Different From Dad

Close-up of a boy missing his front teeth holding a skateboard on his shoulders
John Burcham/National Geographic/Getty Images

My parents had four sons: a football player, a baseball player, a scholar and a musician. I was the captain of the football team in high school. Everybody eagerly went to the football games, but when there was a choir concert, my mother made all of us go. When my brother played trombone, we all went to hear his solo. Our parents valued all of our talents.


"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it" (Proverbs 22:6). Many people understand this verse to be a reminder of how important it is to teach moral standards, but I believe this verse is also directing parents to pay attention to their kids' unique personalities and raise them with an awareness of their individual needs.

I have two sons, and they have different skills and personalities. My older son was in the military and works for Homeland Security. School was easy for him. My younger son played baseball. He had to work much harder at school. He writes poetry and has a sensitive heart — not necessarily things you'd expect from someone who has played professional baseball. My wife and I could have raised our boys with the same expectations, but I don't think that's what God wanted from us as parents.

Helping kids flourish

Neither of my sons pursued "the ministry" as I did. We wanted them to flourish in the areas God intended for them. Children need to know that parents are excited about what God made them to be, not that we're frustrated about what God did not make.

Tommy Nelson is the senior pastor of Denton Bible Church and the author of Walking on Water When You Feel Like You're Drowning.

Who are your children – really?

Here are a few questions to help you adjust your parenting to your child's unique bent: 

  • What is your child's "love language" — quality time, gifts, touch, acts of service or words of affirmation? (For more, listen to Speaking Your Child's Love Language.)
  • How does your child relate to others? Is your child compassionate, caring, bold, prayerful?
  • When is your child most teachable? Some children can be easily corrected with a word. Others need to learn the hard way.
  • Where does your child show natural skill — academics, sports, art, music?
  • Who is your child? Do you have a social butterfly, a take-charge leader, a bookworm?


This article appeared in the October/November 2012 issue of Thriving Family magazine. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing for a gift of any amount.

Copyright © 2012 by Tommy Nelson. Used by permission.

Next in this Series: What Every Dad Should Tell His Son

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