Prepare Them for Life

Protection and provision are not enough.

“Here’s the paradox: If we protect our children too absolutely, we actually end up exposing them to other risks.  And leave them without the skills, experiences, and minor life lessons that they’ll need to handle the big challenges as they grow up.” (Perri Klass, M.D.)

When children are very young, they must be protected and nurtured in absolutely every way.  An infant is helpless and needy at all times.  He must be fed, clothed, changed, transported, and even cajoled into sleep – or else he will get sick and die.  Babies are totally unprepared for life.  Now flash forward 18 years, and that same human, now full-grown, had better not be helpless or needy, or else something very wrong has taken place in the meantime.  That 18 year old should be a strong, self-sufficient young man, able to learn on his own at school, have a variety of healthy relationships, and be able to do the jobs that other adults require of them, in order to have any success in his adult life.  After all, he is a legal adult with all the rights and privileges that come with: working, paying taxes, continuing education, voting, getting married, having children, and even fighting in a war.  He should be ready to fly on his own – maybe not soar yet, but fly enough to survive.

In a recent article about “helicopter parenting” we get a glimpse of the problem from the eyes of a college professor.  “Kathleen Crowley, a professor of psychology says parents’ eagerness to overdirect their children’s lives has led to young adults who are less independent and creative than the generation before. Twenty years ago, Crowley announced an upcoming test in her college classes and that was the end of the discussion. Now, she says she’s expected to provide students with a study guide so they know exactly how to prepare, and she’s had these same young adults come to her in tears because they’d earned their first B and didn’t know how to cope. Because of this “extended adolescence,” when these students graduate and enter their careers, they’re now offered workplace mentoring and on-the-job training just to ensure their success.” (Jennifer Gish)

So why are so many 18-28 year old men and women still in adolescence?  Why are so many having nervous breakdowns in the midst of their inability to deal with the trials of life?  Why are so many young men and women crippled (socially and emotionally) in the adult world?

The answer may be simple, but the solution is complex.  The young man’s parents, teachers, and coaches may have done a fine job of protecting and providing, but they did not prepare the child for adulthood.  The solution is not so simple.  HOW do you prepare a child to succeed on his or her own?  (The following is not a comprehensive list)

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Father or Friend?

Father’s Day.  We give Dad something like a pocket knife or a round of golf.  We remind him that we appreciate his work and that his role is valuable.  It’s a worthwhile holiday, even if it’s a bit underwhelming sometimes.  Nonetheless, a good dad is priceless, which is worth celebrating.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are deeply-saddened on Father’s Day.  It’s a painful reminder of what could have been, or once was.  There are so many who would give anything to have a father to celebrate.  So many men wish they could go back in time and do it over again.  So many had a terrific dad, only to lose him.  For too many, Father’s Day is a reminder of disappointment or tragedy: car accident, cancer, divorce, abandonment, infertility, suicide, or decades of emotional distance.  Let this be a reminder that fatherhood should not be taken for granted.

Fortunately, there are many men who have enjoyed the privilege of fatherhood for decades and have taken the responsibility very seriously.  They are fortunate, indeed, as are their children.

An old college buddy of mine wrote on his FaceBook wall the following tribute to his dad.  Growing up, he never was distracted by trying to get me to like him – probably the most impressive thing about his love for me. I see parents all the time that try to get their kids to like them so THEY can feel good. It takes a takes a hell of a lot of vision, self-confidence, and faith to be a great parent.”

It’s such a tough job, being a parent. It’s one thing or another, an uphill journey with no end.  It’s my firm belief that the price of being a loving parent is high, one way or another.  You pay now, or pay later.  But the highest price is the paid along the path of least resistance. Those who take the easy road parenting end up in the worst destinations.  But those who choose to sacrifice, serve, teach, discipline, encourage, and love their kids daily, making their kids’ needs (not wants) their top priority, will have a tough time of it too.  Later, however, they will enjoy the sweet fruits of their work, in the form of beautiful, powerful relationships – full of respect and affection.

Unfortunately, the norm seems to be that parents are giving up the hard role of being a parent and taking on the fun role of just being a friend.  So many kids are raising themselves – ineffectively.  They are figuring things out the hard way, or not figuring things out in any way.  And that is one of society’s biggest problems.  This is largely due to parents making deals with their kids to make them happy, rather than making the tough choices that lead to good character.

So, choose to be the adult in your relationship with your child.  And encourage others (tactfully, of course) to be the parent, not just a friend.  Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it.”  Training is tough, but it pays off.  Ask any athlete, soldier, or dog owner.

Be the adult, the teacher, the leader, the protector, the provider, the encourager — and yes, the friend.  The payoff will be immense.

Kids Should Work Alongside Adults

Unfortunately, many of today’s teenagers make no meaningful contribution to their families.  They have nothing more to contribute to the family than reluctantly taking out the garbage or picking up their room after being told again and again. That’s not a contribution. At that point it is more like self-preservation.

