By Ryan Weber
I grew up a huge WWE fan, so much so that I wrote letters to them trying to convince them that hiring a 12 year old, 85 pound runt would be fantastic for their ratings. They never wrote me back, thank God. But one of my favorite wrestlers was The Rock, a behemoth of a man who destroyed nearly everyone he went up against. One of the catchphrases he used that reverberated through the many arenas he visited was this: “Know your role, and shut your mouth!”
Yeah, it was wrestling and it was dramatic, but I can’t help but wonder if we bring this same logic into the realm of our parenting. We want our kids to conform to a certain set of ideals, principles and values, but how many of us verbally communicate what those roles actually are? Or instead, do we silently thrust expectation upon our children and then get upset with them when they do not live up to our unspoken expectations?
I’m not a parent, so please don’t think I’m preaching at you, but I’ve worked with kids for as long as I wanted to work. I supervise teenagers, I’m in student ministry, and I lead organizations that affect thousands of kids every day. I may not know anything about parenting, but here’s what I know about kids: they don’t know a lot of things.
It’s our expectation as adults that our kids know what they’re supposed to do, why they’re supposed to do it, and to top it all off, we want them to do it for the right reasons and with smiles on their faces. That’s what makes us dumb. And frustrated. And wondering what’s wrong with “that” generation.
Your kids don’t know what you do not communicate. Clearly. And OFTEN. I have to reiterate roles, rules and expectations on an almost daily basis with the kids that I interact with. Why? Because they are kids. Forgetting and being selfish is what they do. Heck, that’s what I do, why would I expect more from a child when I can barely expect it from myself?
Helping kids understand their role within your own family dynamic stems from the knowledge that you have a clear understanding of the vision and purpose of your own family. If you are not a purposeful parent, communicating vision and life over your family, you should not expect your children to fall into any grey or undefined roles you have thought very little about.
What is it you want your kids to be?
What kind of son/daughter do you want them to be?
What kind of brother/sister?
What kind of grandson/granddaughter?
What kind of friend?
What kind of husband/wife?
Now here is the most important question for your kids: WHY? Kids inevitably expect a “what,” but they want a “why” and rarely ever get an adequate answer. The “why” is what turns stubborn acquiescence into premeditated obedience. The “why” casts vision into your child’s life and speaks life into their future. The “what” produces submission, the “why” produces destiny.
You need to be a proactive participant in the growth of your child’s understanding of their role. You need to speak it to them daily.
There is a passage in Genesis 5 that stuck out to me when I was reading through one of those mind-numbing genealogy sections of the Bible:
“When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, ‘He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed’” (Genesis 5:28-29).
It’s easy for us to skip over sections of the Bible like this, we skim because we say, “Ok, this dude had this dude and he lived 500 years and then had this dude who lived… etc… etc…”
But don’t miss what Lamech did. He named his son Noah, which sounds almost exactly like the Hebrew word for comfort. Imagine the connotations brought into Noah’s mind every time his father spoke his name: “Comforter, come here.” “Be nice to your sister, Comforter.” “Why are you building this boat in the middle of the desert, Comforter?”
Every time Lamech spoke his child’s name, he was casting vision into who he wanted his son to be. He spoke to the calling that God had upon his life. He made Noah’s role known to Noah every time he addressed him. You will be a comforter. And he was. He lived through and lead people through the destruction of the world only to start it all over again. I’d say you’d need a PhD in Comfort to pull that off.
In order for our kids to understand and accept their roles, you need to speak it over them. You need to put thought into it and you need to provide practical reasons why adhering to your expectations sets them up for something huge. We are working to provide for the world the next generation of leaders; that deserves our time, effort and overt communication.