Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tough kids vs. Strong kids

I remember when Angela was little I used to remark "what a tough little girl" she was, she had been through so much. He birth father walked away from her at the age of three. She was never lacking from love though, mom and I did everything we could to surround her with love and friends. Mom and Dad had separated as well so grammy and grampy weren't the solid foundation she once had in her life. But as a child she seemed resilient and was happy and loving and playful. Ang always had a smile and a hug for everyone. She was smart as a whip, loved to learn and was ahead of her time. This tough little girl began to fade as she entered middle school and all the pain came to the surface... here's the point.

I have learned the hard way the difference between raising a tough kid and a strong one. I urge you not to make the same mistakes I made in assuming they are one and the same because that is far from the truth.

Tough they grow up often become more hardened in their nature. As a troubled teenagers Ang took on the persona of a gangster chick. Showing herself as "hard core tough". Rough around the edges, she could handle anything baby... just watch me - I can kick your butt... the outside persona she created was much different from the scared little girl that was crying out inside her. In private she was frail and child-like needing to wear the mask of a tough girl just to be part of the outside world.

When you raise a child to be tough, they sometimes perceive that as being a bully, teasing others in order to flex their muscles. Often being the leaders of their clique making it known to others that they are just not the "right" kind of person for their group. The problem with tough is that they never learn how to draw strength, how to become strong in their character. They don't develop the skills they need to be part of all that lies ahead of them in adulthood. Tough will only get you so far; limiting their growth and potential. It seems I raised a tough kid who never really learned to draw of God's love to give her strength. She never realized her power, never owned who God intended her to become and that my friends is just sad.

Teaching children to find strength is showing them how to believe in who they are without stepping on anyone else in the process. God gives each of us all we need to be all He wants us to be. As parents it is our job to help them find out where their strengths lie and help them develop them. It is our duty to lead these little blessings from God down the path that teaches them to love themselves and those around them. To teach them patience, faith, kindness... to give them a solid foundation on which to gather strength in times of trouble. To build a character which is true to itself which shows its "strength" through positive actions and reactions to life.

Are using raising a tough child or a strong child? I urge you to consider this carefully. Teens often turn to drugs and alcohol to make themselves "stronger", to cope with pain and boredom. This is a false strength and a false security which leads them down a path of negative actions and reactions. I know - I've watched the destruction and I live with the pain of losing my precious gift from God.


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