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I ve heard it said that when it comes to parenting, the days are long, but the years are short. It s true, isn't it? Eighteen years feel like such a long time, and then suddenly we have a 9-year-old that is ½ way finished with his time in our home! If you have young children, then know that it s a whirlwind coming to get you and those babies will be up and around in no time. If you are the parent of teenagers, then I m sure it s already hit you full in the face.

In the grand scheme of your child s life, the quantity of time they spend in your home is a drop in the bucket. However, the quality of that time they have is entirely up to you. Parenting intentionally means that we recognize the shortness of what we have to work with, while also acknowledging the seriousness of what we have to carry out in that short amount of time.

Could I challenge you to paint a picture of what you'd want that 18-year-old birthday party to look like? Take a moment to imagine a huge send off party for your daughter or son. Imagine that you gathered together everyone that has ever influenced your child in a positive way. Imagine the room is full of all the voices they ve heard over the year s family, friends, small group leaders, baseball coaches, gymnastics instructors, schoolteachers, and neighborhood buddies. They are all gathered together to celebrate the future of your son or daughter, and they ve all had a role in helping to make them who they are.

Got the picture in your mind's eye? Now ponder these questions:Are any of these people in their lives now?Who is missing right now from their life that you would want at this celebration? Are there some people at the party that you d rather not be there?

To really value the voices our children have in their lives, we have to begin to imagine the end of their time with us. Every word your child hears from the influences in their life, are already planning this send off party; whether you know it or not.

Whether you know it or not, you ve been granted the role of influencing these young children in your home. God has given you the responsibility of managing their time in your home, and while they eventually will make their own decisions and choose their own path in life, it s your influence now that helps make those decisions and paths more clear for them.

 

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Let us look at the singular most valuable voice in the life of your child. As a parent, you have the greatest potential to influence your child s heart and life. You are the loudest of all voices, and you are the best person to show compassion, forgiveness, and affirmation to them. Even when your children begin to age and seek out other voices, your voice should and will always stay the one they most need to hear.

It s important to find valuable voices all around your children, and begin to choose who many of those voices are. It s important to leverage what they hear from others to help them as they mature, and it s important that you are picky with whom you let influence your children. But all of that is diminished if your voice isn t the one speaking grace and truth in equal measure to them.

You are the champion of all voices, and as you seek God s will for how to lead your family I m certain that you will be given opportunities to say what needs to be said when it most needs to be heard.

I believe that you are equipped to be the voice of forgiveness for your children when they need forgiveness the most, because who else knows them like their parent?

I believe that you hold the possibility to direct your children in the way of wisdom when they need wisdom the most, because who else knows them like their parent?

I believe that you are the voice of love your children need to hear more anyone else, because who else knows them like their parent?

Begin to value the voices all around your child s life, but seeing your own voice as the most valuable of all. When the full weight of that sets on us as parents, it draws us to seek wisdom for ourselves as we continue on the journey of being a parent, and what a great journey this will be!

Heavy Words

Jonathan Cliff  —  September 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Recently, my middle school son has begun to volunteer at our church in the preschool areas. He has been assigned to the 3-year-old room, and has proven to be a real all-star in that environment. This son of mine, is entering a stage of life where he is looking for affirmation, and needs to feel that he is accepted for who he his. As he has served the 3 year olds at our church, he has also been surrounded by adults that marvel at his heart for the little ones. They've said things to him like, You are so great with these kids, I wish there were more middle schoolers like you! and Have you seen the way these kids look at you? You are their hero just by coming and playing with us!

Those words on their own are powerful, but I have leveraged them in a few distinct ways. First, I knew my son would succeed in that area. I m his father, and I know his strengths. Helping him find a place to serve 3 year olds was better than if I had asked him to go work with 3rd graders. I also set him up for success by choosing an environment that would bring out the best in him, and therefore bring out the words of affirmation in others. Then, I made sure that the he fully understood what those people were telling him. I helped him to see that those friends were sharing what they saw in his life, and they weren't making it up. I reminded him that his mother and I have seen those things in his life, and have told him those same things as well.

It is experiences like this that allow me to say what I ve always said to my son, You are special, unique, and God is going to use you to do great things for the world all around you! and to put those words into the mouths of others. With your child you have the ability to find areas where they can win consistently, and then leverage the situation to say what you ve been saying all along.

Maybe it s an art class at the community center, or working alongside others at a local food bank, or volunteering at your church. Maybe it s allowing them to play a sport that they excel at a little more than the other kids, or spending some time after school with a club that will help draw out some of these other talents they have inside of them.

So much of leveraging the words of others in the lives of our children, has to do with us being intentional as parents. When we leverage the words they hear, we are helping to shape them into the people God wants them to be. However, this doesn't happen by accident. This happens when we listen for the voices, and surround our children with the right voices.

 

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After you ve looked for the voices and people in your child s life, and invested the time to add and subtract as necessary, then you are at a place to really flex your parental muscles. It s time to show off how powerful you can really be, and begin the heavy lifting of parenting. The good news is that you don t have to be all-powerful; you just have to learn the schematics of leverage.

There is great power in leverage. For example, I’m not a large person, which has its advantages. I’m not usually asked to help people move, and rarely have I had to move a refrigerator up a flight of stairs. It s not that I’m a weakling, because I’ve moved my share of large items in my life. The real key to moving big things is leverage. A 100-pound teenager can move a fridge much faster using a dolly with big rubber wheels than a 300-pound grown man can trying to carry it by himself.

The words our kids hear from those around him do indeed have power, but what we choose to do with those words can make them ultimately life changing.

I’ve written a ton about one of the most strategic things we can do as parents, and that s doing some relationship math with our kids. The next step after adding new voices is to leverage the voices they hear for their benefit. I can t follow up on every single conversation my child has with a friend, nor can I filter every word they ever hear from an adult. I can, though, choose and pick when I take the time to leverage what they hear.

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Whether you re a parent or a leader, you re making history. The question is, what kind of history are you making with the kids and teenagers who are closest to you?  Playing for  Keeps  is a book about  six things every kid needs over time from the parents and leaders who are closest to them.

Orange is launching the book with a short, fun webcast at  12:30pm EST ON  WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18. Don’t miss Reggie and others as they introduce these ideas and tell why they think they’re so important. To view the webcast, go to  www.OrangeTour.org.

—The book can be purchased exclusively at  www.OrangeStore.org.

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