I Don't Want to Raise Successful Children
Lysa TerKeurst

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

I don't want to raise successful children. That's a shocking thing to read, and a shocking thing for a mother to type. So, let me clarify.

I used to define success according to my child's report card. Good grades and academic achievement would surely equal a good child with great potential in this world. But then several of my children wound up being average students with average grades. Though we carted them off to tutors and spent many a late night at the kitchen table helping them, they remained average. And I remained concerned and frustrated.

One report card day I found myself facedown in the fibers of my carpet crying and wondering, "Where have I gone wrong as a mom?"

I dug into Scriptures. I begged God for wisdom and discernment. I prayed for God's perspective with each of my kids. Finally, one day it dawned on me - what if I simply chose to embrace the natural bent of each of my kids as God's way to protect them and keep them on the path toward His best plans for their lives?

What if my A student needs academic success to prepare her for God's plans while my average to below-average student needs to be steered away from a more academic future? What if my sports star kid needs that athletic excellence for his future assignments by God, but my benchwarmer kid is being protected from getting off course by her lack in this area?

And that's when it finally dawned on me. My job isn't to push success for my kids. My job as a parent is to recognize the unique way God created each child and point them to Jesus at every turn along their journey toward adulthood. Yes, I want my kids to learn and thrive and grow up educated, but it's not a flaw in me or them if they don't have straight A report cards and trophy cases full of sports medals.

Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it" (NIV).

I am challenged to ponder these words, "… in the way he should go." Are we training our kids that the "way he should go" is to chase worldly achievement or to chase God? Whatever they learn to chase as a child, they will chase as adults. Therefore, we must be challenged to honestly assess the way we are pointing them to go.

My daughter, Hope, is one of my average students. She has also warmed many a bench in the sports she's tried, and can always be found hiding on the back row of the stage during school concerts. Using the world's benchmarks for achievement, Hope wouldn't be seen as a child positioned for success. But God…

This past January, my 15 year old Hope, shocked me when she announced she wanted to go to Ethiopia with some missionary friends of ours and live in the remote African bush for the summer. Yes, she may not have trophies and straight A report cards but she does have a heart of gold. And because she's not entrenched in sports and academic pursuits that could have created obligations for her summer, she was free to go to Africa. Free to chase God in a really big way.

One of the first e-mails she sent me from Ethiopia read, "Mom, I've fallen in love with the AIDS orphanage children. They rushed at me when I held my arms out and I tried with all my might to hold all 30 of them at once. I love it here."

Now, don't get me wrong. I do expect Hope to return to her studies this fall, give 100% effort, and finish her high school career having done her very best. She will most likely then go to college. But she probably won't be delivering the valedictorian address or wearing the honors cords and medals. She'll be the one with a vision of a dying AIDS orphan pressing against her heart ready to chase God's plans to the ends of the earth.

So back to my original statement, I don't want to raise successful children. It's true, I don't. Though Hope's sister coming behind her is an A student and can always be found on the front row of school performances - we don't chase after success for her either. I trust God that she needs those things in her life for the plans He's unfolding in her life. We train with that bent in mind. But, we don't chase it. Just like Hope, we point her in the direction of God at every turn and pray like crazy.

I stand by what I said and I'll say it again, I don't want to raise successful children. Because--- raising God-honoring adults who will set the world on fire for Christ is just so much more rewarding.

Dear Lord, being a mom is a really tough job. Please help me, teach me and show me how to define success for my kids. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa’s blog to watch a video of Hope’s trip to Ethiopia

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst

The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Spend some time specifically praying for your kids today and ask the Lord how you can train them according to the way He created them.

Reflections:
What worries about my kids do I need to ask the Lord for His perspective?

How should I define success for my kids?

Power Verses:
2 John 1:4, "It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us." (NIV)

Matthew 19:14, "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" (NIV)

© 2009 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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35 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG! I am a mother and a teacher and I so agree!! If only parents, teachers and administrators, as well as policiticians pushing No Child Left Behind would realize that all children have special gifts from God and are made for a specific purpose! We should all love our own children as well as those we come in contact with every day as unique creations of God. Thank-you so much for your wonderful perspective!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank God for his guidance. I was just on my knees last night praying over this very thing. What a wonderful relief to have this put in prospective. It's not easy to let go of the mindset of academics but a relief to know I can and must.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your timely words! Our daughter is dyslexic and cautious in making friends, and I grieve over those aspects of who she is. I don't want her to struggle in life or have difficulty - but yet God is making her able to perservere and accomplish things in spite of these things.

