|Thanks to my talented friend, Suzanne Stelling, for this amazing picture!|
Hopefully, you’ve been able to rest, relax and laugh with your family since reading the last post. If not, I hope you’ll find that time soon. In fact (and I’m sure you already know this!), it’s always okay to put this material on hold if you need downtime with your loved ones or just by yourself. Those moments can be rare (especially for mamas with young children), but they are so important. Don’t be afraid to create time for them! J
If you’re ready, though, we’ll start by revisiting the question from the end of the most recent post:
Boy, do I remember the years when I was home with my children. It seemed like light years until my preschoolers would be stepping into that first college class or starting out in the workforce. And it’s true. There are a lot of years between now and when your little people will be big people.
Even so, here is what’s relevant for parents of young children during this season. Even if today finds your baby toddling around with a sippy cup, your awareness of these skills can help you find parenting strategies that give her valuable opportunities to begin discovering and even strengthening her character now instead of later. This knowledge can also help you avoid some very common parenting pitfalls that inadvertently limit those important opportunities for your children.
And one other thing: helping your children develop non-cognitive traits (or any skill, for that matter) is a lot like training for a marathon or developing the strength to lift weights. Those character “muscles” can’t really develop overnight, or even over a year. Like anything else, it takes time and intentionality as you determine age-appropriate ways for your child to practice these characteristics.
I’ll answer that question with a whole-hearted “YES!” For so many reasons, I believe it’s vitally important for Christ-followers to ground our parenting choices in scriptural truths and principles. For now, I’ll touch on two.
First, there’s nothing like bringing a child into the world to make us newly (and sometimes painfully) aware of how much we don’t know yet. This may not be the case for you, but I need all the help I can get . . . especially since the decisions my husband and I make don’t just affect us; they impact two very-little someone else’s whose very well-being pretty much depends on us. No pressure there, right? And no confusion, either, with so many folks doling out advice about the best ways to raise kids. We’ll talk more about this later, but for now, let’s just sum it up by saying that basing parenting decisions on scripture provides much-needed confidence during a season when the stakes feel just so very high.
Also important is this: how my husband and I choose to parent our children doesn’t just affect our own family. It impacts the people around us—our neighbors, our friends, and even the people we see when we’re out and about. You may not have thought about this before, but how you and I parent (and especially how Christ-followers parent) has a direct influence on the quality of the communities where we live. Again, no pressure there, right?
For these and other reasons, this parenting journey has given biblical wisdom a fresh significance in my day-to-day life.
So, what do the non-cognitive traits have to do with all that? Let’s take another look at the list of non-cognitive traits from the last post:
Appreciation of Beauty
Love of learning
As you look at each characteristic, consider this question: Do any of these qualities contradict the kind of life to which Christians are called?
As I began immersing myself in this subject, I began to see that even though non-cognitive characteristics haven’t been identified as specifically Christian, they do bear a striking resemblance to the qualities which Jesus—as well as New Testament writers—instructed believers to live out in their daily lives. In fact, although there isn’t a one-to-one correspondence between these qualities and the characteristics known as the fruits of the spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control—almost each of the traits can be connected in some way with the qualities Paul describes in the New Testament book of Galatians.
What this means is that when Christ-followers’ lives evidence the fruits of the spirit, we are also developing—and putting into action—the non-cognitive traits.
This is good news, not just for parents and children but also for our world—especially since educators and employers are reporting the need for individuals to bring these qualities into the classroom, the workplace, and the community. From where I see it, experts’ growing concern about the lack of these qualities sounds an awful lot like an invitation for Christ-followers to practice the values in which we already believe. In some ways, the public call for adults to live out these traits—and for parents to cultivate them in our children—is creating a new and perhaps unprecedented opportunity for believers to more actively live out and talk about the values that are truly important not just to us, but to our culture as a whole.
I don’t know about you, but that is motivating.
Okay, for me at least, it’s actually just plain exciting.