This is the third in my series of mistake we as parents can avoid. Today I am writing about prioritizing our children's happiness. Wanting our children to be happy sounds like such a great thing, but it is fraught with danger. Happiness is something we all want, but it is not achieved by focusing on being happy. Instead it is a byproduct of doing what is right and adding value to the lives of others. It seems very strange, but happiness is one thing that is not achieved by focusing on it. Instead, focusing on our children's happiness only serves to make them more self-centered and dissatisfied with life.
So on what can we focus to help our children be happy as a byproduct? Dr. Elmore suggests our children need to hear five things from us.
Watch. They need to see an adult who has direction and discipline in his or her life. They need to see someone who is not self-centered, someone who invests in other people.
Practice. Children have plenty of amusements that offer pleasure, but they need help practicing something until they are good at it, choosing something important and working on it until they master it.
No. They need a mentor, not a buddy. They have lots of buddies who will enjoy the moment with them, but only you are the parents who will watch out for their future by keeping them on a good moral and emotional track right now.
Wait. Most children are not naturals at delayed gratification; they need our help. Waiting for things will help them to more appreciate those things.
Serve. As a culture we are beginning to wake up to the need to reach out and do something larger than ourselves. High schools and colleges are beginning to require community service. It's one of the reasons our students take turns visiting Grace Care Center to sing to the residents. Working to build something outside ourselves and larger than ourselves gives a sense of satisfaction that immediate gratification can never accomplish.
I hope these practical suggestions will be helpful to all of us in our roles with our children.
Blessings on your parenting,
Last week I wrote to you about one of the big mistakes we can avoid as parents not letting out kids fail. This week I'm writing about another one, projecting ourselves onto our children. This can happen in two ways. First, we may want our children to be exactly like we are, to follow in our footsteps. The second and opposite way is when we hope our children will turn out differently than we did, to avoid our disappointments. Either way we are projecting ourselves onto our children. And either way we put pressure on them to be someone they are not. Both of these can cause our children to be motivated not by their own gifts or identity but by ours. That's never a healthy situation. Additionally, because both parent and child are acting out of wrong motives, their relationship becomes strained.
So how do we change this? Number one is to model a healthy identity ourselves. Never underestimate the power of the example we set. The attitudes our children develop are more caught then taught. Our children don't do what we say, they do what they see us do. We must make sure they know our love for them is unconditional. We must express our love regardless of whether they follow in our footsteps.
Please understand, it's okay, even desirable, to tell stories about what we did when we were growing up. Children learn from this. What I'm saying is we should not expect our children to be exactly as we were.
Model a healthy transition. When our children are very young, they need a lot of supervision and close direction. As they grow older they can begin to make more of their own decisions. How do we know if we are letting them control an age appropriate number of decisions? A good guide is to remember that they need to be "ready to ship" by 18. They transition from making no decisions at birth to all decisions at 18. That's when we move to the consultant role. If I'm letting them make major decisions when they are only 12, they are likely to make wrong ones with lifelong consequences. Likewise, if I'm making all their decisions when they are 16, they are going to have a difficult transition to adulthood. Consider what decisions they are making now, and put those decisions on a line graph from now (current age) to 18. By this we'll know if they are on track.
There is no perfect gauge of the maturity process. We use our God given judgment and do the best we can with the children He has placed in our care.
Blessings on your role as a parent,
February 10, 2015
Last week I wrote that I'm planning to describe big mistakes that we as parents can avoid using Dr. Tim Elmore's book by that name. The first one is that we won't let our kids fail. By failure I mean those little mishaps that we tend to blow up in our own minds and make them huge emotional losses, when in fact they are learning opportunities for our kids.
Why is it that we as parents don't want to let our kids fail? Dr. Elmore lists three possible reasons. The first is that sometimes we parents treat our children as our little trophies. We want them to be reflections of our own success. We may even want them to be expressions of what we could have been. The second is that our families are now smaller than they used to be. I grew up in a family of eight children. My mom could not possibly have been a hovering helicopter even if she had wanted to. Today we focus our energy on fewer children, so each one has to be perfect. The third is that we assume our kids are too fragile to recover from life's little failures. We don't realize that failures will allow them to grow and become stronger.
So how do we overcome this problem? The first way is to create a safe place to fail. For example carpet -- when a child is learning to walk, falling on carpet is a good thing. The child learns how to walk without cracking his head on concrete. Falling and skinning your knee when first learning to ride a bike is a positive thing. It teaches us about pain, being careful, and the importance of balance. This knowledge of the pain produced by collisions is important before learning to drive.
The second action is to help our children see the benefits of failing. Failure creates resilience in our children. Failure forces us to reevaluate and come up with a new plan. Failure can motivate us for a better performance in the future. And failure prompts creativity and discovery. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "The things which hurt, instruct".
So when life's little failures come along, remind your kids, it's not the end of the world. Ask them what their new plan will be. Tell them you know they can solve the problem. That confidence and encouragement will build far more self-esteem than rescuing.
Parenting is hard work, but it's one of the greatest joys in life. God has given you a great blessing and a great responsibility in this role. It's our joy to be your partner.
Blessings on your role as a parent,
This is the first of a series of emails that I intend to send to you related to one of my favorite books "12 Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid" by Dr. Tim Elmore. What I will cover here and in the upcoming emails is only a small portion of what Dr. Elmore discuss this in his book. I am not going to make this a series of 12 articles, one for each of the mistakes. Instead I am going to randomly choose some that I think the most poignant.
Let me begin by pointing out the obvious -- how different children are today, primarily because of how the world around them has changed. I have adapted to the point that I use my phone instead of a watch, a calendar, a camera, and a to-do list. Our kids have grown up with that plus more. They also use a phone for games, posting photos to social media, etc. Having tools like this available is an advantage but provides new challenges.
This kind of connectedness means our kids do not depend upon us for information as we did our parents. Instead they need us for interpretation. They need help understanding the veracity of their information and how it affects them. So let them google anything they want, but then ask what is your source? How do you know about its reliability? Ask how that information affects their lives and how they will use it.
Today kids can broadcast their emotions to all their friends instantly through the power of Instagram, but .they need us to help understand how to harness that power and when to temper it. Look at posts on Twitter or Facebook together. Ask them who they think will read it and what that person's reaction will be.
Even as the technology of our world is changing rapidly, it's important to recognize some things that have not changed. Thoughts, emotions, values, faith life, relationships with people are all still very similar to the way they have been for centuries. As adults we can help children understand what in this world is static and what it dynamic. Adapt to the changing technology, and enjoy the eternal reality.
Blessing's on your role as a parent,