might upset them, you’re setting them up for the very crisis you’re hoping to avoid. It doesn’t matter what it is (a grandfather who is ill, a cat that has been run over in the street, a move that you might be making, etc.).
Your kids are not that fragile… and if they are they need to learn to toughen up a little with your loving guidance. We don’t live in a stained-glass world and they need to learn all about that fact while they are still under your care, while you are available to teach them how to navigate the pains of life wisely.
On top of that, we all need time to process, time to consider, time to prepare for difficult situations ahead… your kids are no different. When you finally tell your kids that the family is going to have to move and they explode… it’s because YOU didn’t prepare them wisely. And you’ve created a child who thinks the world owes them good-feelings, unicorns, and rainbows.
That too is a handicapped child.
3. Assume they won’t understand.
I remember when I was teaching Sunday school during my oldest son’s early years. I was sitting next to him during the “assembly time” in children’s church. The leader was asking the kids to name things that God could not do. The word missiles were flying… “Lie! Fail! Sin! Do wrong! Die!” At the last one my 5 year old son looked up at me and began shaking his head. I was curious. I asked him what he was thinking and he said, “He did die. He died for my sins.“
Your kids get it… in many ways that you don’t think they do. They would get a lot more if you took the time to help them understand instead of telling them they’ll understand when they’re older.
Parenting is about equipping and training, and that requires the hard work of interacting with your kids about what’s going on inside their little (or big) heads. Your job is to guide them according to biblical wisdom, to teach them right and wrong, and to help them learn to discern the difference when it’s not very clear.
When you shuffle your kids off to the side with the misplaced notion that they won’t understand anyway, you are missing a powerful opportunity to truly guide (disciple) your children. When you won’t slow down long enough to have conversations with your kids, you won’t notice the things they need to be learn. In the mad rush of your life, nothing is more important than your kids’ spiritual and “life” education. Nothing.
If your child never gets the benefit of being taught from your years of life experience, he/she is a handicapped child.
4. Don’t allow them to fail.
I know the feeling of wanting to see your kid’s school project turn out really, really good. I know how it feels to want to warn them for the 100th time about the curve ball the pitcher is about to throw. I know the compulsion to make sure they experience “success” in life more and more and more.
But I also know that most of the important lessons I’ve learned in life have come through my failures. There is something about blood, sweat, and tears that makes a lesson stick. There is something about falling and learning to get back up that teaches you how to keep from falling the next time.
But many parents proverbially hold their child’s hand… even into their teens and twenties. Those kids don’t learn to be competent or capable. They don’t learn to apply and use the gifts, strengths and talents the LORD has given them. Instead, they learn that mommy will bail them out when they really need help. They learn that they are to rely on others instead of taking initiative for their own lives.
And that is a handicapped child.
5. Major on rules.
Rules are important. I want to say that right up front.
But if ALL we think is required of a good parent is the making and enforcing of appropriate rules, we are missing the boat. Rules apart from relationship equal rebellion, and it’s a mindset that handicaps your child in a very subtle way.
When all your kid knows how to do is follow the rules, what are they going to do when they are faced with whether or not a certain motion picture choice is good or bad, default to the ratings? Movie ratings may be a helpful guideline but that’s all they are. You and I both have seen plenty of PG-13 movies that should have been rated R, right?
But movies are a minor issue in the scheme of things… but they serve as an example of the kind of things your kids need to learn discernment about. For example, what will your child do when their friend says that marijuana is never mentioned in the Bible, so it must be O.K.? What will they do when a homosexual friend tells them they were “made that way” and a loving God would not make them that way and then deny them the joy of actually being that way?
Your children need to know wisdom so that they can make determinations about things that don’t obviously or immediately fit inside the rules.
Kids who only know how to follow rules are handicapped.
6. Believe that they “would never do that.”
Parents who make this mistake are the ones who blame the teacher instead of questioning their kid. They won’t believe their kid would ever do anything wrong. Their response is typically, “Oh, he’d NEVER do that.”
But I have news for you. Your kid WOULD do that. Why? Because he’s a sinner just like you are. Where do you think he got it? While you need to develop trust in your children, you also need to be wise as a parent. Understand that your children are vulnerable to temptation like anyone else. On the wrong day at the wrong time among the wrong crowd, your kid is capable of doing what any other kid might do.
When you act as if they won’t, you’re teaching them that the are exempt from the standards of everyone else. You are implying that there is something super-human about them that makes them immune to temptation. You are filling them with the pride that comes before the fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). You are telling them that the rules don’t apply to them. You are teaching them to be more bold in their sinning and more risky in their approach to life.
THAT is a handicapped child.
7. Don’t require them to be social.
One of our children was naturally shy when he was small. When we met new people he’d hide behind my leg and peek out. Seriously. At first we didn’t know what to do. Should we force him to shake hands, to say “hi”, to be social? Or would that damage his reserved personality? What brought clarity was this question, “Does Jesus expect him to be loving just like anyone else, or is he a special case?” The answer was clear. He needs to learn to allow Christ to live through him to express love to others and that REQUIRES that he learn to be social.
I know of a young lady in her early 20s who is so shy that she won’t even look at an adult who walks past her. When she is spoken to she speaks in barely audible, timid tones. She doesn’t know how to be loving in a social environment. Her parents probably concluded, “That’s just how she is,” and let it go at that. But Jesus wouldn’t feel the same way. Jesus would expect that young woman to learn to overcome her shyness for the sake of loving others for whom He died.
That young lady is handicapped.
8. Allow their “personality” to dictate everything.
This one is closely tied to the one before, but has a different nuance depending on the personality trait in view. Parents often say things like, “He’s just shy,” or “She’s just full of energy,” when the truth is that he’s unloving and she is inconsiderate. The child’s personality may lend itself naturally to those types of behavior, but that fact doesn’t make the behavior any less sinful.As parents we are to teach our children that their behavior and attitudes are to be reigned in and controlled for the sake of love and obedience to Christ.
When a child is taught that their personality is what matters most, they begin to see themselves as a misunderstood victim, a person that the world unfairly won’t accept. They begin to expect accommodations to be made for them, exceptions to be extended, and lines to be blurred all because of “the way they are.” But what has happened is that they have been denied the opportunity to grow, to overcome their own weaknesses and learn to see themselves the way God sees them.
Those are handicapped children.
9. Don’t teach them dependence on God.
Parents all over the world want to raise self-reliant kids. After all, they don’t want them moving back in some day!
But there is an important thing to keep in mind as we are teaching our children to fend for themselves in the cruel world… they are never so competent that they can make a go of it all on their own. They have limits. They have weaknesses. They are in dire need of the grace of God.
When a child learns that he doesn’t need anyone, he tends to believe that he doesn’t need God either… and that’s a deadly belief. Every one of us, no matter how long we’ve been a Christian or how mature we’ve become needs to rely on the strength that Christ provides. There’s reason to believe that works we do for God that are devoid of His power are no truly “good works” at all (John 15:5).
But even more to the point, your children need to be taught that relationship with God through Christ matters. They need to know from your teaching and from your example that it’s the highest priority they have.
Children who are allowed to downplay or neglect their dependence on God are handicapped.
I know this post has been long… but it’s vitally important. The wisdom of this age tells us an opposite view of every one of these 9 points. But our LORD says different… and as His disciples we are to follow His way, not the way of our culture.
Wise parents teach their children to do the same.