Seeking approval from others is very common in children, and in most of the rest of us, too! However, I want to suggest that needing another’s approval is not only common, but also very healthy – a desire that God Himself created in us! Does that surprise you? It might, in a culture where we are taught that we should not want anyone’s approval, but should only rely on our own “self-acceptance” and not worry about what others think of us.
Okay, so it’s true that we don’t want our kids to be “people-pleasers”, to be looking for the approval of “men”. That’s not the kind of approval we’re talking about, because approval from “others” is not where we should get our identity, or what should determine who we are or our sense of self.
But there is a desire that God created in us to need approval from someone, to know that someone is pleased with us… and that someone is God Himself! Yes, He wants us to want to please Him, because He loves us and wants the very best for us… and so one way we honor God is through our desire to please Him, a desire He created in us from the very beginning!
When God created Adam and Eve, He created them in such as way that they might “need” each other. Together, they enjoyed God’s company in the Garden He had provided for them. But when they disobeyed God, they hid from Him… why? Because they were afraid… because they now knew they were naked – and they were ashamed. And they knew that something hand changed… they had messed up, and had disappointed Him – that they had not honored Him. And they knew He would not be pleased with them. (See Genesis 2 and 3)
Now, let’s look at God’s own son… Before Jesus started His earthly ministry, immediately after He was baptized God affirmed His love for His Son, affirmed His approval of who Jesus was. And this was before Jesus did anything really spectacular! But it was also before He was taken away to the desert, and then tempted by Satan. I believe God knew that His Son would need that unconditional approval from His heavenly Father to get him through was He was about to experience! (Matthew 3:13-4:11)
Later Jesus would honor His Father by submitting to His will and dying on a cross for us… aren’t you glad that having God’s approval was important to Jesus…? I am!
And what about you and I? Don’t we want God’s approval? Don’t we desire for Him to be pleased with us? Don’t we long to one day hear those precious words spoken to us as He welcomes us home in heaven: “Well done, My good and faithful servant…”? We want to please God, because that honors Him!
Now, back to our own kids… Is it wrong for them to want to please us? No, and their desire to please us comes quite naturally – that longing they have for our approval, to know that we are pleased with them. This is where their relationship with God starts! When they are young, children will get their sense of identity from us, so that as they get older, they’ll learn to seek their identity form God. So how do we as parents respond to that desire of theirs to please us?
God established you and I as parents to teach our children a form of what their relationship with Him should be like. Most kids learn to have a relationship with God based on what their relationship with their parents is like. Therefore, we teach our kids that as they seek to please us, it should be done as a way to honor us – because of the unconditional love we show them… so that one day they will honor God by wanting to please Him, seeking only His approval for who they are!
Remember that teaching kids to honor us by doing things that please us only works when we show them unconditional love first! After all, that’s how God did it with us! And remember, what we are teaching our kids about relating to us, is how we ultimately want them to relate to God!
So go ahead and expect them to please you… to seek your approval… they need that! And let’s make sure we’re demonstrating our unconditional love for them first! In a sense, they’ll be saying “Mommy, daddy, I just want to please you because of how much you love me… I want to show you just how much I love you, too, by honoring you and doing those things that please you!”
Unconditional love poured out on our kids… and them, in return, wanting nothing more than to please us… and in the process learning to want nothing more than to honor their heavenly Father by pleasing Him… could we ask for much more?
May God’s grace and blessings be with you as you continue to build a heritage of faith for your family!