My husband and I have been focusing on God's leading in our lives over potential job change, whether to move or stay. In that we are trusting God's provision and protection - knowing that He will provide and protect us from going where He is not directing. I need to realize God's provision and protection for our daughter's life as well. Even though I may see these aspects of who she is as weaknesses, God is using them to strengthen her and grow her into the person He is preparing her to be.

Thanks for the reminder of God's purpose in individuality and the beauty in that!! Again a good reminder that His ways are higher than mine!

:)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a mom and a teacher and I couldn't agree more! I, too, have a daughter who works very hard to bring home average grades, while my other 2 daughters make A's relatively effortlessly. We do our best to help each of them see they were made by God for a purpose that He has created. Each of them are special in their own way with gifts and talents He put in their heart. If only more parents could see that, it would alleviate a lot of tears on the side of the children and themselves! Thank you for these words of encouragement!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been struggling for the last few months on how "I" think my very strong-willed and extremely independent six year old daughter should perform in order to succeed in life - always comparing her to other children and expecting her to conform to my academic expectations ......boy did God speak clearly to me this morning - thank you!! I pray that I continue to remember God's ways are better than my ways and that He has her best interest in mind - ALWAYS! I am reminded of what my role is in her life!! Thank you, Jesus!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I myself am a mother of a child that I have tried to homeshool, I have tried to protect him from the enemies of this world. Here all along, I should be praying for him and to have Gods grace on his precious life.

My child has a disability and he tries so hard, I have noticed one special thing with him since he has been home. He cant do what straight A sudents can do, but he can create and plan things beyond the average mind.

He has been fearfully and wonderfully made. Ps 139 Thank you for sharing your words today and getting me back on track to keep him in prayer and to know God has a define purpose in his life.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this devotion thank you so much!

Blogger Robin said...

Thanks, I needed that. I have 2 girls, 7 and 5 and the 7 yr. old is showing a lot of areas of concern at school and I have been feeling like a failure as a mom that she isn't doing better, or that I pushed her into kindergarten before she was ready since she had just tured 5 before she started. I need to pray to understand my kids bent towards things so that I know how to best support and encourage them.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So true. My 2nd grade son is struggling with reading difficulties and makes average to failing grades. During an evening conversation with his wise teacher, she said to me, "he has all the qualities that really count in life (kindness, compassion, forgiveness, etc.). We just need a little extra help to get him reading." While I know he will struggle through school, I know God has something very special in store for him and I can hardly wait.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this message. It came right on time. Today I was praying for my family, especially my 9 year-old son who struggles in math. But I know now that God has a purpose for him, and it may have nothing to do with math. I also know to look to God to help me raise Godly children.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the devotion and helping me realize what "success" is in God's eyes. I just wish schools were places that fostered and nutured the gifts that God graciously gave each child instead of making many feel like failures. I guess that is our job as parents. Thanks again.

Blogger mdworske said...

Thank you so much for writing that. I literally just hung up with my son's teacher with tears ready to flow when I saw this in my email. I really, really, really needed to read this today!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow- needed to hear those words. Thank You!!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I had thought of this years ago, I wish my mom had thought of this years ago. Thank you for allowing God to use you in such bold ways.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for today's devotion...it really spoke to my struggle to deal with the social shortcomings of my son, who is an awesome athlete and very intelligent boy, but just seems so emotionally deficient. Fortunately, as his mother, I can see him through God's eyes, I just wish my husband (his stepdad) did.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having recently lost a 16 year old to suicide this has been a constant reflection. He was a below average student with an absolute heart of gold. I wonder if the pressure to just pass High School and graduate was too much for him. We will never know.

From now on I pray for my other children to follow in the path that God has laid out for them, regarless of their academic achievements.

Blogger Dana said...

This was wonderful! Thank you. I hope you don't mind, but I reposted it on my blog and provided links back to you. :)

Blogger Jennifer said...

You have so captured what God has put on my heart for my children in the past few years. Thank you for such a wonderful reminder.

Blogger Macey71 said...

I am encouraged by this message today just like all the other mums commenting, but I am also overwhelmed with the responsibility of it all. Life seems to move so fast sometimes and noisily too! I have 4 children under 8 yrs. Yet I still say I am encouraged, because it seems time and time again I am reminded that God is at work, and He doesnt tire or get overwhelmed. All glory to Him who made our children for a purpose, and loves our children more than we could ever do. I love Him so much for never leaving me even in this the hardest job I have ever had!

Thank you, Lysa....

More than anything... to raise Lovers. To fervently love God and love people. *That* is the definition of success -- the eternal kind.

You write my heart...

