Nurturing Your Child's Potential

By Elaine Olson

The writer of Proverbs exhorts parents to "train up a child in the way he should go."i As parents, we have the responsibility to look for the potential inside each of our children and encourage and equip them to achieve it. Our children are happiest when they can express who God made them to be. This type of training requires insight, wisdom, and faith.

The Bible tells the story of a woman who possessed this type of insight. Her name was Jochabed. Moses was her son, and Jochabed saw that Moses was beautiful.ii I doubt she was merely looking at his outward features. (At 3 months old, most babies look the same!) I believe she had insight into the beautiful potential of her child.

As the story goes, Pharoah ordered all the Hebrew baby boys to be murdered. So Jochabed, a Hebrew, carefully concealed Moses in a basket and sent him down the Nile River. Eventually, the basket found its way into the hands of Pharoah's daughter who recognized Moses as a Hebrew baby. She immediately favored Moses, so rather than take him home, which would have meant his certain death, she hired a Hebrew woman to hide and raise him for a few years. Though Pharoah's daughter didn't realize it, the woman she had hired was the child's mother.

What a story! Why did Jochabed get Moses back? I believe God returned Moses to his mother because He could trust her. Her insight was what God needed to train Moses in the way he should go. It was during his early years, the formative years, that his potential would require careful cultivation to ensure he would fulfill God's great purpose for his life. Jochabed had the insight and commitment to unlock his potential.

Like Jochabed, we have our children for a few brief years to cultivate their potential. Our insight must be keen. We must be able to look beyond the natural circumstances and see what God has deposited within each of our children. Their potential is limitless, and it is our responsibility as parents to unlock it!

See Your Children as Achievers

One of the greatest attributes a child can possess is the belief that they have potential. But a child will only believe about himself, what his parent believes about him. As John Maxwell said, "A child has no clear picture of himself. He sees himself only in the mirror of his parents' evaluation of himself." Developing an attitude of unlimited potential starts with the parent. No matter what happens in any given day, if we think our child has potential, we are more likely to work to develop that potential with them. Proverbs 23:7 tells us that "as a man thinks in his heart, so is he."

Discovering Your Child's Potential

You may be wondering, "How do I discover my child's potential? Following are three practical tips:

1. Observe what comes naturally to them.
Our second daughter, Jenessa has natural strength and agility. This became obvious when at 4 months old, she was crawling and by 8 months, she provoked stares of disbelief as she walked through the local park unassisted.

When we lived in Africa as missionaries, my husband made a swing for our children out of rope and small board to sit on. While our eldest daughter, Brittany (3 at the time), sat, gingerly enjoying the swing, Jenessa (2) would stand on the swing, practically pumping over the top when it was her turn. We could see she was naturally fearless, athletic, with a good sense of balance. We encouraged that potential within her. Today, at 13 years of age, Jenessa has broken several school records in track and field. Looking at her natural ability, it's completely possible for her to fulfill her potential (and dream) to compete on a much larger scale.

2. Listen to what your children talk about.
Whenever I hear our oldest daughter, Brittany, talk to her friends, the topic usually includes travel. She's not shy about her pursuit of adventure. These conversations are clues to what God has placed inside her heart. In our minds, her potential to travel the world is limitless. Now that she is only 2 years away from completing her formal education, we have been researching with her Bible college opportunities around the globe, teaching her to pray and believe God that the dreams she speaks about will become reality.

3. Potential can be discovered through people who
influence our children's lives.

This happened with our 11-year old daughter, Madison. While her joy and energy is obvious, I've often wondered where the real potential lies within her heart. Several of her teachers have commented about Madison's dramatic flare and natural stage presence. They say.
"When she stands at the front of the class she is confident and expressive." At this point, the specific direction of her potential is still unknown, but her teachers' observations are valuable clues and confirmations to us as parents.

Whatever your child's hidden potential, faith and patience will bring it to maturity. As parents, seek the heart of God. Pray not only for your children, but for yourself as well. With faith and patience you will accurately discern and nurture the precious potential God has placed in your care.

Elaine Olson is a Master's prepared Christian counselor with a private practice in Ilderton, Ontario. She counsels, mentors and teaches around the world with a mission to build families, mentor women and strengthen marriages. As a wife and mother of three girls, Elaine's experiences and wisdom have been captured in her book "Family Matters".
You can reach Elaine at:

i. The Bible, Proverbs 22:6
ii. The Bible, Exodus 2:2

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