Your toddler reaches for a hot stove, and you jump into action to prevent an injury. After the disaster is averted, you calmly, yet firmly explain in a way they can understand, “Hot. Don’t touch.” Of course, there are some kids who have to push the boundaries and learn from experience despite your warnings and lectures of love.
Fast track a few years and you’re teaching your child responsibility for their actions, then how to treat others despite how they are treated, and giving (not so solicited) advice on hurt feelings and dealing with rejection. We haven’t even reached pre-teen years yet.
Everything we do for our children comes from wisdom gained through experience. Our ultimate goal, although we may not readily admit it, is not just to teach and protect, but to keep them from pain and hurts we’ve experienced. It’s as natural as it is noble.
But it doesn’t always work.
I’ve always tried to relate to my children, not just on their level, but where they are in their young lives. Like most parents, I’ve been through it, done it, and have learned from my mistakes and triumphs. Although each child is different in the way they process, their goals, and in their perceptions, experience gives me the knowledge of how they feel. I have been that child, teenager, or young adult. The key is, to have compassion where THEY are at that moment, not the end result I see coming. I try to remember the sadness or anger I felt at the time, I try to recall what I did or how I wanted to retaliate.
I recall a particular interchange between my son and I. He was being unusually resistant to my advice. I asked him, “When you get stuck on a level in a game and can’t solve the situation, what do you do?” He said, “I’ll find a person that knows how to get past it.” I asked, “How do they know how to get past it?” He said, “Because they’ve already done it.” And so I tell him, “Just as these people will show you the way out, is the same way I’m trying to guide you through this particular situation. I’ve already done it. I pretty much know the end result. So I’m passing that on to you so YOU know what to do and not do, to succeed.”
Does my 9 year old always take my advice? Sometimes. Sometimes not.
If you’re lucky, when your children are older, they will come to you with problems or ask for advice on important decisions. Sometimes they will listen, sometimes they won’t. The important thing is, TO ADVISE.
I’ve learned there are occasions when advice will be readily received, followed, and a positive result is obtained. I’ve also learned that advice can be heard, not followed, but a lesson is still learned down the road. In the midst of the chaos that followed rejected words of wisdom, perhaps it is passed on to a sibling or friend, from hindsight or the echoes of regret. It vibrates through their heart in tones of, “I should have, if only, and if I had listened ….. ” It’s the same sad lyric in which you gained your own experience. Even if they don’t adhere, they are still gaining wisdom. When we remember our own paths of regret, grace and compassion are easily given to those we see stumble.
As this realization becomes known deep down in the hearts of those we have touched, the wisdom spreads. Some will ignore, some will hear but not do, and there are those who will hear and DO. You will never know how far reaching and how broadly your words will spread. Never. It’s a cycle of experience, that begets wisdom, that begets grace.
The next time you’re sharing wisdom to the vacant eyes of your teenager in an attempt to get him to “see,” or feel as though the instruction to your stubborn child is falling on rocky ground, or if you’re simply giving loving advice to a friend … Remember, openly received and accepted or not, it is your job, your obligation as one who has walked before them …. to lovingly pass on your wisdom, knowledge, and Godly advice.
Having to see immediate results is vanity. Knowing you’ve led someone down the right path, is Godly. It is their choice to follow.
Always, always, be willing to receive advice, lest we grow arrogant and proudful. We are never too old to learn and grow!
In the words of Steven Curtis Chapman, “There’s someone who’s already been where we must go. In the light of what they’ve learned we find that we will grow wise, if we walk with the wise.”
~ Sandra K. Yates