Teach Your Kids Their Identity before the World Does

What Do You Want to Be?

When I was growing up, the adults around me seemed to always ask the same question: What do you want to be when you grow up? I always hesitated to answer because, in truth, I wanted to be Nancy Drew. I wanted to solve mysteries with my best pals. And I wasn’t sure if you could be someone who doesn’t even exist.

What do you want to be? This is a question of identity and purpose. In other words, Who are you and why are you here? It’s one of the most fundamental questions of life. And the answer our culture has come up with is very far from the truth.

Identity in an Unanchored World

In our culture today, identity is a hot-button topic. For many, it’s the most important conversation of the moment. Entire movements and philosophies and subcultures exist to explore this topic. And in a culture that has unhitched itself from any religious moorings—where fewer people grow up going to church or have any familiarity with the gospel of Christ—identity is tied to one’s emotions. Whatever one feels is the ultimate determiner of who one is. Watch any movie or television show and you’ll soon hear the “just follow your heart” worldview where a character will come to a pivotal moment in her life and a supportive friend or family member urges, “What does your heart tell you to do?” or “You should do whatever makes you happy.”

Who Are You?

Christina Fox

Designed for children ages 3–5, this engaging and lyrical picture book encourages kids to ask important questions about their identity while presenting a more stable and fulfilling perspective rooted in their relationship with God. 

Happiness. It’s the standard by which decisions are made. It’s the new moral measuring stick for how people live their lives. Whatever makes one happy is what shapes everything from politics to education to entertainment. It’s a gospel which is preached on every screen to any and all who will listen. The pursuit of one’s happiness is the highest calling, and that at any cost.

The training in this worldview starts with the very young.

The World Seeks to Disciple Your Children

Our children are being raised in a world in which identity and purpose are integrally connected to the pursuit of happiness. Contemporary culture teaches them from the youngest of ages that their purpose in life is to “you do you” and “do what makes you happy.” What this means is our children are being discipled by the world to pursue what their fallen heart’s desire most, that they are the only ones who know what is best for them, and that no one should interfere with that pursuit. They deserve it, and it is rightfully theirs. Our children hear it in popular music, in movies, video games, and on social media. It’s the background song to life in our present day. It is the assumed way to live. Should parents or anyone else object, they are the ones in the wrong, not the child.

“Happiness isn’t something you put inside. It’s already there.” (Poppy in Trolls)

“You are the one you've been waiting for all of your life.” (Elsa in Frozen 2)

Sometimes these messages are overt and other times more subtle, but they are there all around us. Like the proverbial frog being cooked in water slowly brought to a boil, we’ve grown so accustomed to the ways of this world that we often miss its doctrine. But as believers, we have a responsibility, a call, to disciple our children in the truth of God’s word. And we must do so before the world does.

As believers, we have a responsibility, a call, to disciple our children in the truth of God’s word. And we must do so before the world does.

Teach Your Children Who They Are

What is the truth our children need to hear? It starts with Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This is the crucial starting point. We must teach our children that God is the Creator of all that is. We are dependent creatures; all that we are and all that we have come from his sovereign hand. And as Creator, he created us for a purpose.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” —(Gen. 1:26–27)

We were created as image bearers of our Maker. We were made to reflect him in this world; we were made to glorify him. This means the pursuit of happiness is not our highest calling. In fact, we can’t know true happiness apart from our relationship with God. Because he created us, he is the source of all that gives our lives meaning and purpose. Saint Augustine summed it up best, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

As parents, we must be our children’s first teachers. We must disciple their hearts in the truth before the world does. We must teach our children that their identity—who they are—is found not in how they feel, not in what their fallen heart’s desire most, and not in seeking their own passions at any cost. It is found in who God created them to be: image bearers living for his glory (1 Cor. 10:31).

This is the truth we remind them of when they start to think that their ability to play soccer or dance a pirouette or solve an equation is the source of their identity. Or when how they feel about themselves contradicts what is true. Or when a bully on the playground calls them a name. They are God’s child, crafted by his hand and in his image, to live for him and his glory. When they want to know who they are, they look to God and to his word and what he says about them. This is the foundation of identity formation, one that anchors them in a fallen and broken world.

Parents, let’s disciple our children before the world does.

Christina Fox is the author of Who Are You?: A Little Book about Your Big Identity

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