By Lisa Hamel
Everyone loves a good treasure hunt. At Easter, kids take flight as they search out eggs filled with candy and other delights. Even as adults, we love a good movie about a treasure hunt. X marks the spot and off on a merry adventure they go!
Parenting has been the ultimate adventure for me and I have found that spiritual and emotional maturity in both my children and myself don’t just happen. Maturity requires attention and intention.
Do you have a maturity map for you kids? Do you know where they are headed? Do they? If we don’t have a purpose in our parenting, both parents and children can stray from their values and identity. We can stray away from the true treasure of living in fellowship with Christ.
As Dr. Jim Wilder states: “Children who know where they are going will fight their parents far less than those who are just being pushed along without knowing the goal.”
Dr. Wilder, who is an expert on the brain and the Bible, has identified key stages of development in life. There are specific tasks of maturity that will ideally occur in each of these stages. The following is research that can be found in depth through Life Model Works ministry, or through my website, www.yourbrainonjoy.org.
Though by no means exhaustive or formulaic, these tasks have changed my parenting strategy and my relationships for the better! As moms, these are great questions to ask about our parenting so that we value what truly matters. At the end of each of these stages, we hope to be able to answer these questions with “yes!”
Infants (Birth to Age 4)
Have their needs been met consistently?
Have they been delighted in so much that they know they are a source of joy?
Do they know that God loves them?
Have they been introduced to the concept of right and wrong?
Infants should be treasured! Delight in them. Their brain potential for life is developing in this stage! The baseline for much of an infant’s biochemistry is formed as their needs are being met and they are sharing joy.
Children (Ages 5-12)
Can they communicate what they need? (So many adults struggle with this!)
Can they do hard things?
Do they understand sin and have they accepted Christ?
Children can learn to do hard things. With just the right amount of support, they can learn to do hard things and build confidence in doing so. This support can be slowly removed as they journey toward adulthood. Ultimately, children have learned to take care of themselves.
Adults (13- Parent)
Can they identify their emotions and work through them?
Can they honor other’s feelings even if they differ from their own?
Do they desire mutually satisfying relationships or do they just want to take from others? (If they’ve received life as an infant, they will be equipped to give life to others.)
Do they have a personal relationship with Christ that is based out of gratitude and love for him?
Though many cultures celebrate a “rite of passage” ceremony, it has mostly been lost here in America and I think we’ve done ourselves a disservice. Teens should be celebrated and enjoyed as they grow into adulthood, not feared!
Young Adults need to be allowed to pursue God-honoring passions. They have the most energy of any stage of life, so they need important things to do. As they move into this stage where they find their “tribe,” young adults need to find a people group that reminds them of who they are in Christ. As a parent, do whatever it takes to help your young adults find Christian friends.
These are the stages we are responsible for training as our children grow up in our homes. But life goes beyond that and God wants to continue to grow us!
Parents (First child’s birth to last child is an adult)
Can we manage our own negative emotions AND someone else’s while still keeping relationships bigger than problems?
Are we more fulfilled to give than to receive?
Elder (until heaven)
Can we share joy freely?
Do we believe God still has a purpose for us? - He does!
Can we suffer well?
Do we use our time and emotional resources to model maturity for others?
It should be understood that we all have areas of missing maturity because we were raised by broken humans who were raised by broken humans etc. But we can grow remedially! The beauty of the Body of Christ is that we can learn from others and like swiss cheese, as we stack on top of each other, the holes get filled, amen?!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we took responsibility for our maturity and pursued it with intention so that we can pass down a legacy to our children? Even if we didn’t get everything right so far, it’s never too late! God doesn’t give up on our growth!
Philippians 1:6 says: "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” ESV
So as moms, delight in your babies and meet their needs. Teach your kids to do hard things by modeling it yourself. Help them find the language to communicate their emotions in a healthy way. Engage with them when they are interested in you as a parent, because it only lasts for a season.
Tell stories about your family and your history. I’ve never met a kid who didn’t love to sit and hear stories or see their baby pictures or pictures of grandparents etc. God hard-wired this into our brains.
Ultimately we want our children to know their part in God’s redemptive story. This is a huge part of their identity. And there are such riches in growing into the likeness of Jesus. His plan is the best plan for us. Living for his kingdom truly is the treasure at the end of the map.
Lisa is currently "SAHM-ing." In the past she has been a pastoral counselor, a singer, a music director, and an accountant! She lives in a multi generational home in the Pacific Northwest with her two boys, her amazing husband, and her mother. She is a coffee snob and a health nut who loves to dance like no one is watching. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook!