Parenting Posts

Leadership and Parenting

Leadership and Parenting

Leadership and parenting have very similar definitions. Let’s take a look:

Tough Decisions

All decisions have consequences, but tough decisions have implications that impact lives beyond our own. Tough decisions involve others and likely will not be popular because they will require the near-term pain of change. Parents might decide to pull their child out of their current school and put them into a different learning environment. The reasons could be for academics or peer shifts. The easy answer is the status quo. No change. As a parent who wants to lead, the decision to change will be difficult. As a leader, the decision must be made to give the child their best chance for their future.

As a business example, let’s say there is a company division that has been underperforming. This division is no longer part of the core business, and efforts to get it on track have not worked out. The division employs 50 people whose families rely on the salaries, and it has been a significant part of the business for 30 years. The decision to exit the business preserves the core and will free up resources to invest in new products. The consequences are far-reaching.

Walk the Talk

As a leader and a parent, we are being watched. None of our actions will go unnoticed. As parents, we explain the importance of not consuming alcohol and driving, but we go to dinner, have a beer, and then drive the family home. This does not go unnoticed. Society is vigilant about sniffing out hypocrisy, and kids are particularly keen to calling it out.

You receive the bill for your dinner and, upon review, notice items are missing. These are the ultimate leadership moments because you can act with integrity or pretend you missed the error. Ultimate leadership is acting quickly to let the server know about the error. Your family is watching you, and this act will earn greater trust and teach them the importance of honesty, even if it costs you.

When you are a leader in your company and are alerted to an issue involving a customer, how will you respond? Will you be fair in your dealings or pursue the greatest advantage for your business? The employees are watching, and they know what is appropriate and what is not. Active in the best interest of all parties, and you will earn trust.

Extend Trust

Leadership and parenting require an extension of trust. We must first train them through instruction and example. We most often miss the need to instruct. As parents and leaders, we mistakenly think our example should be enough. This is a critical mistake because the instructor will offer the details necessary to understand the action’s nuances.

After employees and kids have instruction and example, it is essential to allow them to practice.  This requires the extension of trust. From an overnight stay with friends, to Spring break. From opening the store on their own, to managing the negotiation. The ultimate leadership is allowing the people we lead to operate on their own. As leaders, we must prepare them and then trust them to do the right thing regardless of the consequences.

Don’t Be Fooled

Recently, I had an experience at my church with a pastor I believed to be a strong leader. He had written books on leading or about other leaders he had experience within his life. He led the church for nearly forty years and built it to multiple campuses and 14,000 members. One day, he didn’t show up. It was abrupt and confusing. The campus pastors explained they were working on getting him back for a final sermon, but he refused. As church members, we were bewildered. It was like a parent leaving for work one morning and never coming home—no message or explanation. The children are left to speculate as to what has happened. It turns out, he left to start another family because the family he had built was not growing up as he desired. He decided to take his ball and leave. This is not how real leadership works. Let’s break this situation down further.

Tough Decisions – Do you remember when the Baltimore Colts left in the middle of the night to move to Indianapolis? That was an easy decision because it had the fewest consequences. Leaving a church membership high and dry without explanation was the easy decision and had the least consequences. This meant it was about him and not a leadership decision.

Walk the Talk – This pastor was always a straight shooter. He told us the right way to serve, and the wrong way to serve. When it was his turn to walk the talk, he walked without the talk. This was the most surprising aspect of his departure. No real explanation was offered to the thousands of members, not even a not on the door. Leaders won’t walk without helping to explain the situation.

Extend Trust – It must be difficult to build a large organization and maintain total control. Clearly, he did a great job of extending trust to others. His extension of trust allowed the church to grow beyond his expectations. Maybe his team began to take the lead on decisions that were not consistent with his desires. This could certainly cause frustration, but is he a figurehead or a leader? Leaders listen to the members and make tough decisions about the direction that is best for the organization. When the leader makes it about themselves, they have failed the organization.

Leadership & parenting – one and the same.

