I am Throwing the “American Dream” for my Children in the Trash

About a month ago, I attended a class for parents of teens. The speaker that day was a counselor, and he said this:

In order to parent effectively, you need to throw the American dream for your children in the trash can. And there isn’t a person in this room who doesn’t need to throw some American dreams away because society’s pressure to raise kids that act and look a certain way is relentless.

I left with that message ringing in my ears and have been unable to get it out of my head…or heart. I knew exactly what path he was talking about.

In America, culture demands that children:

  • Behave in socially appropriate ways at all times
  • Are current with trends in appearance
  • Graduate from high school in a well-reputed public school district, or from private school
  • Attend a college that makes friends and families respond with ooo’s and ahh’s of approval
  • Get a good job in a business, IT or medical field
  • Marry before having a child

You may tweak what you perceive as the American dream for your children, but undoubtedly you feel society pressuring you to model a certain path in order to be deemed a “successful” parent.

I am more determined than ever to throw society’s path for my children in the trash can.

For one, carrying such expectations around in my head tempts me to panic every time a child deviates. He or she simply steps off for the day in a classroom, or leaps off the path in front of my friends, and I tend to overreact and over-worry. In addition, carrying those expectations around tempts me to judge and compare. How dare I look down on anyone’s children, as if I know what God is up to.

What are God’s dreams for our kids?

Ephesians 2:10 has been the crux of my recent thinking on this matter: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

In light of this truth, biblical goals in parenting would include:

1. Loving the Lord their God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love their neighbor as themselves (Luke 10:27). This has always been my end-goal prayer for all of my family members.

2. Accomplishing the good works for which God created them.

Just as each cell of our human body became the cell it was meant to be (heart, brain, blood, etc.) to form a functioning human body, God too is directing each of us to a place in the body of Christ that allows His body as a whole to perform optimally. Wherever my spot is, that is the spot where I want to be found, and I want the same for my children. Since I don’t know the spot for which they were created, I have to let God lead the way for the betterment of the body of Christ and their customized role in the kingdom of God.

3. Accepting their struggles as the perfect training ground for their role in the kingdom of God.

Struggle is normal, but parents in our society tend to panic as if hardship is the exception. Struggle and conflict are not only normal, without it, we don’t grow. Considering our human body again, muscles don’t grow without resistance. Only God knows the path my child must take to face the future for which he or she was designed. So when those struggles are happening, I can support my child without the panic of removing the struggle entirely, trusting that God is honing the character and strengthening the faith of my child to fulfill the role in the body of Christ for which he or she was designed.

See the problem with this list? We can’t make any of this happen.

Only God can get our children to their spot. We can only guide them, speak truth, love well, and pray like crazy.

Sure-fire questions to determine if we have replaced society’s goals for our children with God’s goals:

1. Are we prone to panic when our children don’t “look the part” in society’s eyes?

2. Are we praying and parenting our children toward a thriving relationship with Jesus Christ? (Without God, they have nothing in light of eternity. (Mark 8:36))

3. Are we praying fervently that our children find their customized role in the body of Christ and watching with excitement to find out what God’s plan is?

4. Are we trusting God with their path, or do we still have something to say about everything they do?

Drum roll…this may be the biggest test question:

5. Do we relax when our children are aligning with society’s path of successful parenting, even when their hearts are not fully surrendered to Jesus?

For example, if an adult child has a successful job in the medical field, with a framed degree on the wall from a great school, is dating someone of similar caliber and planning on getting married before having children…but that child does not have a close walk with God…are we saddened? Yes, we glad they aren’t causing us “trouble,” but still very sad because without an intimate walk with God they have nothing, really? Sad because without the power of God they have no power? Sad because the body of Christ has a hole in it where our child is supposed to be exercising the good purpose for which he or she was created?

Time to walk to the trash can. Time to get on our knees.

© 2018 by Oaks Ministries. All rights reserved.

Picture Explanation: I went to The Botanical Garden with a dear friend. Look at God’s creativity. Somehow each bloom is equally magnificent in its uniqueness. And yet we expect our unique children to travel identical paths to their distinct purposes? It’s Mother’s Day. Let’s thank God for our children and ask Him to let each of them live out Ephesians 2:10.




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Planting and Watering

I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes growth.

1 Corinthians 3:6

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