Five Tips For Parents (Without Time Machines)

Gosh- if only we had a time machine.

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A place where you could go back in time and fix things that went wrong. I love some of the movies that do this. Back to the Future. Hot Tub Time Machine. Somewhere in Time. The Terminator. Go back and fix the wrong and change history.

But for now with raising kids you get one chance. ONE CHANCE. So don’t screw it up!

I certainly could have done better. More books- less sports. More one on one. Put more emphasis on the “soft side” of life. Better faith leader. More time less work.  I had MANY unflattering moments where I lost my cool, lacked self-control or did something incredibly stupid that I wish I could have taken back.

The problem is that you can’t start over. They can’t unforget things.  We can’t change time like the time travelers.

But we did do some things right. And these things had an impact on our kids lives. They really made a difference.  And it helped form the way that my children see the world. We were not perfect, but have some things that went well.  Here are a few of the highlights:

Hard Work: The only place a child will learn (at least in the U.S.) to work hard is at home. My father taught me that lesson and we did our best to teach it to our children. You need to work to get what you want. Nothing will be handed to you. You have to work for it. This requires sweat and effort. Get your kids off the couch and make them work. If they understand what hard work looks like, they will be a contributor. They will be a good citizen.  They will be able to make a difference in the world. It’s your responsibility- not theirs.

Value of Money: The best thing we did for our kids is to have little money.  This was really a circumstance- but it had great power.  They did not get everything they wanted. They understood that wants are not needs. We raised them in a very modest lifestyle that allowed them to see that money is earned and not picked off a tree in the backyard. Kathy would gather the pennies and roll them and take them to the bank. They knew about the value of money. They learned how to save.  I don’t know how you can raise children in an affluent houshold and get this message across.

Good Grades: We instilled a culture of excellence in school work. I did not give my kids the choice to go to college. Why in the world would you do that? Ask a child if he wants to continue the seeming misery of school work? Seems like most would take the easy route. That’s not parenting. We had our own grading system and we rewarded good grades and good reports from school. Just like the workplace- right? Why would you NOT do this for your kids?

Tradition: We always worked to create things that were uniquely ours. Family traditions. We created traditions that were only ours. Don’t overlook the power here. Children love this. They crave structure and predictability. They thrive in it. Create a rhythm to their lives. Give them something that is uniquely for your family. Even silly stuff. They will remember even the smallest details. Make it your family’s own. Big power here.

Competition: We encouraged our children to compete in sports, arts, activities and other areas. The world will make them compete. By sheltering them or ignoring this fact you may be setting them up for failure. Competition can be ugly and daunting for a parent. But YOU need to get them ready. This is your job.  No one else will do this.

There are more to this list but this is a few majors. The point is- you have to be an active parent. It’s not an easy job. But you can’t jump in the time machine. You can’t change it once it’s done. Don’t have regrets. Do the very best you can. Push your children. They are not your buddies. They want instruction. They want structure. Give them what they need to thrive. You can’t go back. No “do over” here!

So what do your think?  I know many would love the time machine but we can’t go back. One time.  One chance.  Do you agree?  Click on “Leave a Message” and tell me what you think!

Question Mark

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Years ago when I was training new tradesmen on the construction site, I would tell the new recruits to do as I do- exactly– for a month or so until they could come to me with new ideas or better ways of doing things. After the waiting period, they generally would respond with comments like, “Now, I see why you do that! I couldn’t see why that was so important.” They could see the wisdom in the action, but it was invisible when they first started. They had to go through the entire process to see the value in the smaller action or the movement.

Our nature is to question everything. This inquisitive nature has led to great innovation and changes that have provided new products and ways of thinking. For the most part this has been healthy. In the quest to provide better life for ourselves and our families, questioning has provided an explosion of new thinking. But is it always healthy? What is the damaging aspects of this questioning?

There are times when we need to be subject to authority. This is part of providing order to the world and allowing leaders the ability to think and lead. If the leader is constantly dealing with unrest, it becomes impossible to provide room for strategic thinking. We have been so conditioned to question everything that its becoming increasing difficult to accept something due to authority. We have become a society where we have been conditioned to be subject to no one.

This is particularly damaging as we parent our children. If we have developed a habit of continually questioning or rebelling against authority, we are teaching our children to do the same through our actions. The result of this kind of parenting could be young adults who are not equipped to take direction. Not equipped to be managed. Not equipped to follow.

Parents often leave really important decisions to their children. For instance, whether they should go to college or not. Kids don’t have the life experience to make a quality decision and they will often take the easy way out. It’s not only wise, but necessary, to push your kids for excellence. Don’t give up on your kids!

There is a time to blindly follow authority. You will not explode if you do something simply because you were told to do so. There is typically great wisdom and experience behind the direction. Be a good follower. You will learn to be a better leader!

So what do you think?  Do we question thing too much?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

Do The Work!

