Impacting Your Child’s Blueprint

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Written by monthly contributing writer, Trina Holden

It all started with a  mowhawk. Maybe I was finally tuning into my inner rebel. Maybe I wanted to prove to my son that how he wore his hair would never affect our relationship. After all, hair doesn’t really matter that much, does it? Whatever the reason, instead of buzzing all his hair short for summer, I left a strip on the top long, and showed him how we would mowhawk it next time we went out. It was cute and fun, and — I thought — entirely harmless.

Then came a conversation with my wise father-in-law over a family campfire later that month. I did a really brave (or stupid) thing, and asked him what he thought of how we were doing as parents to his grandchildren. I was not surprised when he mentioned the mowhawk. I tried to brush it off, to explain that it really wasn’t that big a deal. Jesse hadn‘t seemed to care much — it was pretty much a non event. But then Dad said something that opened my eyes to what I had been blind to. It wasn’t the mowhawk, or just the mowhawk that was the problem. He had observed that I had a tendency to put too much emphasis on physical appearance, and that giving my son a special hair cut at age 4 could be significantly affecting his blueprint in regards to his outward appearance.

What on earth is a Blueprint? We all have one –  it’s the mindset that shapes our thoughts and actions for all of life. Blueprints are set at a young age, often by a child’s first impressions on an issue. Many believe 5 years is the end of the first phase of childhood, and that life-long blueprinting has been cemented by this time. Biblical evidence backs up this theory. Moses was weaned at age 5 and left his home and his people, but he never forgot who he was. Samuel was also 5 when his mother left him in the care of Eli. She must have done well in training him in those first 5 years — he certainly didn’t become the Godly leader he was by following Eli‘s example. Our blueprint affects our choices about money, health, entertainment, relationships, self, God, and more.

After my conversation with my father-in-law I was suddenly sobered by the idea that the season of blueprinting my son was drawing to a close - he would be five at the end of the summer. We hadn’t  even started school yet, but he had absorbed so much. What did he already believe about life? His future decisions would be based on which impressions and examples he had received in these first years? And what was I subconsciously impressing on his little sister and younger brother? Now that I was aware of the process, what could I be doing to give them a more Godly, balanced blueprint? I quickly became aware of so many areas in which I needed to become more intentional.

  • Self-worth     Does my child get accepted and receive fellowship when he does good, and degraded or shunned when he fails? This can create a driven perfectionist who believes their worth is in their accomplishments. I need to affirm verbally and with actions that he is loved unconditionally.
  • Body Image     Am I putting too much emphasis on the physical appearance? I love to dress my kids and keep their hair tidy, but I need to be cautious of how much fanfare I create over their appearance. Overemphasizing beauty or looks can confuse the message that their heart is what matters most.
  • Technology     Does my child see that the internet is a tool, or that it takes priority over relationship with him?  My generation knows that we can live without the internet and cell phones, because we did until the last two decades. But he won’t have a vision for the proper role of technology in his media-saturated world unless I exemplify balance.
  • God     Does my child know that God is alive, personal, and loves him? Not unless I am living authentically before him – exemplifying and explaining prayer, repentance, humility, and the sanctifying power of the gospel will he have a blueprint that will guide him to a personal relationship with Christ.

Rather than feeling overwhelmed and fearful at the significant impact my every action can have on my son’s future, I’m excited and humbled by the opportunity to give him a strong foundation in things that are eternally significant. It drives me to go before God regularly to make sure I’m getting my own blueprint re-aligned with God’s view of me. May we be as intentional with what our children absorb outside the classroom as we are with the concrete lessons of reading and writing.

About Trina Holden

Trina enjoys offering hospitality from their 1800’s farm house in Upstate New York. She loves to encourage women to nourish their families, celebrate the journey, and choose to thrive at

23 Responses to Impacting Your Child’s Blueprint

  1. sandi October 10, 2011 at 7:58 pm #

    i adore the relationship that you have with your father-in-law. the ability to ask such a bold question and to reflect on his answer shows great maturity on your part. my father-in-law passed away just over a year ago after a battle with cancer. he was a man who could have taught our children many wonderful things.

    there are times i wish i could start over with our three ~ the oldest is 8 ~ there are many things i would do differently. nothing major, but i feel a bit wiser now. it’s hard to explain actually. but since we are not perfect and would probably make the same mistakes anyway, we have to renew ourselves daily. it’s truly a difficult job!

