Tag Archives: Values

Parenting With the End in Mind

Parenting is leadership.  As such, parenting is a forward-looking enterprise.  Like every forward-looking enterprise there are day-to-day elements  governed by long-term objectives.  Most parents fail in seeing themselves as leaders who plan according to future goals, or their goals are reactive and fear driven. When you are driven by fear you make statements about the future governed by those fears:  “I just want to my daughter through high school drug free and not pregnant.”  Not the best strategy.

A good end for parents to have in mind for their children is giving them a commission.  We had a ceremony that we held on the 18th birthday of each of our sons.  We bought each of them a signet ring like my wedding ring as a reminder of their identity.  We blessed them and celebrated their future.  We prayed for them and pointed them to their future.  This was our end:  a send off.  We did it with joy and confidence.  It wasn’t relief to be rid of them, it was celebration of a job well done.

In order to do this effectively we had to be intentional in our parenting.  We couldn’t afford to simply react and let the events of life guide our parenting, we had to carry out a process to reach our desired end.  It is simpler than it sounds, but it does take initiative and planning. Here are the building block stages.

First: Healthy Individuals

A leader, by definition, will be someone who is healthy.  When you travel by plane you have to endure the safety spiel which includes instructions on loss of pressure in the cabin and the need for oxygen.  Oxygen masks will fall from the overhead area for each passenger.  If you have small children, you put the mask on yourself first, then the child.  This is a universal principle, not just a principle for oxygen masks.

A parent must take care to be healthy emotionally, relationally, physically and spiritually.  If  you are not healthy  you will not be able to model health for my your children and they end up confused.  They receive a mixed message which translates ultimately into:  adults don’t have to abide by the laws/rules and when I grow up I can stop as well.

Second: a Cohesive Marriage.

Parenting is the product of the passing on of identity to children.   Fragmentation in marriage makes parenting a difficult task.  The old adage “the best thing you can do for your children is love their mother/father” is true.  When a marriage is on track, children get to see what a healthy interaction looks like.  In our case (4 sons) they were able to see how a man treats a woman and what a healthy woman looks like.  When there is agreement in the values arena there is strength and longevity.  Common values make for a strong marriage. This strength is the foundation in parenting.

Third:  a Clear Plan Based on Common Values.

Parenting is the passing on of values to children.  People often tell my wife and I that we are lucky.  We bristle at that remark on two levels.  It assumes parenting that gets good results is simply a matter of chance.  Second it disregards all the work and sacrifice put into the parenting process.  We had a plan and we worked diligently to carry out the plan.  Our core values that we desired to plant in our sons were:  Security and Confidence (corollaries and results of faith and trust); a clear sense of heritage and identity; a strong sense of purpose and direction.

Parenting is proactive and begins with the end in mind. Take care of yourself, your marriage, and work your plan.

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Should we tell the kids?

To tell or not to tell, this is a common problem many parents with shady personal  histories face.  Should we tell the kids about our past drug usage?  How about a relational indiscretion?  What part of our past must we reveal to our children?

This is not as difficult as it may seem at first glance.  Here are the parenting principles to guide you through this question.

It is none of their business…

First, the behavior you demand from your children has no reference to how you behaved as a child/teen.  Many people have told me something similar to this:  “Our kids have a right to know, I don’t want them to find out from someone else.”  My response is:  “it is none of their business.”  Parenting is not about defending my past, it is about establishing a healthy context for growth in the present, with good results for the future.  My children don’t have an inherent right to know every detail about my past.

Parenting is about breaking bad habits and patterns that reside in the family dna and establishing the healthy values  that characterize our family now.  What I did in high school is irrelevant to the values I want to instill in my family now that I have grown up.  My behavior cannot be used as a license for my children’s desire to act out.  If you allow residual guilt over indiscretions in life to rule your present parenting posture, you will equivocate in your communication to your kids.

My father smoked and drank before I was born.  He came to faith in Christ when I was young and he changed many patterns of behavior.  I did not need to know the information, it was not my “right” and it had no impact on whether it was ok for me to smoke or drink.   I found out these details about my father as an adult, and it didn’t traumatize me, nor should it have traumatized me.

You are in charge…

The underlying problem that lurks here is the notion that the children are in charge, or that they have a right to make these egregious and stupid choices for themselves.  Now when it comes to “being in charge” the best approach is to exhibit a healthy and positive lifestyle that is attractive to emulate.  I don’t mean enforcing values that you do not hold yourself.

It is good for parents to be in control.

First, of their own life and values.  Living a positive and strong lifestyle becomes the key to parenting, and passing on values to your children.  So be in control of your life, that is the fruit of the Spirit the Bible describes as self-control.  If your past contained indiscretion, join the human race.  Whose hasn’t?  Don’t allow your children to use the stupid manipulation that claims a right to your prior misbehaviors as license for their own.  Instead turn it around on them.  Say something like:  “we obviously recognize that such and such behavior is unattractive/stupid/destructive and we don’t all have to suffer through it.

So many parenting challenges come from the reversal of authority.  It is really the same problem described in Genesis 3, the authority structure gets rearranged.  When we usurp God’s rightful authority, things get all messed up.  When the authority structure in parenting gets rearranged, things get all messed up.  Being in control in parenting means leading to godliness:  first by example then by instruction.  It is imparted with confidence, and there is no concession to manipulation.

This bears repeating.  It amazes me that people allow their children to think that they have a right to “experience” vices for themselves.  I have never taken drugs nor have I ever been drunk.  I haven’t missed anything, and I didn’t need to “experience” drug abuse or drunkenness to see it’s downside.  It does not have to be a part of my children’s experience.  In the same way my children don’t need to experience violence to know it is bad, they don’t need to experience other vices, even if I did.  We wouldn’t say:  “my kid needs to be beat up a few times so he can learn that violence hurts.”

So should you tell your kids about your past?  Maybe, maybe not.  Use your head and don’t let your past control your confidence in parenting.

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