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Growing Their Gifts

How can I nurture my kids' God-given abilities?

Dear Lisa,

Any advice on how to figure out a child's spiritual gifts? My four kids have very different personalities, and I'd like some clues on how to plug them into activities at church and in life that are in sync with how they're wired. Understanding my children's gifts and temperaments has been invaluable to me as a parent, so let me share three books that have helped me tremendously. The first was my children's favorite "read aloud" book, The Treasure Tree by John and Cindy Trent, and Gary and Norma Smalley. My kids each identified with one of the story's characters and learned to appreciate their unique strengths and weaknesses through them.

As they got older and sibling conflicts grew louder than a dull roar, I found a book entitled Different Children, Different Needs by Charles Boyd. As I put my children to bed, I read to them from the chapter about one of their sibling's personality traits. It was amazing how much more grace was extended when the proverbial light bulb clicked on and they realized their bossy sister or talkative brother simply was being whom God created them to be.

My favorite resource has been Discover Your Children's Gifts by Don and Katie Fortune. I pull this book off the shelf every few years and give my kids the various giftedness tests for different age groups. They love discovering how God created them for a specific purpose, and it also helps me be more tolerant of their weaknesses and intentional in focusing on their strengths.

You'll be amazed at how much you already know about your children's gifts. God's given moms uncanny discernment when it comes to their kids. These books, and others like them, simply will catapult you to the next level of guiding your children into God's will for their lives.

Time Insensitive

I swear my ten-year-old daughter's living in a different time zone than the rest of our family! She's easily distracted, always late for piano lessons, and takes forever to get ready for school, doctor's appointments, or church. How do I handle a procrastinator? I assume your daughter's distractibility doesn't show up in other places such as school, so there's no need to check with your pediatrician about the possibility of ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). If it's a simple case of a preteen clock that needs resetting, here are a few ideas.

Why not wake your daughter up an hour earlier to get ready? If that doesn't work, move it back another hour. The hope is a couple predawn wakeup calls may act as a natural stimulant.

If that doesn't motivate her, then have your daughter walk out the door in time for her appointment in whatever state of readiness she's in. My son used to wait until the last second to put on his shoes even after I'd given him a 15-minute warning. One afternoon I insisted he walk straight out the door barefooted so we wouldn't be late for his dentist appointment. Having to explain to the dental hygienist why he wasn't wearing any shoes cured him of his shoe tardiness.

Or perhaps you would rather try an incentive. Why not strike a deal with her: If she's ready by your 15-minute warning, then she can earn 15 additional minutes of television time (or something else). Conversely, if she's 15 minutes late, she loses 15 minutes.

As far as the piano lessons go, why not require your daughter to pay for any lessons missed due to her tardiness? It may end up saving you money—and more stress—in the long run!

FUNKY Fashions

My 17-year-old son is driving me nuts. He has dreadlocks, wears ratty resale-shop clothes, and tells us as soon as he turns 18, he's getting some piercings and a tattoo. He's a good kid at heart—but his looks turn heads at church (and not always in the most complimentary way). I'm with you—I don't understand why kids today want to mar themselves permanently, but I guess I'm just a fuddy-duddy. Even so, I have a question for you: Which is more important, your relationship with your son, or that he looks acceptable to you and your friends? While you don't have to agree with his choices, I don't see a problem with expressing your opinion. You might even want to ask him whether he's considered the apostle Paul's exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 to "abstain from all appearance of evil" (KJV).

Beyond that, however, focus on reinforcing the fact you believe in him and accept him no matter how he looks on the outside. You wrote, "He's a good kid at heart." Remember, that's infinitely more important to God than your son's appearance. In Matthew 23:28, Jesus said, "You try to look like upright people outwardly, but inside your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness" (NLT). The truth is, you have less to be concerned about than the parent whose child knows how to look and act the part, but who is far from the Lord.

Your son may outgrow this phase. Or he always may look as though he walked in off the streets and therefore be able to reach a whole community of lost souls who never would enter a church to listen to someone more "acceptable." So don't let a pierced eyebrow or a tattooed shoulder come between you and your son. As permanent as ink under the skin and a hole in the flesh seem, they aren't eternal. His soul is, and your acceptance of him no matter how he looks might be the best example of God's unconditional love he ever experiences.

Lisa Whelchel is the author of So You're Thinking About Homeschooling (Multnomah) and the mother of three. E-mail your parenting questions to twcedit@christianitytoday.com, or see page 6 for other ways to contact us.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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