  2. Nicole October 3, 2011 at 7:29 pm #


    It’s been a few weeks since I have had the time to read this blog and tonight I’m excited to finally get to it. Making it greater is reading your post during a time when I’ve been thinking so much about my son’s future. It’s crazy how much a parent can long for a child’s future and where their heart is. Thank you so much for writing exactly the words I needed to hear.


  3. Colleen September 29, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Trina, I am amazed by your willingness to ask your father-in-law that question, and his willingness to give a gentle and honest answer — even though it probably wasn’t easy to hear at the time. And then for you to respond graciously by thinking through his words and truly taking them to heart – and sharing them with us – that is so neat. What a blessing to have that relationship – for all of you! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Messy Wife September 29, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    Thank you very much for this thought-provoking post. It is so true that we needed to be more intentional with our parenting. I often failed at realizing the message that I unintentionally communicated through my actions until I saw them acting out by my children.

    However, I also sometimes find parents shoulder too much of the responsibilities in bringing up their children. I could be wrong but I just feel that God is the ultimate guide in our upbringing. Even through our mistakes, he is guiding our children. I was not brought up in a christian family but as I looked back in my life after I became christian, I felt God’s presence. He was there to see the joy and sorrow I went through in my childhood.

    Yes, we have the responsibility to do our best with the resources that God has given us. We needed to be intentional, and try to do a better job tomorrow than today because this is a job that has been handed to us personally when He gave us our children. But He is the only one who could shoulder that responsibility of how our children turned out to be. And if we found ourselves making some mistakes today and worried about how those mistakes would affect them 10, 20 years down the road, it is just simply too much weight to carry. And I feel it also makes God smaller.

    I am sorry for the rambling. I just feel sad seeing so many stressful parents out there. And again, I truly appreciate your message which is timely for me to check-in with my actions. Thank you.

  5. Morgan September 29, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    This is amazing. We’re not even parents yet, but I follow this blog because of posts like this! I’m a big DIY-er, and I have already been influenced by the pressure out there to be the mom with the cutest outfits, the sweetest nursery, the best photos, and a picture perfect scrapbook to document everything. Yikes! These can certainly be gloryifying to God, but they don’t need to all be in place in order for me to consider myself a good parent. God has been teaching me lately that I don’t have to have the best of everything, and His love is more special than any of these things. This reminds me that my actions need to back that up. Thanks!

  6. Elise September 29, 2011 at 6:51 am #

    May I just say, first of all, that I am so impressed with both your question to your father-in-law, and even more so, your response to his honest answer? I don’t know a lot of women who would ask that and be really willing to listen to the answer and take it to heart. I’m thankful for your example!

    And thank you for your words here- so much of what you said is in my heart, but has found a difficult time making it’s way into words. It’s overwhelming, frightening, etc. to think of messing this up, but as my husband is fond of telling me while he holds my face between his hands and looks me in the eye… “Now that you know, it’s impossible to ignore. Get busy!:)

    Blessings, Trina.

    • Trina Holden September 29, 2011 at 7:48 am #

      Thank you for your kind comments, Elise.
      Whatever you do, don’t be discouraged – as has been pointed out to us in the other comments, we have a part to play, but ultimately God’s grace is bigger than our mistakes. We can do our best and rest that He will take care of the rest.

  7. Heather T. September 29, 2011 at 4:12 am #

    Wow this is a great post, it really got me thinking about my 3 boys and what they have learned and what they will learn!

  8. Erin September 29, 2011 at 3:49 am #

    Wow, Trina. Well-written and though-provoking. Sometimes I thank God that He hasn’t given us children yet. I feel like I’ve gleaned so much over the years to help us, as future parents, hopefully avoid as much error in our child training as possible.