Years back, Kathy and I visited my Grandfather when he was sick in the hospital and his health was failing.  During this visit, my Grandfather was of good energy and he shared a quick snapshot of his life and some of his best life lessons.  One thing that he shared was that he believed that you really only have until a child is eight years old to mold them and teach them to behave and be a good and successful citizen.  After they reach eight years old, he believed, you now have a small person who has essentially figured out the world and changing them is very difficult.  Kathy and I were young when this conversation took place and we were in the process of raising our kids.  I am thankful for the advice.  While we were young, we took child raising very seriously.  We disciplined when it was necessary and taught our children to behave, get along with others and excel in their work.  We were not perfect but worked hard at it.  It’s not easy and you can get lazy sometimes.  But with children, you have to do the work!

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I have often said that it would be great if they gave you an Owner’s Manual when you leave the hospital.  But instead you are handed this amazing miracle of life all wrapped up in a blanket and off you go!  You may have some babysitting experience and you will certainly get lots of advice from your family on what you’re “supposed to do”.  And… you are likely equipped with the life baggage of knowing what not to do.  And you are way young and just trying to process everything and figure it all out.

You absolutely want the best for your kids.  That is a given.  So what does that look like in the inexperienced parent’s mind?

  1. Provide For Your Family:  I work really hard to give my children the things that they need.  I spend much of my time on my career and work really hard to give them financial security.  Is that what they need or do they need you to spend more time with them?  Is money the best thing you can give your child?
  2. Be Their Friend:  I want to spend every minute that I can with my child and I keep them connected at my side at all times.  Is this providing an environment where you are teaching, leading and parenting or are they really just filling a need that you have?  Have you noticed serious separation anxiety when you leave your child with someone else?
  3. Wrestling Buddy:  I want my boy to be a man and be good at sports so I love to wrestle with him.  Is this really something he needs or is it something you need?  Are you raising up a little bully by getting him “toughened up”?
  4. No Daycare For Me:  I don’t want my child to be watched by anyone else but me.  I don’t trust others- I have had bad experiences in the past.  Is this really a good thing?  Are there social skills that your child may be missing by isolating them from other kids?  Do they know how to interact with other kids?  Can they share toys and play with other kids?
  5. He’s A Good Kid:  My child is a good kid so it’s OK to give him what he want.  If he wants chicken nuggets every night of the week that’s OK as long as he is being quiet and not misbehaving.  So who is eventually going to tell them no?  Who is going to erect boundaries?  Who is the boss?  Too tired is not an excuse here.
  6. We Are Always On The Move:  My kids love visiting others and being up late.  They are used to eating on the run.  They love the adventure!  Really, kids like structure.  They need a schedule.  They want to know the rules and what is expected.  They need sleep.  They need to be able to process what’s going on.  They need calm and normal.
  7. I Never Spank My Child:  My kids don’t need punishment.  They are different than the other kids.  Are they learning that there are consequences for their actions?  Although you may be against spanking, are you teaching your children that bad behavior can lead to big trouble in later years?

Raising children is hard.  It is a full time job.  You must fight the urge to get lazy.  Children are like clay when they are young.  Yes, I believe they are born with unique characteristics, but kids need leadership, structure, direction and boundaries.  They do not do well in chaos.  They need to figure out what the world is all about and chaos does not provide the framework for growth and understanding.

Have you ever considered what a child learns in the first two years?  They are like little sponges.  So what are they learning?  Are they learning that there is order to the world?   Are they learning about authority?  Are they learning about consequences?  Are they learning how to interact with other kids?

I know this.  Good parenting does not come easy.  When done correctly, it will be the most fulfilling project you will ever undertake.  It’s a long and tiring process.  But just remember- you have to do the work!

So what do you think?  Do you have any good parenting advice?  Please press comments and tell us your story!  

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

Fight The Urge!

I was invited to join a group of friends, just men, for a cookout tomorrow.  I have decided to go.  This sounds like an easy decision on the surface.  But really it’s not that easy.

My inclination would be to stay home and relax.  See, I’ve had a difficult few weeks at work.  Traveling, problem solving, frustrations.  It’s been a real basket full of junk.  I have plenty of really good excuses to skip out on this one.

But I know that I really need to be there.  Not because they need me to be there.  There will be plenty of guys that will attend.  No, the reason I need to be there is me.

My flesh is telling me that I deserve to stay home and relax.  But I know that I need to stay in community.  I need to stay connected.  I need to fight the urge to isolate.

Men are generally experts at isolation and coming up with excuses to be alone.  But this is unhealthy and dangerous.  The enemy loves a man in isolation.  He knows he’s got us right where he wants us.  A wise lady told me “Oh that devil, he’s been around for a long time.  He’s got a big bag of tricks.  He’s knows exactly what works on you.” I think we forget that fact.  We think we will be fine by ourselves.  Independent.  Self-reliant.  American individualism.

So off I will go.  I know I will enjoy the company.  I know that I will be glad that I went.  It will be good for me.  Better than sitting on the couch with a book which would be my first choice.

Sometimes you need to fight the urge.  The urge telling you that you deserve something.  The urge that tells you that you come first.  The urge that tells you that you it’s ok to be alone.

Deep down we know what we need.  What is pure.  What is good.  What will build up.

Relationships take work so fight the urge to isolate.  Reach out and connect.  Someone has to make the effort.  Why not you?

Do you struggle some times staying connected?  Click on comments and tell me what you think!