In third grade, my daughter had a project where they had to design and build a city. When we took her project to school, I could not believe how many professional caliber architects and engineers were in her class. Actually, many of the cities looked as if they were professionally done, because they were. The parents had swooped in to “help” and had done the project for their children.
You probably know all of the reasons for not being the parent who does their child’s schoolwork, but have you ever stopped to think about how much you do for children so it “looks right”? Even churches don’t give it a second thought as they make children’s productions look like Broadway shows. When we step in and take over in the search for “perfection” we are robbing our children of some very important lessons God may want them to learn.
If you allow children to do their own “work” for plays, projects, art and more at Church/home/school, they learn some valuable lessons not necessarily intended by the project “giver”:
- What special gifts God has given them to serve Him. Only through exploring and using various talents will your children learn what gifts God has given them. If you do all of the artwork, music, writing, designing, planning etc. for them, you deny them the chance to explore different areas where God may eventually want them to serve. They may never discover they have a talent for art, music or in dozens of other areas.
- Even though God gives us special gifts in various areas, we still need to practice and learn in order to develop the gifts God gave us to their fullest potential. King David was a talented musician as a boy/teen. He was probably gifted by God in that area. It was practicing while in the fields tending sheep though, where David developed the talent God had given him to the potential God had provided. Had David not practiced playing the lyre, it is doubtful he would have been good enough for King Saul to request. Our children need opportunities to practice and refine the talents God gave them to serve Him. It is difficult for them to do that when we insist on doing everything for them so it looks or sounds “perfect”.
- Many spiritual lessons are learned in the process of completing a project. Often the quality of the finished product is not as important as what was learned in the process of creating it. Godly principles like faith, work, patience, self-control and a host of others are often necessary to complete projects successfully. Allowing your child to learn by doing will make these spiritual lessons more memorable. Doing and learning will stay with them much longer than a lecture given by a parent or teacher on the same subject.
- That the adults in their lives have faith in them. Ask almost any older child or teen and they will tell you (if they are brave enough!) they feel most adults greatly underestimate what they are capable of doing. In educational circles, we were taught children will often live up to your expectations. Children can also “learn” helplessness if they perceive no one believes they can do things for themselves. Show your children your faith in them, by allowing them to take significant and/or complete responsibility for projects. They may just surprise you with the quality and creativity of the finished product.
- A host of life skills. Completing complex projects will teach your child life skills like planning, budgeting, scheduling and many more. These same skills are often needed in our churches or can be taught as a ministry to those struggling in a particular area. Our daughter started taking much of the responsibility for planning and executing major projects at a young age. At sixteen, she is now completely capable of planning and executing adult projects with adult results.
So, the next time your children are involved in or assigned a project, allow them to take the lead. Restrict yourself to asking questions which will make them arrive at helpful conclusions. (For example: How much time do you think the project is going to take? If you wait until Sunday night, will you have enough time?) Refrain from telling them what to do or lecturing. Tie your hands behind your back if you are tempted to jump in and do the project for your child. Give your child the gift of allowing them to learn valuable lessons God wants them to learn.
Sure, the finished product may not be as “perfect” as if you had done it yourself. The resulting growth in your child will far outweigh any negatives you believe will happen. In fact, I can almost guarantee you will be surprised at how wonderful and creative the result actually is.
What projects have you stepped back and allowed your child to complete imperfectly? What lessons did you and your child learn in the process? I would love to hear about your experiences in a comment below.