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Christian Parenting Tips: Help Your Kids Gain a Healthy Self-Concept

When passing on Christian parenting tips to others, one of the more important one's I communicate involves helping kids develop a healthy self-concept.

I came across the following humorous story that illustrates this issue:

Some people feel a need to cover up a lack of self-confidence by trying to make a big impression.

He told the story of a newly promoted Army colonel who moved into his new and impressive office. As he sat behind his new big desk, a private knocked at his door. “Just a minute,” the colonel said, “I’m on the phone.”

He picked up the phone and said loudly, “Yes, sir, General, I’ll call the President this afternoon. No, sir, I won’t forget.” Then he hung up the phone and told the private to come in.

“What can I help you with?” the colonel asked.

“Well, sir,” the private replied, “I’ve come to hook up your phone.”

All of us want other people to like us and be impressed with us. Our children are no exception.

Sometimes kids look in the mirror and are tempted to say, “Thanks a lot, God. You really blew it when you made me.” Some kids think they’re too fat, too thin, too tall, have a big nose, have a funny voice, bowed legs, big feet, acne, big ears, crooked teeth, no muscles, no talents, not enough brains, and much more (or much worse).

Today all of us are tempted to focus on external appearances. Just look at the ads on TV. Many of the products we see advertised are supposed to help us look younger or better in some way. We’re conditioned to think that we do not look good enough as we are.

Scripture tells us that while man may look on external appearances, God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). It is crucial to instill this wisdom in our children. We need to help them see the importance of inner beauty, which is lasting, as opposed to outer beauty, which fades quickly.

A Principle to Remember
God looks not on external appearances but on the heart.

Biblical Basis: “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

What Are You Modeling?

In teaching our children the truth of 1 Samuel 16:7, the place to begin is with ourselves. What do our children see us modeling? Do we subtly communicate to them that people absolutely have to have those advertised beauty “extras” in order to appear right. Or do we communicate the importance of inner beauty. Our children are watching. They pick up on our attitudes and imitate them.

Are you excessively preoccupied with your appearance? If so, you are teaching your child to do the same.

Also ask yourself, Do my verbal compliments to my children regarding dress, hair, and outward appearance outnumber my compliments on their character, efforts, and jobs well done? If the answer is yes, then make it a point to correct the ratio, remembering that inward beauty is more worthy of compliment.

~ Shortcut to Understanding ~

Free free to share this story with your child:

You’ve seen peanuts, haven’t you? Sure you have!

Peanuts don’t look that great on the outside, do they? In fact, the shells of the peanuts look kind of old and rough. They’re kind of lumpy, and they’re shaped funny.

But when you open up that shell, you find a beautiful, delicious peanut inside. Yum. It tastes great. And it looks great. It’s odd that something so nice would be inside something that doesn’t look so great. But that’s the way God made peanuts. I love peanuts, even though they don’t look that great on the outside.

That’s kind of the way it is with people too. The important thing is not what we look like on the outside, but what we’re like on the inside. God looks at our hearts, not at our hairstyle or our clothes.[1]

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

In Psalm 139:13-14 the psalmist affirmed to God, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

We are fearfully and wonderfully made! God made us just the way we are. Despite this, our kids are still very sensitive about the way they look. So, here’s a piece of advice. You will make a forever friend with your child if you make special efforts to do what you can to enhance his or her natural beauty. Now, I’m NOT contradicting what I said earlier. I’m not saying we should communicate that they need all those beauty “extras” to be attractive. What I am saying is this:

• Take them to a dermatologist if they’re breaking out with acne.

• Take them to an orthodontist if their teeth are crooked.

• Let them get their hair styled.

• Provide them with some appropriate and fashionable clothing. I guarantee your child will appreciate all this!

You can do all of this while at the same time emphasizing the importance of inner beauty.

A Point Made from Biblical History

A look at biblical history reveals that many of the people who have made the greatest impact on this world have not exactly been physical specimens of beauty. Consider John the Baptist. Scripture tells us that “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt round his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4).

Despite this apparent unattractiveness (according to the world’s standards), Jesus said of John the Baptist, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). That’s high praise!

Also consider Jesus Christ Himself. Very often we see paintings of Jesus that portray a very good looking man — sort of like a model with long hair. Yet Isaiah the prophet said of Jesus, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).

This brings us back to the main point — God is more concerned about inner beauty than outer beauty.

Now, it is interesting that the Bible talks not only about individuals that had little external beauty that were mightily used of God (such as John the Baptist), but also talks about those with tremendous beauty who ended upon sinning woefully against God.

Saul is an example. We read in 1 Samuel 9:2 that Saul was “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites — a head taller than any of the others.” Physically he was hard to beat. He looked good. He was chosen to be Israel’s king. But Saul sinned against God and rejected God’s Word. Hence, the Lord rejected him as king (see 1 Samuel 15:22-23).

The moral of the story is this: What you look like ultimately means very little. But what you’re like on the inside means a great deal.

[1] Adapted from JoAnne E. De Jonge, More Object Lessons from Nature (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991), p. 73.

— Dr. Ron Rhodes

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