Kids need to be given responsibilities in the family that they can claim and make happen without parental badgering. It builds a sense of value and belonging. If they don’t have time, adjust their schedule to make time. Kids who make no meaningful contribution to the family tend to grow up feeling entitled and self-absorbed, making them rotten spouses, parents, and citizens as well.” – Mark Gregston, The Family Citizen (5.28.2010)

It’s important to note that young kids, as well as teenagers, need to be given tasks that are helpful to the adults in the house or playing field or classroom.  It should be totally normal for our kids to to little, helpful tasks.  They should expect to hear us say, “Hey Joey, go get those cones for me at the far goal.  Thanks, man.”  It should not shock them to hear us say, “Kathy, grab those books and that globe on the way up to the library for me.  Thanks.”  And at home, the adults should not always be working harder than the kids.  Kids should be working with their parents, not watching TV while mom and dad do all the preparing and cleaning for dinner.

Kids working alongside adults is good for everybody!

Mean Moms

Someday when my children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates a parent, I will tell them, as my Mean Mom told me:
I loved you enough to ask where you were going, with whom, and what time you would be home.
I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover that your new best friend was a creep.
I loved you enough to stand over you for two hours while you cleaned your room, a job that should have taken 15 minutes.
I loved you enough to let you see anger, disappointment, and tears in my eyes. Children must learn that their parents aren’t perfect.
I loved you enough to let you assume the responsibility for your actions even when the penalties were so harsh they almost broke my heart.
But most of all, I loved you enough to say NO when I knew you would hate me for it.
Those were the most difficult battles of all. I’m glad I won them, because in the end you won, too.
And someday when your children are old enough to
understand the logic that motivates parents, you will tell them.
Was your Mom mean?
I know mine was.
I had the meanest mother in the whole world!
While other kids ate candy for breakfast, I had to have cereal, eggs, and toast.
When others had a Pepsi and a Twinkie for lunch, I had to eat sandwiches.
And you can guess my mother fixed me a dinner that was
different from what other kids had, too.
Mother insisted on knowing where I was at all times.
You’d think I was a convict in a prison.
She had to know who my friends were and what I was doing with them.
She insisted that if I said I would be gone for an hour, I would be gone for an hour or less.
I was ashamed to admit it, but she had the nerve to break
the Child Labor Laws by making me work.
I had to wash the dishes, make the beds, learn to cook, vacuum the floor, do laundry, empty the trash and all sorts of cruel jobs. I think she would lie awake at night thinking of more things for me to do.
She always insisted on me telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
By the time I was a teenager, she could read my mind
and had eyes in the back of her head. Then, life was really tough!
Mother wouldn’t let my friends just honk the horn when they drove up. They had to come up to the door so she could meet them.
While everyone else could date when they were 12 or 13,
I had to wait until I was 16.
Because of my mother I missed out on lots of things other kids experienced.
I have never been caught shoplifting, vandalizing other’s property or been arrested for any crime. It was all her fault.
Now that I have left home, I am an educated, honest adult.
And…I am doing my best to be a mean mom just like my Mom was.
I think that is what’s wrong with the world today. It just doesn’t have enough mean moms!

(Author unknown)

Our Friend, Failure

I once heard a speaker named Dan Miller at an educator’s conference tell the audience about how he learned to fly an airplane.  First, you should know that he is disabled from polio as a teenager to the extent that he can only use one arm, and he walks with a serious limp.  His sickness had canceled his first flying lesson; becoming a pilot was his childhood dream.

In his autobiography, he admits that “Planes require two good hands and two good legs to work the controls, yokes, radio, and rudder pedals.  ‘Airplanes crash,’ they would say.  ‘You’ll kill yourself.’  ‘You only have one good arm.’ ‘Your legs are too weak.’  I heard a lot of dream-breaker statements… My first lesson was awful!  I had to reach across my body for the flaps, throttle, and trim.  Every time I’d reach for them, the plane would dip, tip, and do everything but fly straight and level.  I went all over the sky.  I couldn’t fly.  My lesson was a total failure.  But I could give up on my dream yet… The next try, though still not good, was better.  I tell people, ‘If it worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly at first.’

Dan eventually got his pilot’s license and has enjoyed many years of flying adventures.  He also taught himself to play golf with only one arm, and he’s good.  He scores in the mid-80’s regularly and has a hole-in-one to his credit.  Impressive.

Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly at first.  That is wisdom for all ages.  We need to embrace failure as a friend who is honest enough to tell us that we still need to work harder, listen to others, think more clearly, and learn more information. Failure has something to teach us every time.  That’s what makes people successful — learning from mistakes and persevering slowly toward the goal.