Parental Vision

Parental Vision

Each morning, I take a few minutes to write a paragraph about someone or something I am grateful for in my life. Recently, I wrote about how grateful I am to be a father. I asked myself how I could be a better father and what my children should expect of me. It occurred to me that I had not been intentional about the values and qualities of character I most desired to develop in my children. So I started writing and came up with 11 values and qualities that resonated with me. My reason for sharing these qualities with you is to inspire you to take the time to write down the qualities of character you most hope to inspire in your children. The next level is to intentionally role model those qualities every day for your children.

Unusual Kindness

I want my daughters to have a big heart and a strong desire to help others. I wish to inspire them to embody the essence of kindness and generosity toward others. I want their kindness to shine through in every action they take.

Self Confidence

I want my daughters to believe in themselves. I believe this to be especially important for girls. Society seems to be one big judgment machine, and without a strong sense of self, they can easily be crushed under its pressure. When they are confident in who they are, they will not obsess over others’ opinions but always seek the truth. This is my hope for them.

Persistence

Living a life that matters takes effort. Effort equals work. To create anything of value takes time and effort. Persistence is critical to value creation and maximum contribution.

Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is difficult because our ego gets in the way of an honest assessment. It requires that we point the finger at ourselves. We also call this self-awareness. A key question for them to be asking themselves is, “How am I showing up?”. Add kindness to this, and the question becomes, “How am I showing up for others?”.

Thrift

They should understand money and the importance of thrift in its use. Saving is way more important than spending. Others will most likely tease them about their strong desire to save, but they will stay the course. Thrift throughout life can help ensure their long-term independence and improve their ability to contribute at a higher level later in life!

Gratitude

I want them to begin each day with gratitude for what they have in their lives to help set their intention for the day. When we appreciate the blessings in our lives, it will help eliminate envy, jealousy, spite, discontent, greed, and other poisonous emotions. They should also give gratitude freely and understand that offering gratitude to others takes nothing from them and ultimately makes the world a better place.

Personal Growth

My hope for my daughters is that they have a strong desire to learn and grow. Ignorance is not bliss. Seeking wisdom each day will keep them progressing in their lives and allow them to avoid wasting countless hours on social media obsessing over others’ lives instead of focusing on bettering their own.

True Friendship

In true friendship, we demonstrate love, kindness, gratitude, and growth. I want my daughters to build their friendships on a strong foundation of mutual respect. Too often, we mistake friendship with “commiserationships,” which are built on a shallow foundation that often crumbles when challenged or when a disagreement arises. Run from commiserationships because they serve no one except the egos of those commiserating. Seek positive and meaningful friendships in all areas of your life.

Healthy Skepticism

I want my daughters to think on their own. They take in others’ words without rebuttal, process without judgment, and conclude on their own evaluation. Their actions and beliefs are the product of their own conclusion.

Personal Well-Being

To bring the most of who they are to the world, they should feel great mentally and physically. I want to teach them the importance of diet and exercise and moderation in all things. They should also be able to regulate their mental health through regular meditation and not obsessing over their thoughts. In other words, diminishing the ego by paying attention to their thoughts and recognizing that these are only thoughts and not necessarily reality. Our minds trick us far more frequently than people.

Happiness

I want my daughters to recognize that happiness is a choice independent of their circumstances. The pursuit of success at the expense of happiness will lead to depression and dissatisfaction. Success and happiness should be parallel paths through the journey of life.

 

My challenge to you right now is to grab a pen and paper. Write down the values and qualities of character you desire most to instill in your children, marriage, community, church, and friendships. If we are all more intentional with how we serve as parents, in our relationships, and in our communities, the world will be better for it!

5 Rules of Parenting

5 Rules of Parenting

Parenting is the greatest and most rewarding job and responsibility. Let’s be real; parenting is hard work. It can be incredibly rewarding and incredibly draining. Every child has unique characteristics. Some are extremely needy, while others are relatively self-sufficient. Some children have physical or mental challenges that require parents to be more hands-on than most. Every child is unique, and as such, the most effective parenting methods will vary accordingly. Book stores are full of one-size-fits-all strategies about how to parent.

