Bringing Out the Best in Your Kids
This is the topic that resides in the minds of every effective teacher or parent. How do we appropriately influence our kids? How do we transform our kids, our classes, and our homes into places of consistent peace? How do we give up our ambition for control and allow them to endure some hardship so they can grow up and “own” their life? How do we shift to, “Less of us and more of them?”
Let me remind you that most positive changes don’t happen overnight. It’s best to start slow and small. Baby steps, as they say. For instance, if your kids display a sense of entitlement, low attention spans, and little patience, the answer is not to suddenly become harsh and demand they grow up. We may well need to stop coddling or spoiling our kids and introduce them to the real world, but to go from tender to tough quickly won’t work. The shock would push them away. It would be like exiting a dark cinema after a movie and walking outside into the daylight: we quickly shut our eyes and want to go back inside, as the light’s too harsh. We must somehow ease them into maturity through an intentional path. Slow and small. Over the years, I have noticed the affect of adults who lead too softly or too harshly. The outcomes look something like this:
1. If we got whatever we wanted and felt loved, we became spoiled.
It seems some adults today have embraced a new score card for their parental role. When I was a kid, parents took pride in providing their children with whatever they needed. Today, it seems many parents take pride in giving their kids whatever they want. It’s almost as if it’s our job to do that if we’re going to consider ourselves good parents. This is a sad and unhealthy shift. Part of the reason kids possess a sense of entitlement is that adults have communicated kids “deserve” whatever they want — the new iPad, the new smart phone, the new App on that phone, the newest name brand clothes, you name it. When we love our kids but express it this way, we set them on a path to act spoiled. They often become entitled adults as a result. They are brats that others don’t enjoy being around.
2. If we got whatever we wanted but did not feel loved, we became superficial.
There’s another scenario I see in homes. It’s the family whose kids enjoy all the new “stuff” available in stores but still question whether they are really loved. It’s often found in two-income homes, where both mom and dad work, are busy all the time, and come home tired. As a result, they compensate for their lack of time and energy by simply buying the latest clothes and technology for their kids. This is a classic “Baby Boomer” scene, where mom and dad simply throw money at the problem. It’s tempting, especially if you have the money. Unfortunately, while the children enjoy the latest gadgets, they often wonder if mom or dad wants to spend time with them or even loves them. They see time as more valuable than money, as you can always get more money, but you can never get more time. Because life has become about owning “things”, they want to win at that game and often become superficial with their relationships. They don’t know how to go deep and stick to the surface, whether it’s Facebook or face-to-face conversations
3. If we did not get whatever we wanted but still felt loved, we became secure.
It may seem ironic, but the healthiest scenario for kids is when parents both find authentic ways to communicate they love their children and deny them every little thing they want. Over time, this wonderful scenario communicates to the child that mom and dad love them so much, they have set parameters to guide their child’s development. Security is the result of consistent leadership and boundaries in the home. Instead of throwing money and produces at them, parents invest time, energy and wisdom in conversation. Memorable experiences replace superficial entertainment. Saying “no” actually convinces those children of love instead of the opposite. More often than not, those kids mature into healthy adults who can set boundaries for themselves. Life is about more than things and pleasure and stimulation. It’s about love and trust.
The Balance We Must Strike
The truth is: Leading kids is a balancing act. In fact, all good leadership is a balancing act. It is providing two sides of a coin: both the tough and tender side of it all. We must be both strong and sensitive. I love the Habitude® that summarizes our role. Young people need their leaders to be Velvet-Covered Bricks: Velvet on the outside — responsive, accepting and supportive — and Brick on the inside —leading by principles, boundaries and holding them to standards. We must be both responsive and demanding. It’s the best way to prepare kids to become healthy adults. This will likely require us to start slow and small (no huge, overnight change), but if we are consistent, I believe we can lead this positive change.
In my latest book, Twelve Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid, I outline a dozen common mistakes that sabotage our kids’ journey into adulthood. Here are just a few:
- We won’t let them fail.
- We project our lives on them.
- We remove the consequences.
- We praise the wrong things…and others.