Let Kids Be Kids

My neighbor’s tulips were beautiful and in bloom. I drove past them and enjoyed the beautiful flowers, but quickly realized that it’s still February and the cold is coming. There is something sad about flowers that bloom before they should. Tulips are not meant to bloom in February.

So it is with our kids. King Solomon wrote, “For everything there is a season” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). His wisdom is still truth, especially when raising children. Kids can be taught, or pushed, to bloom too early. The success looks impressive in that moment, but have they bloomed too early? I have a theory: everyone has a childhood—hopefully, it will be when he or she is still a child.

This is good news for you if your child just ran through the house pretending to be Superman, or is playing air guitar in her room upstairs. Kids need freedom to play, freedom to imagine and time to pretend to be anything they choose to be. Of course our kids need some structured activity, but, if a child’s time is always scheduled and programmed, will that child have enough time to just be a kid? If a child is tutored, trained, and taught, chances are they will know more than the kids down the street. But will that knowledge guarantee success?

Dr. Michael Lindsey wrote an excellent book titled, A View From the Top.  Dr. Lindsey interviewed 500 of our nations top corporate leaders and published his findings. Dr. Lindsey said that all leaders begin with potential and opportunity. However, and this is good news for most of us, “It doesn’t really matter what future leaders do before they’re 20” (p. xv).

My husband, Jim, summarized Lindsey’s research this way: “A privileged childhood is actually a poor indicator of becoming a senior leader.  Only nine percent of study participants identified themselves as coming from privilege, while 59 percent came from the middle class. Note, however, that most came from homes with two loving parents. Nearly two-thirds attended schools that are not considered elite institutions. Character, passion and perseverance are the keys to success, not status before adulthood.”

Lindsey also said that the major influencer in your child’s life is usually the person, leader, teacher, or friend that makes an impression on your child in his or her early twenties. (That person is rarely a parent.) So, what is the parent’s role in raising kids? The gold standard is Proverbs 22:6, which says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” A proverb isn’t a promise, but a point of wisdom. Our job as parents is to teach our children how to choose their own path to success, and realize that we are not able to define what that path will be.

How can we help our kids bloom in the right season?

  • Encourage your children to mature, don’t push them to be more mature than anyone else.
  • Teach your children to choose rather than teaching them to accept your choices for them.
  • Focus on raising successful adults rather than teaching them to compete with other kids.
  • Invest in their character and accept their personality.
  • Realize they will probably become something different than you have imagined them to be.

You know your kids better than anyone else and you will know if they are happy, healthy and enjoying their childhood. It doesn’t matter if they are the smartest, strongest or most athletic. It does matter that they are happy, kind, thoughtful, honest and hardworking. Define parenting success as raising kids who have godly character and allow everything else to prosper from that.

Children can be raised to achieve success at an early age. But early success may turn out to be like those tulips in February. Allow your kids to be kids, and to bloom in the proper season.  True success is helping them find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. Chances are, that plan will be a surprise for everyone!