Is there a common goal or objective that every parent should aspire to fulfill? I believe there are several objectives that, if we as parents help our children to realize, will transform our society from dependence to cooperation. Notice I did not say independence. Why? Independence is an admirable quality, but as a society, we have correlated independence with selfishness. We need independence coupled with cooperation to build a society and culture focused on delivering value. We are more focused on extracting value than providing value. We are obsessed with what others have compared to what we don’t have. We choose stuff instead of creating value.

Here are five objectives that can help make you an exceptional parent:

Teach your child that life is far more meaningful when we obsess over creating value versus extracting value.

You do want your child to live a meaningful and fulfilling life, don’t you? If so, congrats! Someday I will enjoy watching you get inducted into the Parenting Hall of Fame. Helping our children understand how the world works is a primary responsibility of parenting. The law of value is critical to learn. What is the law of value? The market only rewards value. What is value? When we add value, we make something better. If we live our lives focused on adding value, everything in our lives becomes better. Can you imagine always adding value? Unfortunately, from a young age, we learn to extract value versus adding value. Entitlement is extraction. Participation trophies reinforce entitlement.

The way that we, as parents, can offset the overwhelming push of society toward extraction is to teach our children to “Always be Adding Value.” Choosing to add value is wanting to make things better. There is no better lesson to share with our children. However, we must understand that it is not possible to share what we do not possess. What does this mean? If you are not focused on adding value, it is not possible to mentor others about the law of value. Our children are masters at sniffing out hypocrisy. They will watch their parents, teachers, and others in positions of authority to ensure they are “walking the talk.” You do it too! Unfortunately, our society derives way too much joy from watching the failures of others or pointing out their flaws.

Our children must understand the law of value if they are to live a satisfying, rewarding, and joy-filled life. The mission is always to be adding value and increasing the amount of value available to be added. We are all flawed. We won’t be perfect parents and mentors. We might crush it one day and be a hot mess the next, and that is okay.

Show up every day and be consistent.

We parents must show up ready to serve each day. Consistency is a crucial component of all success in life. It is impossible to maintain our health without consistent effort. It is impossible to stay employed without consistently showing up. The “hall of fame” parents show up no matter what and know that is how to maintain credibility with their kids.

We signed up to be parents regardless of whether we arrived there by accident or through planning. Don’t neglect the most significant responsibility on earth. Raising children is difficult. It will test your patience, stamina, will, and determination. Most parents are asleep at the wheel because they are struggling to manage their own lives. Instead of engaging their children in conversation and other relationship-building activities, many outsource this responsibility to electronic entertainment, friends/peers, and the school system. How do you know that the agenda of these other organizations will be teaching your values? You don’t, and they won’t, which is the problem with this strategy.

Parenting requires consistency in all things – discipline, expectations, support and encouragement, guidance, growth, and being an example of how to show up.

Be an example of the importance of service.

Serving others is the ultimate success. Serving is a powerful antidote to depression and anxiety because we shift the focus from us to others. Each day we obsess over what we want, what we have compared to others, how we get treated, how we look, etc. We become trapped in a cycle of inadequacy, comparison, blame, anger, annoyance, jealousy, and victimization. Life happens to us all, but our responses to it are generally comprised of inward gaging. Overcoming the ups and downs of life requires that we learn to turn our gage outward toward the service of others. I am not saying we should bury our heads in the sand and pretend it did not happen. I am saying that when your world gets rocked, the quickest path to getting back up is to focus on serving others.

Continually grow your parenting skills.

In the beginning, we are overwhelmed with joy and trepidation. We are excited about having a child but uncertain about how to parent. It is crazy when you think that the most important job on earth is one that you learn on the fly. Each day is a new challenge and experience that requires you to make decisions. Too often, we parent with emotions unable to disconnect from the fact that we are not our child. We want to will or discipline or children to our way of seeing the world. We fail to step back and ask what really matters. From my perspective, the answer to this question is the relationship. If the relationship is not preserved, a parent has no ability to influence.

