When I use the special cookie scoop, my chocolate chip cookies come out much better. Their uniformity insures they cook evenly and don’t burn. I like to shape my cookies to be the same, but I’ve found the cookie cutter method doesn’t work well with children.

When I brought my first born home from the hospital the only way she would sleep for the first few nights was laying on my chest, her little ear close to my heartbeat. When her tiny seven pounds started to feel like 50, my husband would take a turn cuddling her. The bassinette beside our bed went virtually unused.

And then my son was born. We laid him in the basinet that first night and it wasn’t long before he started to fuss. Now an experienced mom, I knew just what to do. I lifted him from his bed and cuddled him on my chest. The little guy threw back his head and let out a squall. Shocked, I quickly returned him to the bassinette, where he squirmed briefly then settled in for a full night’s sleep.

While some parts of parenting remained the same, many were different with this second experience. As the other children came along, the parenting methods and teaching techniques were as varied as their personalities and learning styles.

The primary goal of our parenting and homeschooling has always been to teach our children about Jesus. In this too, the path has been varied. One child is a deep thinker whose questions about God are unending. Another responds in quick and easy faith. Direct examples and Scripture touch one, while another gleans Spiritual principles from books and movies.

As the older children become teenagers, I’m finding the cookie cutter method, which had only limited success when they were little, is even less successful now. What is good for one child is not necessarily good for the others. Each decision must be weighed carefully based on the child’s personality, maturity, and the leading of the Holy Spirit

My children surprise me with their strong personalities and strength of character. They don’t always see things the same way I do. For example, one of my children recently attended a function with other homeschooled kids. I felt a little uneasy with her chosen attire. She wasn’t dressed inappropriately. She was modest, neat—and very much her own style. I was concerned she’d stick out and feel uncomfortable or that others might judge her. I started to suggest she change, but then I realized it was my hang-up, not hers. I sensed that the Lord wanted me to set her free to make that decision on her own. He didn’t want her to comply with the social norm of that particular group of kids. He wanted her to learn to be herself.

Later, the Lord reminded me of something I’d prayed years ago. I’d asked that my children wouldn’t be cookie cutter Christians, merely living in Christian tradition and doing "Christian" things. I feared they would follow the cultural boxes I’d raised them in without finding a personal relationship with a living Lord. I wanted them to live a passionate adventure of faith, not a safe, institutional religion.

I didn’t realize when I prayed that prayer that God would someday lead them outside my safe little box or that their journey to Him would include a development of strong individuality. I didn’t know there would be times I would wish they’d just "fit in" a little more instead of marching to their own beat or that I’d have to learn to look to God’s approving eyes instead of the raised eyebrows of my social circle when they expressed their uniqueness.

The Lord has been encouraging me to allow my children to develop in the way He is leading—not the way I necessarily thought they would go, or the way our sub-culture expects. He’s asking me to evaluate their development and choices based on His criteria instead of my own and to pause and seek Him before giving a quick response.

When I’m unsure of the direction I should allow them to go, I’m learning to pray for guidance and ask some questions: What’s the attitude of my kid’s heart? Does she love Jesus? Is his request born out of rebellion or self-expression? Is there anything immoral or dangerous in the desire? Sometimes there are reasons to say no, but often I should say yes, and allow my children to develop as individuals who seek God’s leading, not just as kids who fit a sub-culture.

These days, I am amazed by the ramifications of that innocent prayer I prayed back in the days of cherub faces, play dates, and ABC’s. I wonder what God will do with these almost adults who possess such inner strength and unique, strong personalities. Are they meant to fight spiritual battles I’ve not yet experienced? To follow God to unknown places I’ve never been? To stand firm and be unique in a world that doesn’t know Jesus?

When God reminded me of the cookie cutter prayer I’d prayed when the children were little, He assured me He’s answering it. I won’t have cookie cutter kids. That makes my knees knock! But it also makes me excited to see all they will become and how the Lord will use them to reveal Himself to our world.

A home schooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God's grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website offers home schooling hints, book reviews, and a free weekly devotional, Soul Scents. Subscribe to Soul Scents at www.soulscents.us. You can contact Paula at Paula@soulscents.us.