Every blessing, friend...
All's grace,
Ann

Blogger Ann said...

Thanks for a great devotional! Yes, I want to point my kids to Jesus all the time. And yes, I want them to follow the natural bent God’s given them. But I don’t want them to “bury” their talents–if they’ve been given gifts, they’re supposed to use and develop them. Is it possible to nurture their gifts without pushing?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I sent here, tears streaming, wishing I'd read this 19 years ago, I am thankful for kids who despite their mother have hearts for HIM! Lisa, thank you for these words, and I am praying that many moms of young children read and listen today!!

Blogger Carrie said...

I so agree with you. Success is not as important as many people think it is. Each of our Children, need to be loved, need us to be there for them, need trained up in the Lord, but they are different and deserve to be respected differently, not pressured to keep a perfect gpa, or to do something just because you think they should. They should have a desire to play sports or an instrument and not be forced into it. Just because you think they should or you want to see them do the same things you did or betty or jo next door does. We parents also should try not to compare our kids to others. It hurts! Just Encourage them to give something a try for a year, but don't make them continue to do it when you realize they completely hate it. It causes months of frustrations and unhappy family members. They won't enjoy the projects at all and dread it and put up a fight every time. They do need guided emotional support and correction, in their interests and dislikes, taught to have love for God, for others and particular interests, respect for themselves and others. So they can make wise decisions for themselves and their friends, be encouraged to serve Him, with those talents and simply do their best. What you want in their lives may not be what they want to do with their lives or where God wants them to be. I try to encourage my children to excel in the things they love to do! And do the best they can in things they have a challenge with. Life is a challenge, and it never goes according to plans, no matter how you go about it. I AM NOT A GOOD EXAMPLE of telling anyone anything, I fail daily, in many ways. But I know giving your child the ability to believe God loves them and will help them through anything and you do too, teaches them to love life and respect everything they are involved in and be loved back through that talent. Now that's success. Try to teach them courage to try to accomplish any goal and know they can do it with God's grace or if they fail at it, it's ok, do something else. Just keep trying. They will learn to do better in everything & accept they can or can not do everything and move on. I feel emotional~mental support & love for a child or a job is something way more important than having the best results or high paying job you can find. That the children need to know they are loved and supported in everyway possible, that will give them more courage & peace of mind and patience in life. And encourage them to do it all according to God's will in life. It would make them happier. And the "peer or parent pressure" and aggressions of life would lead to less frustrations, stress, depressions and anxieties. Because then they know to put their trust in God, not in the things of the world. And people may become more successful as a loving, respectful, God fearing, serving person, than trying to be so perfect. So many kids these days thinks that the needs for things or their own selfish desires and personal appearances, is way more important than helping themselves or a friend not make a bad choice/mistake. I would really rather see my child, be a good person and example for their families, work harder, do more and simply be happy in the Lord, making wise decisions as a human being, than them being richer than our bad exampled celebrities and business peoples out there.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lysa - Thank you for your wise and Godly perspective. My son is struggling more in school this year than he has in the past and I've been feeling a lot of pressure to help him get those grades up to position him for "success". Your devotion will help me recalibrate. Thanks!

Blogger kgray said...

I have four very energetic boys, now ages 14-22. For years I would feel depressed after reading everyone's glowing Christmas letter updates. My sons' accomplishments and behavior defined my worth - although I would never admit this out loud. Through much failure and grace, I have come to focus on enjoying each one as they are now, and hope confidently in what God is transforming in them. We've believed through assaults on our boys, through 5 years of drug addiction, through intense sibling strife. Today, our beautiful adult son has 4 years of sobriety and is a powerful tool in the hands of our Great God, speaking, mentoring, and reaching the down trodden. Sibling relationships are restored, healed and supportive. Now I endeavor to speak who they truly are, not what they may be struggling with currently. BLESSING (agreeing with God's intention for them) is the most powerful gift I can give them.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your devotional, “I Don't Want to Raise Successful Children”, spoke volumes to me today. I have a 19 year daughter who has had academic struggles all of her life. She is now in her 2nd year of college (but still freshman status) and desperately wanting to quit. She’s a good girl who is trying very hard to find her identity in this world. She knows the Lord, but not quite ready for a true commitment to Him.

We have been encouraging (mildly forcing) her to stick with school. Lately, however, I’ve become discouraged and contemplated telling her that it’s ok for her to give up. I’ve been so caught up in her being “a successful, 6 digit income adult” , that I have not really paid attention to what she wants or talked to God about the situation. I now remember a recent comment she made … ‘I don’t want to be rich mom!’ -- WOW. Your devotional has reminded me that I need to be in prayer about this situation and accept God’s will for her life … even if she doesn’t become a 6 digit income adult.