If you want to be in the “parenting hall of fame,” you must grow your skill in objectively observing a situation or decision. Bad behavior by a child should have consequences but the consequences should be determined rationally rather than dictated by emotion. The skill of disciplining, guiding, coaching, and mentoring is what we need to develop. Combine the skill of doling out appropriate consequences with managing your emotions, and you will have the best chance of preserving the relationship. Avoid talking “at” your children and talk “with” them to manifest a lasting and meaningful relationship.

Choose to be a positive influence.

As a parent, you will have a massive influence on how your children view the world. Their view of the world will be based primarily on your relationship with them. Constantly nag them about every mistake or shortcoming and they will likely learn to focus on the mistakes and shortcomings of others. If you want to be a positive influence on your child, listen to them. Truly hear them and stop seeing them through your eyes or the eyes of your friends or coworkers. They aren’t you.

“Leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less.” -John Maxwell

Parenting is leadership. If that scares you, good because that means you respect the position. Your kids are counting on you to show them the way. Leadership in its purest form is egoless. True leaders understand that it isn’t about them; it is about those they lead.

Exceptional parents seek opportunities to mentor their children about how things work. They show up consistently for their children. Excellent parents are examples of service. They demonstrate the importance of serving others to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. Let your child see that you are growing your skills. Leave parenting books lying around and talk to them about how you are developing your skills. Let them see your struggle to improve, and they will likely follow in your footsteps. My mother and father were exceptionally hard workers. I watched and experienced their work ethic. When the time came for me to work, I worked hard. My entire family has an exceptional work ethic. The ultimate responsibility of parenting is to be a positive influence on our children. Want to raise exceptional children? Be an exceptional parent!

Childish Questions

Childish Questions

Why did you decide to become a parent? To decide is to choose. In some circumstances, becoming a parent is not a choice. From the pregnant teen to the grandparent, a decision was made that resulted in the responsibility of parenting. If you are a parent, I am going to ask for a moment of reflection. How do you respond when your child asks you a question?

My heart breaks when I hear a parent respond with pure sarcasm, or they respond in a hurtful tone. They act as though the child is an idiot for not knowing. Where is the brown sugar? Same place it has always been (you idiot). Hey dad, what time is my practice tonight? I don’t know known son; it isn’t my responsibility. Here is the worst: Will you make me a sandwich? What does this look like, a restaurant? And then they make the sandwich.

Parenting is the greatest challenge. What is our role as parents? This answer will certainly vary based on where you are in the world and your demographics. I believe that our role as parents is to raise children that can survive and thrive, and make the world a better place. I also realize this is not my choice. Parents are not their children. This seems to be a truth that many parents struggle to accept. Why else would we think it okay, in a society that idolizes individuality, for a 26-year-old to remain on their parents’ insurance? Often parents cling to their children as their identity. The child’s performance determines their mood. They justify their inability with the idea that the world is an awful and dangerous place. So these parents shelter their children from the realities of a world that can be harsh and unforgiving. The child rebels, and the overbearing mom doubles down while the passive father stands idly by.

We raise our children to believe the world owes them something when the world owes nothing. The soil requires a seed to be planted and tended before it will bear fruit. Here is the harsh reality we want to shelter our children from – sometimes, the plant does not bear fruit. Sometimes it is cut down. Sometimes there is a lack of water, and it dies. Sometimes the government changes the rules and seizes the plant. Sometimes your best friend steals the plant. Sometimes they are too lazy to tend the plant, and it never produces.

The world is neutral and accepting of what we present to it. If we ask without discipline, it will not respond. If we show up expecting the worst, it will deliver the worst. If we show up ready to serve, it will allow us an opportunity to serve. It is much easier to justify our current situation as a situation out there. Accepting responsibility for every aspect of life is tough to swallow. So we teach our children to fear the world versus taking it for what it is.

Why do we respond with an air of superiority, sarcasm, and disgust when our children ask us seemingly obvious questions?

Parents might need to demonstrate authority or superiority.