Consider this…

Whether it’s a left-handed layup, a math problem, or a new technological skill, kids need to be encouraged to do things poorly at first, then a little better each time, until they make real progress.  Then encourage them some more.  “See! I knew you could do it! You have improved so much! I’m proud of you. Really proud.”

Try it.

Continue reading “Our Friend, Failure”

Loyalty and Love Personified

John Wooden, the most-successful and most-revered basketball coach of all time, is a role model for so many men — and rightfully so.  To this day, as he approaches 100 years old, his character is so strong that the people around him want to be better because of his example.  Watch this, and you’ll get a glimpse of why he inspires so many people, near and far, with his loyalty and his love.

Let’s not forget that this kind of life is possible — and powerful.

We have a lot to learn from Coach Wooden.  Click here for more.

Active Parenting Works Best

Teenagers do listen

Parents who set boundaries find their influence pays off

Your Health By Kim Painter  (USA Today   2/8/2010)

Here’s some good news for parents of tweens and teens: You rule.

That may be hard to believe sometimes. And it’s true kids won’t always follow your health and safety rules. But studies show parents who keep setting boundaries make a huge difference. In other words, “parenting works,” even for teens, says Alanna Levine, a pediatrician in Tappan, N.Y., and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The latest example: a survey on media use by the Kaiser Family Foundation. It found that typical kids ages 8 to 18 spend an astounding 7 hours and 38 minutes a day consuming entertainment media, drinking deeply from the fire hose of TV, computers, game consoles, cellphones, music players and other devices (while occasionally glancing at books and other non-electronic media). Many experts, including the pediatrics academy, consider that much screen time bad for mental and physical health.

But the study also found that kids whose parents set any time or content limits were plugged in for three hours less each day. “Parents can have a big influence,” says Kaiser researcher Vicky Rideout.

And it doesn’t stop with screen time. Other recent studies have found:

Continue reading “Active Parenting Works Best”

Slowing Down for Kids’ Sake

On the way home from soccer practice last night, my son asked if he could join a track and field team.  This is right after an evening in which his mother spent 30 minutes shuttling him from his school to my workplace, where he worked very hard for 60 minutes on his homework, before we frantically sped home to quickly change clothes and scarf down some dinner, followed by a 30-minute battle with traffic to get to his 90 minute soccer practice, followed by a bleary-eyed 30-minute drive home.  The timing of his request was terrible, so he was hurt by my harsh response.

I had to explain to him that we just don’t have the time and energy to add that sort of commitment to our family life.  It was difficult for him to believe.  It’s a lot like when we say that we can’t afford to buy something, such as a massive plasma TV.  He doesn’t believe me because he knows that we can afford a house, cars, food, clothes, and all kinds of other expensive items.  So, I have to explain that we have to make choices because we can’t buy it all or do it all.  We have limited resources: time, money, and energy.  It’s hard for a kid to fully grasp the concept of over-commitment.

Continue reading “Slowing Down for Kids’ Sake”

The Power of Choice

Children lack power.  They can control very little in their lives, until they get a license to drive and the keys to the car.  So, when they don’t get choices, they seek power; they just find ways to push our buttons, in the hope that perhaps we will give them choices.  You can’t blame them for wanting to have a little control over their lives.  They are human (most of the time ☺), and humans by nature want freedom, even if it’s just a bit here and there.  But when humans are backed into a corner and have no choices, they rebel. They find a way – any way – to get a little power, a little control, a little something that makes life more enjoyable for them.

“Children, quite naturally, find out that parents are defenseless against disrespect.  Thus parents are terrified by it…So we need a way to manage ourselves so these guys will have no success in pushing our buttons, no matter which way they poke and prod our psyche…” (Loving Our Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk p.101)gripe out

Before you can give a child a choice, whether it’s in the classroom or in the car, you have to be in control of yourself.  You cannot, must not, give children choices (power) because you are sick of hearing them whine and complain.  Instead, you have to get yourself into neutral gear, not frazzled, fried, or frustrated.  That’s easy to say, but what do you do when your child (or student) is angry and you are losing patience?  You have to downshift.  Decelerate.

“When your child wants to argue with you, these one-line phrases are your best friend.  They are your sanity.  They are a way for you to kick your brain into neutral while the other person is trying to drive you into the Crazy Ditch.  They help you become sort of like a cloud, something that doesn’t react – something that cannot be controlled.  When your kid is throwing a fit, it is absolutely the worst time to have a reasonable conversation with that person.  Your child is absolutely emotionally wasted.  Your child is not looking for solutions at this time; he or she is looking for victims. This is a good time to just be a cloud.  Say, “I know.  I’m sorry.”  You are telling your child, ‘I am going to manage me while you struggle with you.’” (104-105)

To decelerate an argument, you have to stop lecturing and start giving very short responses to your child’s complaining, whining, worrying, and begging.

Continue reading “The Power of Choice”

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