Your tenderhearted daughter is in tears again, “Mama, Stacy is so mean. She said I couldn’t be her friend anymore. She likes Amy better than me.”
With a sinking heart you try to comfort her once more. This isn’t the first time her feelings have been hurt. Just yesterday she was in tears at the sight of a wounded bird. Its wing was broken and her heart was breaking. And it didn’t help that her brother just laughed at her misery.
What in the world is a parent to do with a sensitive child? It’s time to talk about strengths and weaknesses.
One of the things I love about the elementary years is we can begin to see how God has packaged each of our children. Proverbs 27:23 says, “Know well the condition of your flocks.” I take this as a mandate to study my child – to ask God to reveal to me his strengths and his weaknesses. Usually each strength has a corresponding weakness. It helps to identify the strength and to encourage its development while pointing out the weakness and taking steps to deal with it. For example, a sensitive child is likely to have an innate capacity for compassion. Her feelings are easily hurt. She feels strongly when others are hurt and she can sense their feelings. She has natural empathy. Take her aside and say,
“Sweetie, I have noticed that you are unusually sensitive. This is a gift. God made you this way. You sense when others are hurting and you have the ability to comfort them. This is a good thing. There was once a woman who had your same gift. It developed into compassion and she became famous all over the world for her care for hurting people. Her name was Mother Teresa. You have the capacity to be like her.”
“But Sweetie, every strength has a flip side called a weakness. A sensitive person is easily hurt. You may take what others say too seriously and too personally. You are going to have to learn to toughen up and to let it go when others are mean or say ugly things. This is hard and I understand but I will help you.”
You may have a son who has incredible leadership gifts. Others seem to follow his lead for good or into trouble! He gives orders right and left and he is filled with visions and ideas. He loves to be in charge. God has created him to be a leader. But this strength also has weaknesses. This child is likely bossy and may have a tendency to step on others or ignore them. His speech may come across as mean. Here’s what you can say, “Son, I have noticed that you have a gift of leadership. You are someone whom other people naturally follow. You have the potential to become a great leader. George Washington, our first President, was a man with these same gifts and He became the father of our nation. But every leader has to learn how to lead with grace. You will need to be careful to listen to others and you will have to watch how you say things not just what you say. It can be easy for you to run over other people. We will help you develop these gifts of leadership that God has given you and at the same time work on your weaknesses.”
It will help, if appropriate, to clue in a teacher and enlist her aid in encouraging the positive side of your child’s gift.
“You may have noticed that my daughter is unusually sensitive. I want to encourage the positive side of this gift. If a new student comes to school would you ask my daughter to be her friend for the day? Or if a student is having a rough time would you ask her to reach out to this student.”
If you share one of your own strengths and weaknesses with your child and tell them how you have learned to develop the positive side and work on the weaknesses it will draw you closer to the child. A vulnerable parent who is honest about her own weaknesses brings great comfort.
As you study your child ask God to reveal to you the unique way He has packaged her. Talk this over with your spouse or another close friend who knows your child well. Then tell your child the strengths you have observed in her while explaining weaknesses. Give her a positive role model with the same gifts, clue in a teacher and be willing to share your own strengths and weaknesses with her.
In doing this, both parents and children will be encouraged and we will experience the power of God is using our weaknesses for good.