This response breaks my heart because, at some point, the child will stop asking questions. It is as though the parent wants their child to feel like an idiot. Their response is curt and harsh, as though they are not to be bothered by such a line of questioning.

Think before you respond. Is this an opportunity to teach or share a lesson? What is a potential underlying motive for the questions? Restrain the shame. Do not shame your child – ever! You are the authority, so there is no need to fuel your ego or validate your position. Your response should maintain the child’s dignity and encourage further questions if additional clarity is required. Be the adult.

Parents might feel a lack of confidence in an adequate or appropriate response.

You are supposed to have the answer, but sometimes you don’t. So you respond with disgust to throw your daughter off your scent. The reality is, who cares if you don’t have all of the answers. Teaching your child to say, “I don’t know” is an incredible lesson for a child to understand that they don’t have to have all of the answers. Don’t let your lack of confidence or insecurity stifle your child’s curiosity.

When your child asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to say, “I don’t know, but I bet we can find out” and proceed to find the best answer. Fuel their curiosity by engaging in the pursuit of answers instead of stonewalling in a veil of confidence.

Parents might lack the patience to articulate an appropriate or adequate response.

We are likely too busy being distracted by our phones or some form of mindless entertainment to be bothered. We might be slammed and dead tired when we get home. I get it, life can be hard. We pretend as though we had no blame in our current situation. The truth is that every decision we have made leads us to this present reality. Your number one responsibility is your child or children, yet we seek to escape through distraction and busyness. “I don’t have time. I am so stressed out.” You chose your current situation, but your children did not. They need your time and your patience.

Put down the phone and look your child in the eye.  Don’t mistake presence for being present. Your child is there, but you are so addicted to the voyeurism that is social media. When your child asks a question, put down the phone and give them your undivided attention. If you don’t, the questions will stop. When the questions stop, your ability to influence will be severely diminished.

Parents might lack empathy, which makes it nearly impossible to respond in a meaningful way.

We forget what it is like to be six, twelve, or sixteen. It all seems so obvious to us. Their worries and concerns are trivial in comparison to the realities of life. We disregard their reality as insignificant, so we tell them it doesn’t or shouldn’t matter. Wow. What a blow. They are feeling this pain, this fear, this anxiety, and their parents shun them as though it is inconsequential in comparison to what the parent is experiencing — another heart breaker. Your child cries for help, but you are so caught up in your own drama that you cannot acknowledge theirs. You should be fired. Our children need our empathy, but don’t mistake empathy for coddling. Instead of empathizing with a child and helping them navigate their situation, the parent coddles them and validates their feeling sad. How is a child to develop the ability to cope if they are sheltered from dealing with reality?

Meet your child where they are, and seek to understand. Don’t minimize or shame their feelings. Avoid attempting to take your child’s pain away. Help them understand their feelings and come up with a plan. The reality is that life is suffering, and there are consequences for our choices. Teaching this simple lesson will help empower them to take responsibility for their lives.

Parents should encourage questions.

Learn to make measured responses. Avoid making your child feel stupid or inferior for asking questions. When we answer harshly or in a derogatory manner we discourage curiosity and deaden the lines of communication. If your child fears being wrong, you have failed. We must be wrong to learn what is right. Trying to avoid being wrong minimizes our contribution. To minimize our contribution is to eliminate progress and growth.

Questions are the seeds of knowledge. Our children’s future is dependent on their ability to ask the right questions and then seek answers. Parents should respond with patience and empathy to facilitate learning and growth. How will you respond?

Run Through the Tape

Run Through the Tape

Why is finishing strong so difficult for so many? What are we teaching our children? If we want our children to thrive, we should teach them how to run through the tape and not coast to the end. We need to set an expectation of excellence. All of us desire success for our children, but we tolerate mediocrity. The path of least resistance is the path most often chosen by most in society, but the way that leads to excellence is the path with the most resistance. Children are the future. Our responsibility is to teach them to be resilient, to develop grit and manage fear, to have stamina, perseverance, empathy, and emotional intelligence, and how to thrive. Instead, we teach them our bad habits.