Thank you sharing.

Anonymous bettyhershberger said...

Thanks for sharing that. My children are all grown but I hope this will encourage other young mothers!

Blogger melakamin said...

This is incredible. Our Moms in Touch group just prayed for these exact things this morning. I came home and I got aholyexperience.com email and your link was on there. I went to it and was floored - God just put this on our hearts today in such a powerful way. I absolutely want my children to know they are wonderfully and fearfully made and they have unique gifts. I also want to pray that their hearts are what we're looking at and looking after - not just behavior and success and accomplishments. Those will all fade away and tarnish, but a grateful, servant Heart is what will change them and the world for Christ. AWESOME! Thank you for this and God bless.

Anonymous Marian said...

I see so many mothers are concerned about the lack of academic achievement in their children whether they be wiggly elementary students, bored middleschool students, rebellious high schoolers or college students wondering why they are there. Please, find peace. Look into technical schools. Our job is simply to help them search in this world for what may interest them. Make sure they're not ignorant. Take a class in something to improve your own mind. Order a small variety of magazines to have in your home as incentive to broaden their minds. Popular Mechanics, and others ... Be a role model for them. An education is to prepare them for life and the work world. If they go further it is up to them.

Blogger Carrie said...

Wow, I love this post. My goals for my children are that they would love and follow God, and learn to selflessly serve others. And everything else is secondary to that. But it's so easy to be distracted by how the world measures success. Thank you for sharing this!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this words; they came right on time for me to understant that my goals are my goals, my dreams are my dreams and to make the diference, so that I can raise my child to be a godly person not a succesful person.
Thank you very much.
May God help us to remaid that we have to raise the children for His glory not ours.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This IS a very powerful message...and definitely one that brings to mind my younger son, who is just not as concerned with grades as his older sister and brother. He DOES have gifts to offer that are much more important than the ability to bring home A's on a report card, and this message relieves my heart. He is one whose heart broke after seeing a homeless man on the street outside a football game we had just attended.

One note, though...as a teacher myself, there is a big difference between bringing children up to value God's word and do what is right for Him (vs working for the almighty dollar/academic worth) and bringing them up to not work for their worth. What I am saying is that, in my own classroom, I have students who work so hard but just cannot get the grade. These students will very seldom fail my classes--I give them assignments they can pass and give them opportunities to raise grades that they did not pass...and give them a chance at successes every day. However, there are students who are getting used to doing NOTHING for themselves and blaming conditions/teachers/etc. for their inabilities. God wants us to work for what we get...he does not value laziness and/or blaming others for what we CHOOSE to not do. So, be certain of what the problem is before you give up on your child's academic progress (which is sometimes more than academic--it is teaching children how to learn and how to work for what they need to survive). As parents, we are still responsible for leading our children in the right direction...and many children resist anything that takes away from their 'playtime' for lack of a better way to say it.

I do agree that No Child Left Behind is killing our education system. Not only are we forcing children to learn what we have deemed is important, we are passing children along in the system who are not ready and we are taking all enjoyment out of schooling. Some day people will look back on these days and wonder what we were thinking.

Anonymous Karyn said...

Thank you. You have no idea how badly I needed to ingest this. As a homeschool mom, I have a tendency (like MOST homeschoolers) to feel the need to "prove" to my public school friends/family that my children are "on track" academically. I get caught up in "sticking to that schedule", making sure we don't skip a day in my lesson plans I worked so hard on, that I forget to just sit back...and let my kids be CREATIVE, use their IMAGINATION. I get so stuck on MY schedule that I forget to be sensitive to their PERSONAL needs. You're right...God has wired each one of us differently, and all for a very different purpose. I will be more intentional about praying for each of my children, that God would show me how to raise each one in the way that will be most beneficial to the reasons he created them. God bless you!

Anonymous Rochelle said...

Thank you for this! Its beautiful! I am almost 30 with no kids yet but I am fortunate enough to have a mother that learned this early. She homschooled us and signed each one of us up for things we excelled in, my brother tramped though the woods and learned science, my other brother took all the acting and writing classes she could find him and I learned all kids of sewing a history. We each did all the usual things also but in doing things we were passionate for we loved school were we might not have. She is such a blessing to not push us to where we could not go, and in so as I am in a boring job not "succeeding" I don't care because I am actively looking for how God will use me wherever I am.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much! Someone in my homeschool group forwarded this post to me, and it was exactly what I needed to hear!

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