Faith, Parenting

Where does your report come from?

going to schoolSo we had our annual end of year school reports home this week. It hardly seems five minutes since our eldest started school!

I am pleased to say that ours was very good, although my son eyed me warily as tears (of pride) began to fall whilst I was reading it! He has come on in leaps and bounds over the past year which was his very first in formal education. I was quite overwhelmed by just how well the teachers knew my son, which sounds silly when you think that they spend each and every weekday with them for 40 weeks or so! I don’t think I fully realised or appreciated the lengths that teachers and teaching assistants go to in order to build relationships with and meet the needs of their pupils. I am one very thankful mama and I love that these special teachers have taken the time to know my son as well as I do.

Whilst reading the report, I was reminded of how much my school reports meant to me as a child. I was what you would call a very conscientious (read geeky) student who just loved to learn and loved to please. I was so desperate to make my teachers and parents proud of me, and their comments in my paper report had the power to enlarge or destroy my spirit. I would take negative comments and criticism so personally, and beat myself up over the smallest error such as a spelling mistake or an A- grade.

I have since learned that my top love language is words of affirmation (no surprise there then!). I have realised that words are weapons that can wield great power in my life and the lives of others. My careless comments or the whispered words of others can penetrate the very soul of a person, piercing their heart and causing irreparable damage that can last a lifetime.

I have often based my worth upon what people say about me, on what their report of me is. This can be so incredibly dangerous though, as our thoughts and opinions can be influenced my mood, tiredness, anxiety, illness or previous experiences rather than the truth. The best person to report on another is one that knows him inside and out. Perhaps this is why I was so surprised that my son’s teachers knew him so well, surely as his mother, the one who bore and raised him, both his father and I would be the only people to really know what makes him tick?

There are of course many things that a parent will know about their child better than a teacher (and vice versa in some cases!) and since becoming a Christian I have learned that the only person who could know be better than I know myself is my creator God. He knit me together in my mother’s womb, He watched me take my very first steps in this world, He leaned in when I learned to talk, and delighted in me when I started to discover my giftings. He was heartbroken at my tears when I sought love and acceptance through people and things that could never offer me what my heart craved. He was overjoyed when I found Jesus and gave my life to Him. He reassured me that He would never abandoned or betray me, but His love would envelope me, encourage me and equip me for the good report He had already written for my life.

I am still learning each and every day, and pray I will never cease to do so, but the difference in me since becoming a Christian is that I no longer look for the reports of others but for my report from God. I find my identity, my value and my worth in God’s word, not through comparing myself to others, grasping for worldy status and approval through achievements and material gain. I find my worth in the scriptures which declare

‘…I am fearfully and wonderfully made’. Psalm 139:13-15

‘ For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ Ephesians 2:10

‘For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus’. Galatians 3:26

‘Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.’ Luke 12:6-7

‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.’ 2 Corinthians 5:17

‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ Philippians 4:13

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

‘Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect’. Romans 12:2

Yes it is good to please others, your parents, your boss, your friends or your spouse, but don’t rely upon a good report from them in order to know who you are and feel loved and valued. Find the glowing report created by your creator in the Bible, who states that you are His creation, His masterpiece, His treasure and let this truth transform you today.

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Faith, Parenting

They are what you speak

I am so tired of hearing the phrase ‘He is a bad boy’ or ‘She is naughty girl’ bandied around the playground or toddler group.

Now, as a mother of particularly boisterous boys, who have been more than a little challenging at times, I am only too aware that sometimes our children do misbehave. But I have learnt (the hard way) that confirming negative behaviour to a child will only entrench the behaviour even deeper, as they start to believe what they are told about themselves. These fleeting comments, these seemingly harmless words fly through the atmosphere like arrows, piercing the open, soft hearts of impressionable small people who are looking to us to see how to handle situations, how to speak over people and, heartbreakingly, what to believe about themselves.

Children are NOT bad. They are NOT naughty.

Despite the cutting remarks or physical aggression, their behaviour is not malicious and is not a personal attack on you or others around you. Children are tiny human beings who are learning what is right and wrong and are pushing the boundaries socially and physically to discover what is OK, what is acceptable. And yes, at times they will make the wrong choice. They will choose to snatch that toy, to push that child, to hit that parent or answer back in the middle of the playground. These choices and the resulting behaviour exhibited is naughty, not the child, and I would encourage any parent, guardian or carer, myself included, to isolate the behaviour and condemn this not the child in question.

Furthermore friends, if it is not your child exhibiting the behaviour, please stop before you judge them or pass comment; that little boy lashing out may be struggling with separation from a father who left his mother six weeks ago, that little girl may have a poorly sibling who is requiring all mom and dad’s attention so she is acting out to get noticed by someone.

Our words have more power than we could ever realise. The Bible tells us that our words have the power to destroy and the power to save lives (Proverbs 12:6) and for anyone who has ever been criticised, put down or gossiped about, you will know that words can wound deeper than any sword. When someone casts a careless comment to a child, saying ‘You are a naughty girl’, ‘Why do you do that? What’s wrong with you?’ or ‘He is a nasty piece of work’, they are speaking into their little, impressionable minds, into their soft vulnerable hearts and dealing them the most hurtful blow that can stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Having done The Five Love Languages, I am aware that my top love language is words of affirmation, so for me, words have a lasting effect that can have immeasurable repercussions on my emotional and mental well being. I remember harsh words spoken about me or to me from a very young age as if it were yesterday, and the comments still cause me to question my image, my ability or my talent some twenty five years later.

God spoke the world into being with his words and as we are made in His image, we are responsible for the words we speak out into and over others. Jesus himself said; “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” Matthew 12:36-37

If you have guardianship or relationship with a child of any age, please, I urge you, be careful what you say to them, in front of them or around them. Children are like sponges that soak up all that flows in and around them, whether that is good or bad, positive or negative. Don’t fill their heads with your own judgements, doubts, fears or frustrations. Make sure the words you speak into them are full of praise, encouragement and gentle love-filled discipline that will build your child into a strong, secure man or woman in the future.

And perhaps most importantly, if you do speak harshly (which we all do) don’t forget to say you are sorry. The simplest way to undo an injustice on either side of the fence is the humble apology which has the power to right the wrongs and set you both free from a vicious cycle of word flinging. Modelling to your charges how you want them to conduct and handle their behaviour – good and bad – will set them up with a solid foundation on which to build positive, loving lives.

R x

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