Bad Habit #1 – Do whatever it takes to get back into your comfort zone.

Our desire to remove all discomfort from the lives of our children makes them vulnerable. The rest of the world isn’t raising their children to seek comfort at the cost of commitment.

Bad Habit #2 – Blame others for your lack of success.

The continuous pursuit of comfort and distraction eliminates nearly any chance of sustained success. All success requires discipline and is achieved through consistent action and effort. Instead of applying consistent effort toward the realization of our dreams, many seek a community of commiseration to cast stones. We blame schools for not properly teaching; we blame the government for not creating more opportunities; we blame our parents. We blame the boss, the company, our spouses, and anyone who has wronged us throughout our lives. The sad thing is that we teach our children to abdicate responsibility for their lives and then to validate their station in life by blaming others.

Bad Habit #3 – Coast through the finish.

The time to double your effort is at the end because that is when everyone else is coasting. Our society is so used to quitting, that it applauds finishers. But those that succeed over the long-term push through the pain and finish strong. I have run a few marathons (26.2 miles), and the desire to quit between miles 13 – 22 can be overwhelming. The joy of running across the finish line at mile 26.2 is indescribable. I am not saying have our children run marathons, but ensuring they experience the joy and pride of finishing strong is a gift that keeps on giving.

Bad Habit #4 – Image is more important than substance.

The social media trap is what I call it. We all know the images presented are but a snapshot, and the reality is not so glamorous. Yet the ego begins to compare the images it sees with the reality of our lives and starts to despair. The saying is, “compare and despair.” Despite knowing that most social media platforms can be distortions of reality, we become depressed about our own lives. Social media is not going away, so we must prepare our children by discussing the false reality it can create in their minds.

Bad Habit #5 – Not my job.

When it comes to raising children prepared to strive and thrive in the world, it is our job. As parents, we should hold ourselves accountable for sharing the lessons we have learned along the way. As teachers, we should have high standards of excellence, balanced with compassion and discipline. As community members, we should be an example for every child that graces our presence about living life with excellence. Unfortunately, the reality is that the four bad habits that preceded this one make it impossible to accept responsibility. It is our job to step up and take action.

In pontificating about this dilemma and the long-term consequences for our country, I thought, “Our schools aren’t preparing kids about life. They need life skills to go along with the reading, writing, and authentic”. Two weeks later, while driving, it occurred to me – it is my parenting responsibility to teach my kids these life skills. It is not enough to rely on them watching how I live and learning through observation. Excellence would be taking time each day to share a lesson about life on a topic that is important to master.

Asleep at the Wheel

Asleep at the Wheel

Of course, I am an excellent parent. I get up, work hard every day, and tell them I love them. Surely, they realize I do all of this for them. Why would I work as hard as I do if it wasn’t for them?

Humans are masterful storytellers. We can make ourselves believe and validate nearly any rational or irrational behavior. As parents, we make excuses for providing real leadership for our children. Let’s dispel a few of those excuses now and clear the way for leadership in our families. 

I go to work every day for hours on end to provide a life for my family.

This is an excuse for validating endless work that our society has happily allowed us to employ. I know many people that spend countless hours at work because it is easier than parenting or leading a family. Work becomes a convenient excuse for avoiding the significantly greater responsibility of parenting. Let’s face it. Parenting can be a grind. The whining, the crying, the constant negotiations wear on every last nerve. Beyond shelter and food, our children really just need us. Parents are the ultimate influencers, and just because they watch you leave early and come home late does not mean you are positively impacting their lives. You are teaching them that work is more important than family. Beyond the necessities, there is no real need for the stuff. The pursuit of more is a result of an internal desire rather than a pure intention. We are so good at telling stories that we convince ourselves that it is for them and not us. Children spell love, T-I-M-E. 

I will show them how to live through my actions. 

