Heart-to-Heart Connection

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.  PunishmentI 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)

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Real Men Drive Minivans

There comes a time in a man’s life when the favorite car gets traded in for a minivan.   It’s a bitter pill to swallow, and in time you start loving its usefulness.  You begin to think that it’s worth all that money.  Then you see all the stains, smells, dings, scratches, and dents that pile up on that thing, and you just want to scream.  It’s one of many little – and not so little – sacrifices that men make for their families.  One day I heard one of the car guys on Car Talk call the popularity of the minivan the “wussification of the American male.”  I laughed, then wanted to cry.

Leading kids, whether its parenting, coaching, teaching, or mentoring, requires self-sacrifice.  But it’s really not a sacrifice; it’s a series of trade-offs that may seem awful in the short view, but they are worth it all in the long run.  72estate05-crop

I had a baseball coach in middle school who had this awful Chevy station wagon, but it was a great way to lug half the team and all the gear around town.   He hated that old beater of a car, but he loved us.

Andy Gullahorn is a terrific singer/songwriter from Nashville who should be a lot more popular than he is.  His song “More of a Man” speaks to all the 30-something Dads out there.

The summer when I turned sixteen / I got up each day before the dawn / I was building barns and bailing hay / Worked harder than the day was long.  /  Now I’m 30 and I have three kids / I watch Dora the Explorer in the morning / I feel a sad truth sinking in / Maybe I was more of a man back then.

Buy the song on iTunes for a buck, or do yourself a favor and buy the whole album.

There are many things I miss from my bachelor days or the days with my wife before kids.  But the trade-offs are worth it all.  And so much of life is a package deal.  With the deteriorating minivan comes countless smiles and laughs.  And meaning.

So I suck in my protruding gut  / On our monthly dinner night / You’re saying something about the kids  / As I watch these young men pass me by. / I remember I was just like them / I was lonely but I called it independent  / And if lonesome is what manly is / Baby, I was more of a man back then.

This reminds me of one of my favorite movies, The Family Man, which always reminds me why “I choose us,” minivan and all.

Embracing Interruption

Today was the first day of the school year, the day when the hallways of our middle school are jam-packed with beaming 12-14 year olds.  They are beaming with delight at being reunited with their old friends, beaming with suntanned faces full of braces, and beaming with shiny new school supplies, locker decorations, and fresh-out-of-the-box Nikes.
back to school
It’s pretty exciting, really, even for a guy who has socks older than these kids.  The buzz is real.  You can feel it all day long.

And on day one of school, it feels right and very innocent.  Every one is curious all day, going from classroom to classroom, anxious to discover who they will be with all year.  Teachers feel the same way about it, checking out the kids, seeing if we might know their parents or siblings.  We are all trying to get a feel for what the whole year might become and trying to make the best of the fact that there is a year of hard work ahead.  There is great hope that this might just be the best year yet.

I had that exact thought this morning just before school started.  This might really be the best year yet, of all my 16 years attending the first day of school as a teacher.  Then, just before the apex of this blissful moment, I was interrupted by the piercing bong of the PA system and an excessively loud announcement, which was irrelevant to about 998 of the 1,000 people on campus (myself included).  I hate that PA.  Buzz killed.
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Role Models

Charles Barkley, the great basketball player and television personality, once said at the height of his NBA career, “I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids. If you want a role model, look up to your parents. A lot of guys can dunk a basketball who are in jail; should they be role models?”

Chuck caught a lot of heat for his seemingly callous remarks because it sure seemed that he just didn’t care about kids or anyone other than himself.  However, if you listened to his follow-up remarks, he clarified that kids should be looking up to their parents, coaches, teachers, and other adults who are sacrificing and training them in the real world.  In addition to being obnoxious and entertaining, Sir Charles was “tipping his cap” to the real heroes in the world and downplaying his own ability to inspire young people to true greatness.

He knew that he was not even remotely qualified for the job of role model.  And he certainly didn’t want any of that responsibility.  He half-joked, “I heard Tonya Harding is calling herself the Charles Barkley of figure skating. I was going to sue her for defamation of character, but then I realized I have no character.”

Now, some of us want to be role models for kids.  But if we are honest, we must admit that we aren’t worthy of the title “role model.”  We are all broken people with insecurities and character flaws.  And that is on our good days.  However, perfection is not a requirement for being a role model.
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Don’t Baby Them

BENEFITS OF STRUGGLING

“A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.

Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther. Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily.

But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened!

In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life.  If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we could never fly.”

chrysalis

I got this in an email forward, years ago.  It’s simple, yet profoundly important in relation to helping 10-14 year olds in their struggle in the chrysalis of adolescence.

Too often adults expect too little of the kids in their care.  Adults can cripple kids by solving every problem for them or by removing every painful thorn in their path.  It’s best not to baby them too much.  They need to stretch and writhe in solving their own problems in order to grow up strong enough to solve much bigger problems later in life.

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Success and Significance

Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, had some words to say about success.  It starts with a quiz.

Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
Name five people who have won either the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
Name the last five Academy Award winners for best actor or actress.
Name the last five World Series winners.

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remembers the headliners of yesterday.  They are not second-rate achievers.  They are the very best in their fields.  But the applause dies.  Awards tarnish.  Achievements are forgotten.  Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Now, try another quiz.Father Daughter Lake

Name five teachers who helped you through your journey through school.
Name five friends who helped you through a difficult time.
Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
Name five people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
Name five people with whom you enjoy spending time.

How did you do?

The point is that the people who make a difference in your life are NOT the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards.  They are the ones who care.

They are significant, not merely successful.

Growing Up and Away?

A friend of mine recently expressed frustration with the way that everyone seems to write off their kids around the age of 12.  He said that he hears people say very matter-of-factly things like, “Well enjoy your little boys now because it won’t be long before they are teenagers and they stop loving you.”  Or they sadly bemoan, “Yeah, I miss those days when my kids hugged me everyday and meant it.”  Or they state in exasperation, “I don’t even know who this kid in my house is anymore.”

My friend is worried about this happening to him.  He has three boys under the age of 7, and he is absolutely loving them.  He told me about how his oldest boy is learning to share and sacrifice for his little brothers at times.  He described it as absolutely beautiful.

And then he said, “I don’t want to lose my connection with them.  I don’t think I have to, but everybody is telling that it will happen, as if there isn’t anything I can do about it.”

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