Christian Parenting Mistakes: #3 Giving Stuff Versus Giving Myself?

What does love look like? How do we teach it to our children? For some families, it is expressed through encouraging words or the giving of lots of stuff. For other families, it looks like a vacation in amusement parks or exotic places.

The Bible teaches that love is not about giving stuff or even just spending time together, it is about giving self.  Little in this world is satisfying long term. Words can be empty and time together isn’t always productive.

Quoting Isaiah’s message from God, Jesus said, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Time without investing our heart will never nourish the heart of another. Children know the difference between the person who loves to be with them and the person who checks them off of a to do list or just gives them what’s left over.

Stuff may distract or even satisfy them for the moment but the more we have the more we think we need. More importantly, stuff can’t look in their eyes to say the hard things they need to hear to change a wrong way of thinking. Stuff can’t hold them to comfort them or help them understand the importance of suffering with a grateful heart. Comforting your child or guiding their thinking is only effective in the context of a loving relationship. Giving stuff or even time together focused more on what you are doing than who you are together will never build that kind of relationship.

My mom worked when I was little. My earliest memories are of various babysitters and of walking to first grade from someone else’s home. My dad started working two jobs so that my mom could quit work. He desperately wanted to give my mom a better place to call home.

My mom died at 33 from a simple surgery gone wrong. At 37 my dad became a widower with four children to raise. It was a hard transition for all of us. I was eleven.

Two things that were imprinted on my heart from my childhood.

1.       Time is short so make lots of fun memories.

2.        Accumulating stuff will someday make you happy.

The past is over. We view it form our memory. Our future is not yet so we view it from our imagination.  The only thing we know for sure is now. Now is very valuable. God told Moses His name is I AM. This implies two very important things. He is present. He is enough.

We humans have a very difficult time understanding what it means to value the gift of now or the giving of self. Romans 1 and 2 help us to see that we easily get distracted from God because of the stuff around us, we tend toward loving the creation more than our Creator. We are hard pressed to ever comprehend dying to self when our lives are so full of stuff.  Romans 12:1-2 teach us that God doesn’t want our stuff, He wants us. Most humans would rather serve a god satisfied with their money, their service, or their stuff.

How can we love in such a way to help our children learn to give themselves to God? How will they learn that the greatest gift that God has given to us is Himself? Christ chose to make His home in our hearts!

Let’s give ourselves to our children in such a way that our children learn to value this moment. Let’s pour our life into them in such a way that they value life itself. It will open their eyes to see more clearly the Great I Am and wonder at the gift of Christ in us the hope of glory!

Suzi Ciliberti works for Christar, a Missions Agency that plants churches among least-reached Asians worldwide. She served in Japan for two years as a single missionary and another nine with her husband and two children, then the family returned to the states. She and her husband have been serving in the US Mobilization Center since 2000. As a part of the Member Care Department, Suzi is consultant to families with children. She has been working as a children’s teacher since she was 17 and began her training under Child Evangelism Fellowship. She has taught in the church, as a school teacher for two years in a Christian elementary school, and as a speaker for adults training to work with children. She has also trained children, who are a part of families that work overseas, in their identity in Christ. She brings 44 years of teaching experience to her work. She loves creative writing as well as teaching and has found great fulfillment in combining the two as she blogs for Heartprints. She finds it a great privilege and joy to serve the Lord and His people. One of her favorite verses is Deuteronomy 4:10b, "Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children."