Forming Identity in Kids

Kids are often asking the question, whether consciously or unconsciously, “who am I?” This is especially true as they enter the preteen and teenage years. How do we form a healthy identity in them?

The Bible shows us two critical truths about their identity. It is like two-sides of the same coin, and both sides are equally important.

First, they need to understand at the core that they are made in the image of God. Psalm 139 describes this beautifully. Verses 13 and 14 say, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Each child is special, unique, and worthy of being treated with dignity and respect. As parents, we need to point out the ways that they are special, reasons we are proud of them, and a strong sense that we love them no matter what. This will form their identity in a healthy way.

However, can you imagine a child who only hears how special they are? A child who never sees their brokenness, and is never corrected when they do the wrong thing? That child would be sadly “spoiled,” and may end up seeing his/herself at the center of the universe.

That’s why the other side of the coin is so important. It’s the truth that “we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Children are sinners who need a savior. They are broken, and they make immature, sinful decisions. If we neglect to discipline them in this, we are not forming their identity in a healthy way. As parents, we need to lovingly correct wrong behavior, modeling how to repent and receive forgiveness. One of the best ways to do this is by setting the example and apologizing for our sin, especially when our children see us sin. I’ve had to apologize to my kids a few times!

But, can you imagine a child who only hears how sinful they are? This child will struggle to receive love, to feel valuable, and may live in constant guilt and shame.

When we bring the two sides of the coin together, we arrive at the gospel! At the core of identity is the gospel! The gospel is the good news that God created us in his image, we rebelled as sinners, and then God acted to reconcile us to Him. “God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The gospel brings the two sides of the coin together and will form our children’s identity in the most important way: to be a child of God through their relationship with Jesus Christ. Point them to Jesus!