In the second installment of this series on our children’s inner needs (Security, Significance, Strength) we are focusing on Significance today.
Our children have a hard-wired desire to be seen, heard and to make a difference. When children feel significant in healthy ways these desires can be used to the benefit of all those around them. Strong leaders, in business and community understand their significance and use it to lift others up. When a friend understands their significance they understand how to best be their for others. When those in the military, law enforcement and firefighters understand their significance it emboldens them to courageously protect and serve others…even at their own peril.
Unfortunately this need for significance isn’t always filled in positive ways. Significance left to itself could very well become vanity, conceit or pure evil. If we leave our children’s need for significance up to the world around them we could very well have a catastrophe on our hands. We see examples of violent significance everyday. As a person who’s family has been touched by murder I can tell you that the people who committed the crime have established a place of significance in our lives whether we want them there or not. They changed our lives forever. Recently we’ve been seeing teenagers use guns against classmates to force some sort of sick significance upon them. Bullying, domestic violence and abuse of all forms are used to force a feeling of significance. Left unmet the need for significance is dangerous for families, communities and the world at large. It is this unmet need that makes monsters out of mere humans.
How do we ensure that we are meeting this need for significance in powerful and positive ways? By offering the gift of Significant Purpose.
When we can help children understand their purpose we instantly give them a sense of significance. Think of purpose as being a mechanism to bring their significance into focus…not only to them but for the world around them as well. Much like water can be a destructive force that takes life, when given the right purpose it is essential to sustain life. Same thing with fire, it has the potential to be massively destructive if left unattended but with the right purpose it can keep us warm, cook food, create tools….etc. As parents we have a large roll to play in giving and guiding our children’s purpose.
Let’s look at 3 different forms of purpose that we can pass on to our children to ensure that their need for Significance is met.
General Purpose. This is the baseline purpose. The everyday ins and outs of living in a world with other humans. The cornerstone on which all other purpose is built. General Purpose is building your children’s view on what life is all about. Helping them see the importance of their fellow man, instilling in them the need to help others, helping them to understand a life built on gratitude is a joyful and fruitful life, the importance of the environment, helping them to understand what wisdom is and how and why they should strive for it. Teaching them that they are a very important piece to a very large puzzle in your family, community and world and that they should leave those things better than they found them. A strong general purpose ensures that their lives will be significant to those around them.
Relational Purpose. If general purpose is the macro then relational purpose is the micro, the ins and outs of daily interactions with important people in their lives. Our children need our help in understanding relationships period. They are born with the internal conflict of selfishness and neediness. In the beginning both of those traits are essential to survival but if we neglect to develop them in healthy ways can turn destructive in later years. So instilling a strong relational purpose in our children is quite important. Setting forth the course for relational purpose helps our children know where to set healthy boundaries in specific relationships both for themselves and for others. Teaching them the differences in acquaintances, friends, close friends, best friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, even enemies and the correct levels of significance to assign to each of those relationships will help them not only navigate life in a healthy manner, it will also teach them what levels of purpose and significance others may place on them. This is invaluable information that could save them many tears, fights or sleepless nights.
Specific Purpose. This is the purpose that is specific to each individual. Some may be similar but none are the same. This has to do with the things in which someone was born to do. Sometimes these are easy to recognize. Tiger Woods playing solid golf at 2 years old was a big hint, LeBron James being 6’8″ and 245lbs in high school was also a no-brainer but most kid’s purposes aren’t so easily identified. That means that we, as parents, have work to do. We need to give them a purpose at home to give them the tools to find the purpose for their lives.
The very first thing we need to do specifically is find chores at home that we consistently rely on our children to do. This instantly gives them a purpose and significance within the home and the family as a whole. This will most likely be met with some push back because taking out the trash or cleaning bathrooms sounds like much less fun than tv, youtube or playing games. Kids will typically want to do the easiest or most fun things like be lazy or play but as parents we need to make sure that we are reaching to meet those inner needs even when our kids buck against it. I see immediate positive results at home when the kids do chores but even if you don’t, stay the course and eventually you will. This will help them understand things like delayed gratification, co-habitation and the value and pride that comes from hard work. This gives them a specific purpose at home before they may have recognized their specific purpose in life.
We also need to cultivate a life of exploring so that they can find their strengths and passions. We will rob our children of joy if we rob them of opportunities to find purpose and significance. This also means that we need to cultivate a home of grace that allows for some trail and error. We may see some holes in their ideas but if it will not hurt them to pursue those ideas we should encourage it. It doesn’t mean being negligent as parents but it does mean treating our children with the respect of being their own unique selves. Through that exploration just might be where they find their life’s specific purpose that brings them the significance they desperately need.
A great way to instill purpose in our kids, like most other things, is to model it ourselves. Live out your purpose be a significant example to your children. If you feel like you haven’t found your purpose yet then start the search. The above steps are applicable to you as a parent as well. Be a seeker of knowledge and an example to your children!
LIGHT THE TORCH AND LEAD THE WAY!