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Support and Challenge
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“A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory” (Matthew 12:20).

When I was a young kid, my mom signed me up for t-ball one summer after school let out. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. I wasn’t very big for my age and didn’t know much about baseball. So, I began riding my bike to the school ball field every week day for a month.

T-ball gets its name from the placement of the baseball on an adjustable tee on top of home plate. It is set to the right height so the young batter has a better chance of hitting the ball. A couple of high school guys taught about 20 of us elementary kids.

I was nervous the first time I stepped up to the plate. After a few clumsy swings, one of the coaches stepped up behind me, put his hands over my hands and helped me take a few practice swings. Then he encouraged me to “go for it.”

Parenting is a Balance

Coaching kids is a bit like teaching t-ball. There is need for both support and challenge. Parenting is a balance of providing assistance to your kids, but not too much. If a coach did all the swinging, the child would never learn to hit the ball. In the same way, if a parent does everything for their kids, they’ll never learn to clean their room, wash dishes, mow the lawn or do their homework.

This balance of support and challenge is called “the zone of proximal development.”1 Sensitive parents, like good coaches, provide the right amount of each in order to help their children grow. They don’t step in too soon and just “do it” for their kids, nor do they sit back and say, “Figure it out yourself.”

Most of us tend to parent with a bit of imbalance in these two areas. Our children end up feeling neglected or controlled. Like my t-ball coach, we need to know when to step behind our kids to give them a little guidance, and when to step back and say, “Go for it. I know you can do it!”

Lord, give me the balance to guide my children today with both support and challenge.

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By Curtis Rittenour. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION ©.

1 (Attachments, Tim Clinton and Gary Sibcy, Integrity Publishers, 2002, p. 133)

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