Raising purpose-driven children

“Your birth was not a mistake. You were created just the way that God needed you to look and be, so that you will make a difference in the world. One day you will find out where you need to make the world a better place.”

These words have been spoken by the author to many young people from all walks of life over the years, young people who had lost direction and felt that their lives had no meaning. This feeling of hopelessness in young people has now been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and other uncontrollable events such as load shedding, poverty or society’s rat race after materialistic gain. Young people lose hope in the future. They wonder at the use of planning for their future, if so many things outside of their control can interfere with their planning.

Feeling hopeless and devoid of purpose can lead to emotional and behavioral problems. This is true for all children, the neglected child from the poor household struggling to survive as much as the neglected child of the CEO of a large company who never has time for his family. As adults they become cynical and negative and they plod through life with little dedication and enthusiasm for their job and life in general.

In contrast, people with purpose and passion have energy and focus to do more than the minimum that is required of them. They have a reason to get up in the morning and their enjoyment of life in contagious. They are the movers and shakers, the activists for good causes.

There are ways in which parents can instill in their children a strong sense of purpose.

Set the example
To become purpose-driven, children need to see purpose in action. Can your children see that you are a person with a strong sense of purpose? Do you have a passion for your work, your faith, your family and the causes where you volunteer? Share your enthusiasm and passion with your children, take them along when you go to outreaches and voluntary work and let them see first-hand how fulfilling and joyful it is to live a purposeful life.

Convey family values
Values are spoken and unspoken guidelines for behavior and choices, and point out what we regard as important. What are the important values that are lived and acted out in your family’s daily life? Is there a strong emphasis on materialistic gain or on deeper and more enduring values? Do you spend time sharing and caring? Are family meals taken together and used to share and keep in touch, or are family members living past each other, each one busy with their own devices? Use daily news items and events to talk about what is morally right in this highly materialistic world.

Spend quality time together
Build a close bond with your children by spending time with them, talking and listening to them and taking an interest in their thoughts, interests and activities. Build their faith in themselves and their ability to achieve something worthwhile. Then, when challenges occur, they will regard them as temporary setbacks.

Empower your children
Empower them by teaching them responsibility. They need to feel that their contribution in the home and outside in society is indispensable. Sensitise them to become socially responsible people, to identify and respond to needs and to do more than the minimum that is required.

Help them discover their talents

Help your children discover what their unique talents and dreams are and encourage them to pursue different options to discover what works for them. Expose them to many experiences and career choices, read books with them and discover new possibilities. They need to discover where their abilities and interests overlap – that is where passion and purpose develop. Allow them to make their own decisions. When they make mistakes, help them to learn from it. Making mistakes is proof that they are trying (not failing!). True purpose is challenging and can only be discovered by taking risks.

Pray for your children. If they are grounded in the belief that there is an almighty God Who has a plan for their future – a good plan to prosper them and not harm them (Jer. 29:11) – they will have hope for the future. They can then relax in the assurance that problems are not senseless stumbling blocks, but challenges that can teach them perseverance and resilience. Children who are grounded in the belief that they have a God-given purpose will be motivated to seek the Lord and discover His will for their lives. This will give them the energy to make sensible choices and find meaning and purpose in their lives.

Ef. 2:10 “For we are God’s own handiwork, recreated in Christ Jesus, that we may do those good works which God predestined for us…”

Dr JM Brown.