Pursue Parenting Excellence

LoveOverTime

“Having success for a year or two, that’s called being hot. Being in demand. Excellence is being able to perform at a high level for a long period of time.”

— Jay Z, music artist and entrepreneur

I know a number of people who have experienced overnight success with a product or startup, but as parents the idea of “overnight success” should be dismissed immediately.  If you believe for even a moment that one fantastic conversation with your child will set the course for the rest of their lives, then you are delusional. Excellence is something that comes over a long period of time.

The good news is that because it’s a long time coming, there is time to bring correction to my own parenting mistakes. My excellence isn’t measured in hours and days or even weeks. It is instead measured over years and decades. I think I can tackle this decade thing, it’s the hourly thing I’m struggling with.

Love over time, time over time, words over time, hugs over time, attention over time, dinners over time, car rides over time, ice cream after school…over time. Its the distance we travel that creates the greatest impression on our children.

So make it a point to pursue excellence, not quick fixes. Excellence is who you are…over time.

 

 

Protecting Marriage

JonathanStarr

Often the most overlooked parts of our unique parenting style, is the marriage aspect. We read books on parenting, we talk to other parents about our kids, and we laugh together about all of our parenting misadventures. However, we don’t often put an equal amount of energy into our marriage.

We’d all agree that we want our kids to see a good marriage. Nobody wants their kids to see an eventual divorce, broken homes, constant bickering, and angry conversations. But, what does it look like for kids to see a good marriage? Is it public displays of affection? A little kissing, and a dad that does the dishes?

I believe it’s much more than any of that.

It’s conflict resolution. Spouses will argue, and if they are really passionate arguers it will be loud. All couples have disagreements, frustrations with each other, and even an occasional misunderstanding. We should limit how much a part of our lives are described by the previous reasons, but we all know those things will happen. The solution to making conflict work in your families is to let your kids see the compromises made, the apologies given, and the grace applied.

It’s serving even when it’s not  convenient. It’s as easy as getting that second glass of iced tea before they ask for it, and as difficult as taking an entire weekend to help the family accomplish a task that your wife is asking for. Serve your spouse in front of your kids, and the less convenient it is…the more of an impact it can have on them when they see it!

It’s spoken words of love. Sure, show your love with some actions, but fill the cup with overflowing in the words department. Say it. Tell her you love her. Tell him he’s awesome. Let the words between you and your spouse be words of life and love. You should also let the words of love flow, even when your only audience is the kids!

It’s including them in the love story. Once upon a time…I met my wife. There is a lot of story there, but the story really takes off when my little ones starting arriving. My 3 kids are one of the best parts of the love story that Starr and I are writing together. I let my kids know, that each time one of them entered the world…my love for their mother increased yet again. I love her more, because I have them in my family.

It’s putting them 2nd. Here is the importance ranking in my house. Starr is #1. Kids are scattered in somewhere at #2. Then everyone else is a distant #3. But the #2 ranked kids aren’t even close to their #1 ranked mother. It’s not #1a and #1b. It’s her first, always first, never last, and the one that will be with me forever. She’s the only person in the house that makes it all work for me. This doesn’t hurt my kids self-esteem, it builds it up.

Anything you’d add to the list? How do we protect our marriage in front of our kids?

Our Angry Friends

AngryHearts

Answer: Angry people are so much fun. Angry people are exactly the sort of people I love to spend time around. Angry people are great to share a cup of coffee with. Angry people make everything that much brighter. Angry people set a great standard for how I want to live.

Question: What are things nobody ever says?

Unfortunately, while we never aspire to surround ourselves with angry people, we are ensured of being confronted with them from time to time. Whether it’s an overzealous driver, an easily offended mother in your neighborhood, or a frustrated coworker. I’ve worked in churches for years and I’ve talked to my share of angry people. Not because churches are full of angry people, but because churches are full of normal people. Here are some things I’ve learned to help me in my interactions with the angry friends in my life:

I’m very rarely the reason they are angry…even if they tell me I am. There is always another thing behind the thing. Want to test my theory? When was the last time you talked with an angry person that sincerely was angry about a righteous problem? Our angry counterparts are usually frustrated with something meaningless to most people. It doesn’t mean they aren’t sincerely angry, it just means there are always underlying issues.

