We’re all familiar with the term trophy wife. This term usually involves the rich, worldly man who chooses to marry not for love, but rather to show off a suitable trophy among his friends and business partners. The trophy is a beautiful woman, beautifully dressed, perfectly coiffed, manicured and lavishly bejeweled. Love never enters into this arrangement; it’s purely about image.
Did you know we can also have trophy children?
When we raise trophy children, it’s always about image—how we want to be perceived by others. We want to have the brightest, most talented, best-behaved children among our peers. Love may not even enter into the equation. We want to show off what we have that they may not have. We project the thought: Your children are disrespectful, lazy, underachievers; but look at my children! See how perfect they are? See how great I am? See how perfectly we raise our children? Don’t you wish you were like me?
Now that’s the cold, ugly side of it, of course. Few of us are that cold-blooded. But where does wanting the best for our children end and look at my children—they’re perfect begin? Sometimes the dividing line is narrow.
We all know about t-ball dads or cheerleader moms who live vicariously through their children, insisting that their children be the best player on the team or the best cheerleader on the squad. Their children become an extension of their own ego, and their focus less about who their children were created to be and more about how they want the world to see them as parents.
For some of us the temptation to raise trophy children is about academics. We want them to read before they’re three, speak French before they’re five, have the winning science experiment and make it to state finals in the spelling bee.
But for others it’s about raising spiritual trophy children. We want children who are active evangelists at seven, little Bible scholars at eight and number one in Sunday school attendance every year. We saddle them with expectations that none of us could possibly live up to. How many among us can say we never fell victim to any kind of sexual sin? How many of us can say we spent our youth praying and meditating on how to bring purity to Hollywood, holiness to Washington and revival to Europe? How many of us can say we listened only to Christian music in our youth? Yet these are the expectations we have for our children.
Don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that praying and meditating, listening to Christian music, etc., are bad. I am not saying we shouldn’t encourage our children toward righteousness and away from sin. Of course we should. But we should recognize that our children are no different than we are and that they need a Savior, too. They will fail. They will make poor choices. And God still wants to meet them right where they are—just the way He met us in our sin.
My encouragement to you today is this: help your children achieve academic success and spiritual growth. Help them become the man or woman God created them to be. But never confuse your desire to look good with your job as a parent to help direct your children. The moment our child’s achievements and behavior become all about our looking good, we have lost the battle, and we may lose our children. Children have an innate sense about these things and know when they’re being used as pawns in an ego game.
Wives aren’t trophies. Neither are children. Both are to be loved and honored, cherished and nurtured. Both are to be served by us, rather than becoming servants for us. They do not exist to make us look better or feel better about ourselves. Through them, we are given the opportunity to embrace self-sacrifice as we lay our lives down for others.
It never hurts to check our heart—to check our motives. Ask the Lord from time to time, is this about them, or is this about me? He’ll answer. He is faithful.
Those of us who homeschool often feel everyone is watching, including friends, family, neighbors and even the government. We want to succeed. We want to see our choice validated and to prove that our sacrifices have been rewarded. We want to present bright, well-educated, cheerful children with a deep sense of purpose and spiritual maturity beyond their years. But they’re still just children, just like we once were.
The answer isn’t to simply let children wander aimlessly without academic goals or spiritual objectives. Rather it’s to check our hearts and test our motives. It’s easy to slip over the line and begin raising trophy children without even knowing it.
Think about this. We want our children to be the best-behaved among all their friends. Perhaps we want our children to be the best groomed or the best at serving others. Maybe we want them to be the best at Scripture memorization.
But there can only be one best! Everyone else is not the best. Odds are that your child won’t be the best at geography, the best at history, the best at Scripture memorization, the best at math, the best at soccer or the best at caring for those who are younger or weaker. Only one child can be best at any of those areas.
But your child can be good at some of those things. He may even be pretty good at most of those things. And that’s good enough. God encourages us, His children, to grow, but he always loves us right where we are. I encourage you to do the same with your children.