    I think the beauty of walking with the Lord, though, is that He can transform us, even as adults. Your recent posts on your struggle with anxiety are proof of this. Yes, much of (if not most of) who we are is shaped as a young child, but God is able to overcome even the worst childrearing experiences. I know He has certainly changed so much of who I once was. He has power to do exceedingly above all that we could ask or think. There is grace for parents who feel they’ve failed and grace for those us who’ve not been raised as we should have been.

    • Trina Holden September 29, 2011 at 7:46 am #

      Erin, you’re absolutely right. We do need the encouragement as parents that ultimately, God’s grace is greater than human error.

  9. Jenna September 28, 2011 at 8:24 pm #

    Great post! As a parent of a 21 month old, I enjoy a reminder to be purposeful about our daily choices with regard to his development. At the same time, I try to lean on God more than my own understanding to give me wisdom and peace about all my parenting choices. After all, he blessed me with my son knowing what my choices would be and where my heart would fall – and yet he still trusted me to be his caretaker until he was old enough to carry out God’s plan for his life. Praise God for this time with him! I was once told that if you are worried about whether you are a good parent or not, that is a great indicator that you are – bad parenting usually comes from lack of caring!

  10. Natalie September 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    Very thought provoking! The idea of a blueprint by 5 years old made me think of the well-known controversy between nature vs. nurture. I think we’d all acknowledge that we are significantly shaped (very early!) by our family, environment, etc…yet we all seem to possess certain aspects from the time of birth! (energy level, sociability, curiosity)

    But no one knows what the ratio is between those two and how exactly they interact! We really have no way of knowing how much our five-year-olds’ unique traits are shaped by us vs. being inborn. We just know both are involved. (Sorry to ramble. Fascinating!)

    I am curious as to how your view of redemption fits into this blueprint idea. Maybe you could flesh out for me a situation involving a person with an ungodly or negative blueprint…what is the hope of redemption for them, and who they are? How do you view God dealing with that permanent blueprint? I hope I’m not nit-picking. Just curious.

    Paul comes to my mind as good food for thought: He was obviously a very passionate, hardworking, extreme person at whatever cause he set his heart on! That was just “him.”

    I actually imagine those traits as being neutral. It was his heart that directed his personal blueprint, so it was ultimately his heart that needed shaping and changing. Is it possible you are talking about the part of us that is really neutral, and needs to be directed AWAY from bad, and TOWARD the good? Not to mention totally changed by God in order to even have any inclination toward anything good?

    The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45

    The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Gen 6.5

    I might be missing something. Hope this makes sense. Just wondering how the idea of a blueprint jives with God’s redemptive work necessary for all evil hearts to produce any good.

    Thanks for sharing so openly! Love a good conversation like this! :)

    • Trina Holden September 29, 2011 at 7:44 am #

      Natalie, thank you for your thought-provoking response to my post. Obviously, I’m still in the middle of this parenting thing, and I appreciate productive discussions on stuff that’s close to my heart.

      The possibility of redemption from negative childhood imprinting has been fresh in my focus this week as I am reading “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Tedd Tripp. In Chapter 2 he addresses the “Mistakes in Understanding Shaping Influences” he talks about two mistakes we can make in the area of shaping our children. One is to be unaware or in denial that we have any influence on how our children turn out — the mistake I hoped to bring awareness to in this post.

      The second is “Determinism”, believing that the environment ultimately determines the outcome of our child-raising. I do not believe this to be true, because our children are not inert – they have a free will, a sin nature, and also the ability to be redeemed. That is why I’m not full of anxiety about my ability to give him a great blueprint – because I know that God can and does redeem us from our past. The blueprinting is not permanent – but it is strong. Thus the reminder to be aware that it’s happening.

      Yes, we can be ‘reprogrammed’ – I’ve experienced this myself. Though I was raised in a wonderful, Christian, homeschooling home, there are still aspects of my blueprint that need sanctification. It’s hard work to relearn unhealthy patterns, but I’m grateful that God is still working on me!

      Thanks again for your feed back – it’s helpful as I try to gain a balanced perspective on this aspect of raising my children.