Everyone seems angrier from a distance. The foolproof method to put out the fire inside an angry email, is to pick up the phone and call them. Take it one step further and go for face-to-face interaction. That simmers down the fire even more. When angry people get your full undivided attention, they usually are willing to listen and calm themselves down quickly.

Angry people want you to respond with anger. This is their way of justifying their own actions. What’s the learning here? Don’t let them win by returning angry words with angry words. Which leads us to the next point.

Angry people need love. Let me be clear, do not attempt to hug an angry person. What I’m advocating here is the love that speaks through your patient words and following up with acts of kindness. They need healing, and being on the receiving end of their anger, makes you the prime candidate to respond in the way most people won’t.

 

Heavy Words

HeavyWords

Recently, my middle school son has begun to volunteer at our church in the preschool areas. He has been assigned to the 3-year-old room, and has proven to be a real all-star in that environment. This son of mine, is entering a stage of life where he is looking for affirmation, and needs to feel that he is accepted for who he his. As he has served the 3 year olds at our church, he has also been surrounded by adults that marvel at his heart for the little ones. They've said things to him like, You are so great with these kids, I wish there were more middle schoolers like you! and Have you seen the way these kids look at you? You are their hero just by coming and playing with us!

Those words on their own are powerful, but I have leveraged them in a few distinct ways. First, I knew my son would succeed in that area. I m his father, and I know his strengths. Helping him find a place to serve 3 year olds was better than if I had asked him to go work with 3rd graders. I also set him up for success by choosing an environment that would bring out the best in him, and therefore bring out the words of affirmation in others. Then, I made sure that the he fully understood what those people were telling him. I helped him to see that those friends were sharing what they saw in his life, and they weren't making it up. I reminded him that his mother and I have seen those things in his life, and have told him those same things as well.

It is experiences like this that allow me to say what I ve always said to my son, You are special, unique, and God is going to use you to do great things for the world all around you! and to put those words into the mouths of others. With your child you have the ability to find areas where they can win consistently, and then leverage the situation to say what you ve been saying all along.

Maybe it s an art class at the community center, or working alongside others at a local food bank, or volunteering at your church. Maybe it s allowing them to play a sport that they excel at a little more than the other kids, or spending some time after school with a club that will help draw out some of these other talents they have inside of them.

So much of leveraging the words of others in the lives of our children, has to do with us being intentional as parents. When we leverage the words they hear, we are helping to shape them into the people God wants them to be. However, this doesn't happen by accident. This happens when we listen for the voices, and surround our children with the right voices.

 

Leveraging the Voices my Kids Hear

leverageinfluence

After you ve looked for the voices and people in your child s life, and invested the time to add and subtract as necessary, then you are at a place to really flex your parental muscles. It s time to show off how powerful you can really be, and begin the heavy lifting of parenting. The good news is that you don t have to be all-powerful; you just have to learn the schematics of leverage.

There is great power in leverage. For example, I’m not a large person, which has its advantages. I’m not usually asked to help people move, and rarely have I had to move a refrigerator up a flight of stairs. It s not that I’m a weakling, because I’ve moved my share of large items in my life. The real key to moving big things is leverage. A 100-pound teenager can move a fridge much faster using a dolly with big rubber wheels than a 300-pound grown man can trying to carry it by himself.

The words our kids hear from those around him do indeed have power, but what we choose to do with those words can make them ultimately life changing.

I’ve written a ton about one of the most strategic things we can do as parents, and that s doing some relationship math with our kids. The next step after adding new voices is to leverage the voices they hear for their benefit. I can t follow up on every single conversation my child has with a friend, nor can I filter every word they ever hear from an adult. I can, though, choose and pick when I take the time to leverage what they hear.