How to Properly Live Vicariously Through Your Children

I faced many challenges as a child growing up. Since, much of my life was blocked by the everyday trials and traumas of Sickle Cell Anemia, I wasn’t able to have many of the experiences that many others live to tell about long into their old age. There are no stories of athletic domination on the field or the court; nor are there high accolades for achievement in the classroom. I am quite fortunate to have managed to do better as I have matriculated into my adult life.

Father playing with his son. (Image credit Jupiter Images)

Father playing with his son. (Image credit Jupiter Images)

Now that I am married and have been blessed with three wonderful children, I can honestly and truly say that I love my children wholeheartedly. They have energy for days on end. They give me endless and boundless joy through all that they do. Even when they do things that I may not approve of, there is still great hope to be found in the latent and hidden potential. In as much as can be deemed possible, I fully intend to live vicariously through each of them.

As quickly as you read that last sentence, you probably started picturing in your mind all of the people you’ve ever seen at a spelling bee, pee-wee league sporting event, cheer or dance competition where an obnoxiously over zealous, obsessively competitive parent showed their bad behavior. This is not the type of parent I am referring to when I say that I will live vicariously through my children. There actually is a way to do it and not ruin your children for life. Here are some ways you can live through your children in a completely acceptable manner:

Foster Natural Giftings: When the bible says to train up a child in the way they should go, many people get the idea that it means whatever the parent desires for the child to do, then that should be all the child should want, regardless of whether or not it is something they desire or are gifted to do. If you look deeper into that verse, it says to train them according to their natural bend. They have their own will to do things. When you take time to see and foster in them the things where they are naturally talented and desiring to involve themselves in, you build a love within them for things you know they will grow to enjoy and are more likely to excel at.

There is a reason the Jewish people once waited eight days to name their children. It was so they could see what characteristics would show up in them. What they saw became that child’s identity. Often people, we become selfish about our children and would love for them to do what we believe is in their best interest, rather than trusting God to bring out of them a greater glory through what He putting them. If we see what is naturally in them and help them to bring that out, they will not stray far from it.

Have you seen the business mogul who desperately wants his or her child to take over the company, though the child has no interest in anything about that business? Have you seen the child whose parents forced them to do ministry simply because the parents wanted to save face by having the child live according to the parent’s reputation? It’s seldom a pretty sight. This often leads to rebellion and creates pain and misery not only for the parents, but for the church and the child. I became involved in ministry not because my father ministered, but because it was what God put in me. I actually think part of the reason my father died early was not just because of his illness, but so that I could find that path God intended for me to follow.

I minister in ways that my father probably never did. Like John the Baptist, I have a call that is different from the previous generation. I can live through my children whether or not they become conventional ministry laborers or not. I know that ever generation has their own call. My children each have talents that are both similar and different from me and their mother. We foster those gifts, and what becomes of them, time will show.

Present Real Options: One of the greatest gifts you can give to your child is the option to choose. When a child has choices, they can reasonably make value judgments; compare and contrast, determine pros and cons, cause and effect, and the cost of choosing one versus another. When you remove a child’s ability to choose, you stifle creativity, passion, and hope. Just because you were great at something or maybe even horrible at it, doesn’t give you the right to demand that your child live up to that triumph or unfulfilled dream.

Options remove stress, to live up to something that may not be their hearts desire. You can present your passions and desires to them to see which things appeal to them. What may seem off putting to them in earlier years may in turn be something of great import when they become more mature. Allowing for choice without pressure let’s them know you trust their ability to make distinctions through critical thinking.

When children have few options, they tend to go exploring on their own, completely void of the governing eyes and wisdom of parents to give appropriate counsel. That exploration can lead a child down a dangerous path that they may not return from as easily or quickly as they went. The right options can lead to greater and greater opportunities for the future; perhaps one might even be something you can mutually appreciate.

Present Invaluable Opportunities: Presenting opportunities to explore dreams and passions awakens your children to possibilities that can extend far beyond anything they may have imagined. There are times when opportunities can lead a child down a path that goes well above anything they may have considered or perceived; it literally can be beyond their scope of comprehension. Although Josephs life did not appear at first how he dreamed it, God presented opportunities for him to display the character necessary to prepare him to be exactly where he needed to be to fulfill the very dream that had been put in him in his life.

Opportunities are literal portals to vast dimensions of diverse future paths that have yet to be tapped into. One can take you one way, while a different one can go in an entirely divergent path. Like the road less traveled, you can see how they will become far more blessed for having chosen the one that more so suited them.

So, I’ll choose to live vicariously through my children, knowing that whatever they do, their victories will not only be ones they can call their own, they will more than likely be ones that I never had the benefit or privilege to personally experience myself.

QUESTION: Do you live vicariously through your children? If so, do they enjoy the way you do it?

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