One of my favorite movie scenes is in “Hook,” the 1991 Peter Pan adaptation. Robin Williams plays a grown Peter who is now a stressed-out workaholic lawyer that has long since forgotten about the carefree fun of his childhood. This is until his lifetime nemesis, Captain Hook, kidnaps his children as he is forced to return to Neverland to rescue them. When he arrives there, he realizes that the only thing that has changed is him. His friends are still young and happy, and no one recognizes him, until a young boy curiously approaches him. It’s one of his old friends. Peter kneels down to the boy’s level and they look into each others eyes. There is silence as the boy takes Peter’s glasses off. He grabs his cheeks and squeezes the skin on his face, all the while staring at him. He intently examines his teeth and nose. Finally, a huge smile overtakes him and he exclaims, “Oh, there you are Peter!”
In both my parenting and my work with kids at school, I often don’t look hard enough to see what is there. That boy in “Hook” looked deep into the eyes of a Peter Pan that had lost his sense of adventure and wonder, and he saw that those things were still there. They were hidden by a life full of business and urgency. Peter himself didn’t even see what was inside him and other people most certainly didn’t acknowledge it. Our kids rely on us to speak deeply to them and tell them what they can be, not necessarily what they are right now. It’s too easy for us to say “you’re being bad” to our kids and it really doesn’t build anything positive within them. What can sow positive seeds in them is encouraging positive character traits that we believe will come to life: “You are honest. God made you to be kind. You have a compassionate heart. You are a hard working student.” Sometimes these things are said to our children, not because we see them at that moment, but because we believe that we will see them!
Our kids believe what we say about them.
Our children are still learning who they are, and we help to shape their opinion of themselves by pointing out the things we see in them that still may need some growth and nurturing. Sometimes when we look at them, it’s so easy to simply see the action that’s in front of us at the time- low grades, a messy room, a bad attitude. This is not who they are. These are things they are doing. The person they are is much deeper than that and we must constantly remind them of such. When we pray aloud for them, we can thank God for a child who is gracious, loyal, humble, and encouraging. They hear this! Then eventually they will live it, even if we may not totally believe it at the time.
Take this challenge today: find a trait in your child that you believe they will become and speak it over them! Rather than tell them what they are doing, tell them how God sees them. Replace “you’re being bad” with “God created you to be loving!” Trade “stop making messes” with “you are confident and capable.” Remember, our kids are listening to us and they believe what we say about them. We can look deep and unearth their Peter Pan, the God-given traits in them that are ready to come to life.