  11. Ashley @ Root and Twig September 28, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    While I appreciate what your father was trying to say, there may come a time when NOT letting your son have a mohawk would send the same message (over-emphasizing appearance). Being creative in how we look, and having fun with it, can be a really positive thing if it’s not focused on obsessively. I’m sure that you are probably instilling good values in your children; it shows in how you write and what you think about (in these articles).
    I fear that we moms tend to overanalyze our mothering skills so much that we lose all confidence in decision-making– even in small things like haircuts. Certainly we must try to avoid mistakes, but not become paralyzed by fear. At least- I’m preaching to me. Fear over my ‘ruining’ my kids, or missing ‘windows of opportunity,’ can really get me down.

    • Trina Holden September 29, 2011 at 7:51 am #

      Ashley – you’re absolutely right – we can err on both sides in the impressions we give our children about outward appearance. There is definitely the need to be led by the Lord to find balance here.

  12. Kari September 28, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    So you have me thinking and I’d appreciate your ladies’ opinion…I have two girls 5 and 3. The youngest loves princesses. We don’t watch the Disney movies, but we do have some of the small plastic dolls and we dress up like the princesses. My 3 year old is already saying she doesn’t like her beautiful curly hair-she wants it straight like Rapunzel. Can playing princess dress up even lead our kids to a wrong perspective? “I need to wear a pretty princess dress to be pretty?”

    • Susie September 28, 2011 at 7:07 pm #


      This issue was not a concern for me as a mom of sons but now with two granddaughters, ages 7 and 2, it has been on my heart. While my granddaughters have been exposed to Disney princesses, including the movies I think, I have sought to help them see (to the best of my ability since we live some distance away) what the qualities of God’s little princesses would be. One of the ways I have tried to do this is in story books. My favorite is The True Princess by Angela Hunt. It has given us opportunity to talk about what is important (a thankful heart, etc.), what a princess should or should not be like (not obsessed with self or appearance, etc.), and so on.

      I don’t know the answer to your question, since a key component is seeking God’s wisdom in regard to each individual child and each child is different. Most little girls love to dress up and pretend to be princesses, but what might negatively affect one child might not have a negative effect on another child. I would say you have been given insight into one way in which your daughter is already leaning (by the fact that you asked the question, showing your concern that this particular child already has a strong bent about her appearance at her young age) so that you can offer appropriate ways of training her from this tender age on how to rightly respond to outward appearance and beauty and direct her to the importance of inward beauty.

      • Trina Holden September 29, 2011 at 7:53 am #

        Susie, I love how you are being pro-active in your granddaughter’s blueprinting. What a blessing and an inspiration to us.

    • Katie October 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

      I wish I had more helpful advice to give you in this issue (which I think is something, looking back, that I struggled with as a little girl). But one thing that popped immediately into my mind was also mentioned in Susie’s comment – proactively teaching your daughter about the other characteristics of a “princess”, such as kindness, a servant’s heart, obedience to authority, etc. I don’t know if you and your kids are really big readers, but an older book which I LOVE is The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (he influenced C.S. Lewis a lot). It was published in 1872 so the language is more accurate than many modern books but may be difficult to get used to until you’ve gotten several pages in. However I did read this to my niece when she was just three and she adored it. It has so so many great characters and opportunities to stop and “drive the nail home” by explaining the meaning of objects and actions etc. Plus it’s a great adventure!! Check it out on wikipedia for more info. Good luck to you in raising your daughters – don’t give up!

  13. Bobbi September 28, 2011 at 5:35 am #

    wow… so much to consider on this parenting adventure! thanks trina!
    I looked at my husband the other day and said (regarding my 10 month old) I just dont want to ruin her! i pray God will be there in my error and my good moves!

    • Trina Holden September 29, 2011 at 7:52 am #

      He is and will be, Bobbi – I have seen this in my own life!

  14. Kristina September 28, 2011 at 4:03 am #

    Thanks Trina, I never thought about it that way before. Now you have me thinking! Thank you much! It is good for me.hehe!

  15. Nikki September 28, 2011 at 1:11 am #

    I feel the responsibility oh so much! Thankfully, God is BIGGER! Quite possibly, our mistakes are the things that our children will need to help them draw nearer to God and build strength in their characters. It pains me to consider that because I never want to be a source of pain for my children.