It happens every weekend in the lobbies of our churches. It also happens at a wedding reception, and I ve heard it in the corridors of my local mall. The constant chatter of hundreds of people all talking at the same time. There are dozens of unique conversations happening at one time, and the sound can often times resemble a swarm of bees or a room full of chainsaws depending on the crowd.
The world our kids live in is very much the same kind of noisy place, except all the voices are directed at them. There are mean voices, kind voices, disinterested voices, and compassionate voices, and those are just the ones they hear at school! Think of all the baseball coaches, next-door neighbors, church friends, substitute teachers, aunts and uncles, and anonymous unintentional people out there speaking to our children. This world is full of well-intentioned people that love our kids, but it is also filled with irresponsible voices that speak with anger and frustration to our kids. Let s be clear: There are things we want our kids to hear, and there are other things we’d rather them not hear.
The challenge for us as parents isn’t to lock our kids away somewhere that they never hear other voices. The real call to us as parents is to look for the right voices, add the missing voices, and invest the necessary time to leverage the existing voices that give our kids the best chance to grow into followers of Jesus Christ.
It can be easy to look at some parents and think to yourself, “I bet they were a born natural” or “They are so lucky their kids are so great.” But after spending time with some successful parents I’ve learned that many of them are scarred by bad parenting experiences, their own past mistakes, and a wish to do better than what they’ve previously experienced.
What separates great parents from the pack is an authenticity about their past mistakes. They see themselves as ‘works in progress’ and not perfect. They don’t have to try to be perfect, they’ve already come to realize they never will be. There is no sense of superiority in their lives, and if you try to put that on them they will quickly distance from the label.
Their past mistakes don’t define them, and instead inspire them to be different. Their mistakes are theirs to own, but their children have seen them grow out of bad habits like a bad temper, not keeping promises, or lack of margin in private lives.
The only thing that really matters to them is the relationship. They are willing to be authentic with their kids because they value the relationship with their children over everything else. Nobody has ever had to ask forgiveness of somebody they don’t know, the relationship being valued opens the door for forgiveness later if needed.
They create value in their family. They value family with their time, and their commitments. They value what they choose to do with their family, and they put value on their children with their words. Their words have meaning in the lives of their kids because of this quality.
There are no perfect parents, and there are no mistake-free ways of parenting. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can get about the business of parenting the way God has made us to parent. Then we can truly begin to be confident in who we are.
“A word to the wise ain’t necessary – it’s the stupid ones that need the advice.”
Want to be a better parent? Want to know smart things about parenting your kid in smart ways? Then learn to seek some advice. When the house is on fire, you grab a water hose. When you’re taking a raft trip down the river, you inflate the raft. When you have kids growing up in your house, you find out how to do it effectively.
Read a Book. Period.
Find someone that’s been where you are. There are grey hairs everywhere, and if you buy them lunch or coffee, you’ll discover they have a ton of information to share. You aren’t the first parent to have multiple toddlers in your house, find a sympathetic ear and start reaping the benefits.
Find someone that’s where you want to be. This may be the same person that’s been where you are, but it’s a different conversation. For me, this is the person with adult children that are spiritually mature and generally successful in life. I want to know what they credit for their children’s emotional intelligence.
Observe your peers. Let me preface this by saying that I’m not suggesting you bad mouth people when they aren’t around, but with the privacy provided by your spouse…begin to talk about what you like and don’t like about the parenting styles all around you. Do you agree with how they talked to their kids? Do you like how they handled this problem?
Our children are a sacred gift, given to us for such a short amount of time. Our responsibility isn’t to rule over them like a king, but to lovingly and compassionately train them to know Christ. We only have a few years to shape their spiritual responses that will help lead them throughout their lives. Do all that you can today to learn.
I’m always observing people around me, and keep myself constantly on the lookout for great leaders. I see some at the soccer fields, a few at my kids schools, and even more at my church. As a natural introvert, I tend to enjoy quietly watching how other people do things, instead of inserting myself into conversations where I could learn just by listening. Here are some of my recent discoveries:
Great leaders work hard to keep themselves intellectually curious and committed to learning. They ask questions, constantly; which is not the same as questioning constantly. They see themselves as learners, and see each day as an opportunity to learn something new.
Great leaders are inquisitive and always looking for new ideas, insights and information. They don’t see themselves as “old”, but they are always on the search for “what’s next” that may exist in their world. They are willing to seek out information in the most unconventional of ways, because ultimately it’s about finding a new way of doing an old thing that they are after.
Great leaders are curious people. They are interested in the things around them, and it’s the things around them that help to shape what makes them great. From their personal backgrounds, to past experiences they are by the very definition interesting people.
In moments of self-reflection, I could tell you how I don’t do nearly enough of these things. My goal isn’t necessarily to be a great leader, but setting a goal of simply being curious of my surroundings is where I start.
I’ve worked for bullies that demanded trust. I’ve worked for weaklings that demanded trust. I’ve worked for very few that legitimately worked to build my trust in them. Trust, like loyalty, is a two way street that oftentimes people are driving three cars down the wrong lane, headed in the entirely wrong direction.
As a leader, one has to think of trust as something built not won in the lottery. It’s done in so many different ways.
Show people that you care about them. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Is that saying cliche? Yes. Is that saying correct? Yes.
Take an interest in people beyond where you currently know them. Don’t intrude into somebodies private lives, but it’s all right to ask about their kids, or their kids baseball teams. Go ahead and ask!
Let people know that you’re interested in their success and future. It so often goes without saying, but if we’re leading other people we have to be that person in their life that genuinely cares if they succeed.
When mistakes are made, don’t respond in anger. Instead, calmly explain the situation and why their actions are troublesome. When people know you aren’t going to make them walk the plank, they’re much more likely to listen to you describe what you expect in the future.
When people know that you have their best interests at heart, they’re going to trust you.
Philippians 2:4 “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”