Parenting, teaching, and coaching are mutual pursuits. At this stage in my life, I am involved in all three, and I firmly believe that the daily problems I face, the skills I develop, and the lessons I learn are parallel. So, when I recently read a book on parenting, it actually spoke more to me as a teacher and coach. The book is Loving Our Kids on Purpose: Making a Heart-to-Heart Connection by Danny Silk.
At first, I was not impressed because I had pre-judged the book by the back cover; however, the more I read, the more I found it to be insightful and helpful. I kept thinking about my behavior as a classroom teacher – how there are so many times when I win the battle but lose the war with kids. I began to see more problems with my behavior, and I eventually gained both inspiration and vision to change, along with some excellent practical advice for parenting.
This will be the first of a four-part series related to the book, in which I comment on some its most profound truths.
The Power of Connection
“The goal (of parenting) isn’t to get them to clean their room; it is to strengthen the connection to your heart. We will deal with the room, but if we lose the connection, we’ve lost the big stuff. We may win the battle, but we’ve lost the war.” (176)
The main idea of Silk’s book is that a strong emotional bond between parent and child is the single most important aspect of raising children. The rest is details.
I can testify to this from my experience being raised by a single mom. She did some things poorly as a parent, but my sisters and I always knew – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that she loved us deeply, believed in us completely, and would always be in our corner, no matter what. She never betrayed us and would never give up on us, and we tested her often. She showed us unconditional love, and as a result we still come back to her (and her values).
Faithful love. It’s the one thing that cannot be replaced. Unconditional love is the common denominator in every great relationship between an adult and a child, whether it’s a parent, teacher, coach, scout leader, youth group leader, or tutor.
“Raising a teenager is like flying a kite on a windy day. Teens are blown around by the culture, by peer pressure, and by hormones, and the string is my connection to my teenager, from my heart to his heart.” (180)
As kids grow up, their love language changes. It’s often hard to figure out how to communicate your love, especially when they are rude or distant towards you. The bottom line is that you must keep trying. Try something old, something new, something unusual. You might miss with some attempts, but the effort will not be missed, and in time the fruit of those attempts will come to bear. Just don’t neglect to ask questions, give a compliment, say “I love you,” look at old pictures, watch a movie, say “I’m proud of you,” play catch, play a video game, or anything. If hugs don’t work, then give high fives – whatever. Just do something, anything to make a connection.
“His heart is tied to my heart, and my heart is tied to his heart. That is all I really care about. I don’t care about his test scores. I care about whether he is going to try hard, no matter how big the mountain gets in his life. That’s what I care about. If I know that he can do that, and if he knows that he can do that, then I know he’s going to be fine. I can ask him to respond to what I care about before he understands it because we have a relationship of trust, respect, and honor.” (182-183)
There’s a saying: Rules without relationship leads to rebellion. The relationship between parent and child is the foundation of love upon which everything is built, while the rules are the walls of protection. Both are essential. One without the other is not a solid house. A foundation without walls is a ruin, whereas walls without a foundation is nothing but a flimsy trailer home blown over by the first storm.
How many times have I seen one without the other?
A. The permissive but loving family that tends to spoil their children.
B. The disciplined but unloving family that tends to micromanage their children.
Honestly, if those were my only choices, I would take option A. And what is ironic is that, from a distance, Family B looks much better. They have order and control, which looks great, and success often results from it. But the seeds of rebellion are sown throughout that orderly family, if love is not a constant presence.
The ultimate goal is to lead children with a healthy balance of expressive, supportive love and wise, firm guidance. Coming soon is Part 2 in the series, which will focus on the rules: disciplining children in love, rather than merely punishing them.