I recall telling my husband and friends that I simply don’t get boys, specifically one particular active one in my family! I don’t understand how he can get in trouble so many times a day and how he can get himself involved in so many mischievous ways. I simply don’t understand it. I look back to my childhood and cannot recall a single time where I acted the way he did. I was a very compliant child and I hardly got in trouble growing up. My parents can testify to this! So, how did I produce a child who’s so different from me? Many times I’m at a loss as to how to deal, understand, and connect with a child who is so different from me. I didn’t struggle with the things he’s struggling with. So, how do I identify with him and help him?
Recently I came across a blog post from CJ Mahaney entitled “Video Games, Idols, and Your Child’s Heart.” What stood out to me was how he explained that even though he’s lot older than his son and that their sins manifest differently, at the root of it, it’s the same.
It is too easy for me to view my son’s form of idolatry as childish, but in essence, at root, there is no difference between our idolatries. His expression is consistent with a 12 year old, mine is consistent with a 56 year old, but in essence it’s no different. Therefore I must make sure my heart is softened by my own sinful tendencies. I don’t want the study to be punitive, I don’t want it to be (if possible) connected or related to discipline, because I think that can make it more difficult for a child to comprehend and to be convinced I have their best interest at heart. I want to supplement it with my own stories.
In essence, my son, whom I view as the polar opposite of me, and I are the same. I came to realize that even though as a child I don’t remember acting the way he is right now, I am just as sinful. Even now when I’m lot older, at the root of it, I’m just the same as my child.
When my child’s selfishness is manifested in taking someone else’s toy or even strike another child, I have to see that I’m prone to being selfish as well. It’s not helpful for me to view my child’s sin as childish, or that I can’t relate because I don’t ever recall striking another person as a child. I find that the more I think I can’t identify with my child, the more frustrated I get. If this cycle continues, I can see that my relationship with my child will be pulled apart more and more.
I can relate to my child and explain that I’m prone to selfishness, just like he, but mine looks different. I’m just better at masking my selfishness. By relating to my child in this way, I am more able to build a bridge with him and speak directly to his heart. We’re both sinners. We’re both equally prone to do wrong. We both need a Savior. This is why Jesus had to die for our sins. What a glorious truth.
I am deeply grateful for Mahaney’s insight and it is my hope and prayer that I will strive to relate to my child in this manner.