2 Steps 2 Take for Back 2 School Success! by Brooke Dunham
As a school administrator, educator of almost 20 years, and mom of three, I thought of many things to tell you when asked to write this article. Through the years, I have gained a wealth of knowledge on things such as setting up great home routines, reinforcing positive behaviors, the key to communication between home and school, academic intervention plans, and more. All of these things are beneficial and important, yet as I prayerfully considered what God might have me say, none of them came to mind. Instead, God gave me two scriptural reminders I'd like to share with you as you go into this next school year.
Step 1: Know Your Worth
Throughout my years in education, I have seen many children come through the doors of my office bearing a weight far too heavy for them. I see it in their eyes, I hear it in their voice, and I feel it as they struggle with behaviors that cry out for help. The burden they carry is the self-worth of a mother or father who has placed their identity in their children's success instead of Christ alone. As you read this in black and white spelled out abruptly in front of you, I know your knee-jerk reaction will be denial. Still, I ask you to prayerfully continue reading and vulnerably ask the Lord to reveal anyways you might be unknowingly doing this to your children.
Take a moment to ask yourself, "How did I feel when we were not invited to the latest, greatest travel ball team this time?" Or "How do I feel when my neighbor posts their first day of school pic, and their child has a cuter, more fashionable outfit on with the latest/ greatest book bag we just couldn't spring for?" Perhaps some more challenging questions might be, "How do I feel when I get that letter in the mail letting me know that my daughter has not met the benchmark and will be receiving intervention?" Or "How do I feel when my son has received the 4th sad face in a week or the second call from the Principal?" All of these things mentioned are hard, they are disappointing, and that is normal. What I would like for you to consider prayerfully is whether or not these things alter your view of yourself as a mother or father or affect how you feel valued.
The book of Romans reminds us, "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him, we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our Spirit that we are God's children. Now, if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory," Romans 8:14-17. As a Christ follower, your identity should be found in Christ alone. You are a child of God and a co-heir with Christ. Your standing, value and worth do not waiver based on your child's success or failure in the school house, on the ball field, or in your social circles. Whether or not your child succeeds does not deem you a good or bad parent.
Take a moment to view this in light of God being our father. We mess up in small and insanely large ways daily, right? We fail, we willingly disobey, and we miss the benchmark. Does that mean that God's worth has changed? Does that mean that He is a bad parent? Absolutely not! It would help if you reasoned in that same way when considering your worth in light of your child's successes and failures. Your view of yourself should not change based on them. This school year, I challenge you to focus on resting in your identity in Christ and your unchanging worth as a child of God and co-heir with Christ. As you do, the burden that you might have placed on your child, either intentionally or unintentionally, to "perform" at school academically or behaviorally or outside of school on the ball field or socially will slowly lift. By doing this, you will be gifting your child with freedom and safety. They will have the freedom to simply be who God made them to be, and they will have the security of knowing that they have the comforting arms of their loving parents waiting for them to run into at all times in both the celebration of success and the disappointment of missing the mark. Perhaps most importantly, they will have a model on earth from their earthly parents of what their heavenly father offers them daily.
Step 2: Recognize Your Lack of Control
The second step that came to mind as I prayerfully asked the Lord what I might say to prepare you for the upcoming school year was to recognize your lack of control in your child's life. Reading the news headlines from May until now can make any parent fearful for their student's safety as they send them off to school this year. As we become fearful, we can be tempted to try to control things in a desperate attempt to protect our children. However, this is a futile attempt. You know this all too well if you have ever made that panicked mad dash to the emergency room with a blue-faced child from croup at midnight or for a hanging limb from a monkey bar fall or football game. As much as we'd like to, we do not control the next breath that comes from their mouths, whether or not they will wake in the morning and a thousand other things that scare us to death. So what do we do?!? We rest in the one that does. In Colossians 1:16-17, we read, "For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together." Here we read that He is BEFORE all things, He HOLDS all things together, and He is CREATOR of all things!
In Psalm 139:13-16, we read, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Here we read that He NUMBERED our days and KNITTED us together! What do we do with this knowledge? We rest in it. We acknowledge that, yes, we cannot control our child's safety, health, ability, or anything else, but we know the one that can!
When I was growing up and still to this day, my mom wrote in her cards to me, "I love you so much, but God loves you more!" Do you believe that? Do you honestly believe that God loves your child more than you do? Do you honestly believe and live as if He is in control of all things and sovereign over it all? Do you know without a doubt that God has a perfect plan set in motion before the beginning of time for your child? Then why are you trying to dethrone Him with your actions by taking the seat in His throne room and forcing your control? Why are you clinging so tightly with ball-fisted hands in vain as sand is just sifting through them at lightning speed? Open your hands and lay at His feet and before His throne what is truly His, to begin with, your precious child. Acknowledge before Him that you are thankful for the gift He has graciously given you for a short while, and walk in thankfulness as you rest in what was never yours to control. As you do this, you will be given the energy, wisdom, and authority to walk out the tasks He HAS called you to as the earthly parent of one of His precious creations.
In closing, as you enter this school year, I challenge you to put your relationship with God first. In the business of routines, schedules, packing lunches, signing forms, and sending in the 100th donation request, we can sometimes let that go for a season, but that would not set your child up for success. By prioritizing your relationship with God and daily resting in the fact that you are a co-heir with Christ and can trust fully the one who holds all things together, your child will see a living example of what it is to live God's best. Our children watch us daily; that old saying of "Do as I say, not as I do" is impossible. They are watching mom and dad! Are you living as one of value and trust?