Very admirable and also the minimum amount required. You do the right things, and your kids get to see that, but isn’t that basic to being a decent parent? To prepare our kids to live without us, we must teach them. Imagine if our military issued bullets only at the time of war. They get the guns from day one. They know what guns do, but they don’t know how to use them. This is the same for our children when we expect them to learn the fundamentals of life only through observation. As parents, we have an opportunity to teach them and show them. This does not require a formal lesson, but it does require your intentional effort.

For example, should we teach our children about love? The answer I most often hear is, “of course.” The reality is that they know love by watching how we love our family, but what happens when they encounter their first infatuation? How do we prepare them for this overwhelming experience? We teach them that puppy love or lust is not “love” at all. It is a chemical reaction that is only temporary. I wish I had understood this ahead of my infatuations. If they are experiencing it, we are too late in our instructions. However, if we intentionally prepare them through teaching, they will say, “This is what dad was talking about.” If we prepare them for what they will experience, it can help them cope with a potentially overwhelming situation.

Another example is fear. The majority of fear experienced in our country is irrational. It is an internal manifestation that has little to do with reality. Teaching our children where fear comes from, and the difference between healthy and unhealthy fear can position them to eliminate or better manage anxiety. Helping our children learn the fundamentals can also help us live better because it requires us to learn the material or subject matter objectively. 

My kids don’t listen to a word I say.

Please allow me to call BS. Have you always been a quitter? The truth is, you don’t listen either. Kids want to be led. If parents are not leading them, someone else will and that someone else may or may not have their best interest in mind. As parents, we set the expectations of demonstrating respect. If you allow them to walk all over you, they allow themselves to be walked all over later in life. In my own life, I have experienced this reciprocal behavior. My mother has allowed my stepfather to walk over her and demonstrate zero respect for her for years. In the past, I have allowed a similar behavior of compliance and not standing up for myself to occur in my life. It is still a natural tendency that I must be aware of to avoid being taken advantage of and generally disrespected. Our children should know that they don’t have to agree, but they must listen.

My experience has been that even when I think they aren’t listening, they are soaking it all in. Here are the keys to communicating with kids:

Tell stories.

Kids love stories and can totally relate to them. Ideally, stories will be about your experiences as examples of the subject matter. If you want kids to listen, tell them a story.

Keep it short and get to the point.

Go on too long, and you will lose them, especially on difficult topics. In my experience, 3-5 minutes max to cover a topic. Do that every day, and you have thirty minutes of topic coverage each week.

Have a point.

Ideally, your point is simple to comprehend and easy to recall. Great pastors are masters at breaking down complex subjects into easy to understand and comprehendible chunks. The saying at my church last year was “Know, Grow, Go.” Know Christ. Grow in Christ. Go spread the message of Christ. Simple, and if repeated regularly, is unforgettable. As we teach our children the fundamentals of life, we want them to be able to recall the subject matter for application.

Ask questions.

Engage them in the conversation by asking questions. What are their thoughts or understanding about what you just explained? This feedback is essential for adjusting your strategy.

Be patient.

They are going to push back. Mine do every time because the subject matter is often new to them. Don’t give up. Keep showing the messages in bite-sized chunks that have an intended purpose. We don’t want to beat them over the head with it, but we should never give up on sharing the lessons. They are watching you and know your weaknesses better than you, so be a student of how best to share the message.

Have fun.

Sure, this material can be heavy, but it doesn’t have to be dry and boring. Have fun with it, and keep it light-hearted. 

As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children about the fundamentals of life. This teaching takes place in two ways: observation and intentional instruction. They are certainly watching our every move. From how we treat our spouse, to demonstrating anger, they are soaking it in and will mimic the same behavior in their own lives unless they find it so repulsive they do the opposite. They are watching. Allowing our children to learn through observation is the bare minimum. The next level of parenting is teaching them the fundamentals of life. The best way to cover the subject matter is in daily, bite-sized lessons delivered via a story, quote, or memorable phrasing. Parents are the ultimate teachers, but most of us have outsourced intentional instruction to society. Society doesn’t have your value system and will teach according to its best interest and not your child’s. Take charge of teaching the fundamentals.