On Needing to Be Stretched


May I remind you of a truism? Parents don’t raise children; they raise adults. Our aim, then, as parents is to raise our children to be mature adults who know how to handle responsibility, to sacrifice for others, to plan ahead, to act and speak wisely, and who are able to do hard things that are worth doing. Yet, we as parents too often set low expectations for our children and indulge them into irresponsibility.

Author J.R. Miller puts it pungently:

Our best friends are not those who make life easy for us; our best friends are those who put courage, energy, and resolution into our hearts. There are thousands of lives dwarfed and hurt irreparably, by pampering. Parents ofttimes, in the very warmth and eagerness of their love, do sad harm to their children’s lives, by over-helping them; by doing things for them which it were better to teach them to do for themselves; by sparing them struggles, self-denials, and hardships — which it were far better for the children to meet.

Your children need to be stretched. They should be expected – by their parents – to do hard things, things that challenge them and that require self-denial. This doesn’t mean that all of childhood becomes discipline, with no fun and only dour frowns of disapproval. Rather, let me encourage you to lovingly push your children so that they have to push back against just enough adversity to develop real strength of character.

Several ideas come to mind that can help accomplish this:

  • Teach your children accountability by holding them accountable. Don’t allow them to get out of consequences every time if they simply say they forgot.
  • Expect and train your children to speak to adults and have conversation with them. Don’t give in to calling it shyness when your child refuses to speak to an adult.
  • Give your children jobs to do. Some of the jobs should be challenging. A few should be downright hard. Help them to learn the lesson that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
  • Say yes to your children whenever you can, but be ready to say no. Remember that it is your job as a parent to say no.
  • Your children are always watching you. You should hold yourself to a high standard so that your children will learn to do the same for themselves.
  • Expect your children do what you ask of them “all the way,” not just half the way. Require that your children obey you thoroughly and always follow through.
  • Require that your children finish what they start. Sometimes slogging through to the end is lesson enough.

Many more ideas could be added. Ultimately, loving our children is our highest duty and most powerful tool as parents. But loving them doesn’t mean making things easy for them. Our goal is to train our children to love the (high and godly) standard we set for them. We can’t pamper them into loving the standard. And while punishments have their place, we can’t punish them into loving the standard either. This is because this is not what God does with us. God calls us to keep His Word, and then He enables us to do so by His grace and Spirit, forgiving us and renewing us in His grace. God has in mind for each of us to be something far greater than what we are now, and He will do whatever it takes to transform us – even causing us to go through adversity and hardship. We should imitate our Heavenly Father with the children He gives us.

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