Parenting children who have “plans of their own”

Our firstborn is a planner. She is often making plans and saying to other members of the family, “after such and such you can do this and that and then I will do X, Y, and Z.” The problem is, her plans sometimes don’t correspond with other people’s plans (or reality for that matter). Sometimes it can be frustrating to try to manage the family when there is another little planner who has what feels like a competing vision for what the immediate or distant future ought to look like.

It is easy for me to start wishing that there were an “off” switch for her “plan-maker” component so that I could just turn it off for…say, fourteen years or so. But the reality is that, while God gives us as individuals varying degrees of intensity in this area of life, making plans is actually one way that we are made in God’s image. Genesis 1:26-28 describes God’s creation of mankind like this:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (NIV)

In all of the creation there is nothing besides human beings that are made in God’s image. I regularly tell my kids that being made in God’s image means that we are “a picture of Him.” Human beings show something about who God is in a way that is different from every other created thing, and an important part of that is the way we “rule” over the world. To “rule” over the world is not a harsh subjection of the creation, but the authority to govern it and cultivate it (see Gen. 2:15 where God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to “work it and take care of it”). Part of the way that we carry out our God-given role is through planning. In the same way that God is a Person who plans, purposes and intends, we reflect God in our rule over the creation through our planning, purposing and intending.

What does this mean for my parenting task? I think it means that I need to stop looking for the “off switch” for my children’s “plan-maker” component and start looking for ways to help them develop and shape their planning and purposing in ways that reflect the greatness of God and that are exercised in love toward other people. This means teaching them that they were made for God and that good planning is done in submission to God’s Word; also, good planning involves planning for the well-being of other people. It also means trying to help them understand that their sinful hearts naturally make idolatrous, self-serving plans because we are by nature born with an inclination toward sin. Finally I want to demonstrate godly planning in my own life and be diligent to teach them that Christ can set us free from the condemnation and slavery of a life of self-serving planning.

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