Trust The Children

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Character - Two Quotes And An Observation

Quote 1
The skipper of the Albatross teaches his "attitude" endowed crew, "You know what's out there? Wind and rain and some damn big waves. Reefs and rocks and sandbars and enough fog at night to hide it all." Dean Preston, teenage crew member and "king hubris" asks, "So why the hell do it then?" to which the skipper responds,"It builds character Mr. Preston, of which you are in desperately short supply. The kind you only find on mountain tops, or deserts, on battle fields and across oceans."

Quote 2
"One other very interesting thing we've just found out about these wonderful kids [home schoolers] is that they tend to be active in political affairs. They tend to be joiners. They tend to be people who are engaged in civic activities - just the opposite of what people have said. ... I think these kids are so filled with mother love-You know, so much affection and devotion from their moms and dads (Dads do occasionally play a role in homeschooling; let's get in a word for dads) - that they are just supremely confident. ...It is interesting to watch them. (Homeschool kids) They are very confident, as you said. they look adults in the eye and respond to them respectfully. There is something different about homeschool boys and girls, and that difference is good." (Dr. James Dobson, Bringing Up Boys, p 192)

More often than not, something happens at home, in the home schooling home, that builds and nurtures strength of character in our children. This, instead filling their minds with doubt, while their eyes seek the approval of others. Dobson observes it first hand, though his own children were not homeschooled. He later says if he were to do it over again, he would home school.

My observation is that the best meaning public school teachers often find their finest aspirations to build character in students, throttled back by laws and rules and influence of the educational trends of our day. All too often, character, or the strength to decide and live based on an inner compass more than values outside of ones self, is in "desperately short supply". While these dynamics often exist in the public setting, a home based education benefits from the ability to choose otherwise. It can be an advantage for the kids, when capitalized on. How does one build character in a child at home?

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Examples of Meeting Legitimate Needs

Children are arguing. They have a legitimate need to understand how arguing impacts the home. They want to argue. That is their want, But they need to understand the impact of arguing in the home. They also need to understand that arguing is not acceptable in the home. Conflicts happen, but in our home the expectation is that we work things out in a certain way and that way precludes contentious arguing.

So the next step is to ask, what can be done as parents to stive to meet their needs? They NEED to understand that this behavior is unacceptable. They also have a legitimate need to understand the better way to solve conflicts. So you as a parent come up with a strategy that helps meet their legitimate need.,They need to understand that this behavior isn't acceptable and that there are alternative ways of dealing with 1) the conflict itself and 2) the emotions associated with the conflict. (John Gottman, Emotion Coaching)

As I read the scriptures, I see that God loves his children. At the same time, the children of Israel, whom he loved, got the the point where they had legitimate need to learn some important lessons. So as the parent, God came up with a strategy. It was... send them on a camp-out for 40 years. For Moses it was the summer camp from hell. (The Book of Numbers in the Bible.) He taught the older ones what he could before they died, and in the process educated the young as they grew up. As a people, (family) they were finally ready to receive the blessing of entering into the "promised" land. I suppose if they hadn't "gotten it" after 40 years, Heavenly Father would have sent them out for another dose of the medicine.

There are so many examples in the scriptures where we can see God doing so much more than gently persevering mis-behavior and passively waiting. He does a bunch of that to be sure. However, after a series of warnings, He takes steps to meet the "legitimate" need his child/children have at that time. His, is leadership that eventually builds influence. The kids say, after enduring the "lesson", "You know what? God was right. We had it wrong. We are happier this way. We need to trust His advice more in other things." So Service, Sacrifice and Meeting Legitimate Needs works together to build influence.

Another interesting side note is this. People under stress very often, respond to the stress by isolating themselves from others. In the process, they cease serving, sacrificing and meeting legitimate needs. The result? Dwindling influence with others. Example. Parents divorcing creates stress. The parent who ends up with the kids, often has a much harder time meeting the legitimate needs of the kids because stress encourages the parent to isolate themselves from others. The parent resorts to other less effective tactics. As if the kids aren't already experiencing stress themselves, the one parent, who they must entirely depend on, doesn't deliver the fences, boundaries, and methods that meet legitimate needs. You have a spiral downward that is very serious.

Parents who home school, have such a huge opportunity to meet legitimate needs in powerful ways. Ways in which the public system could never practically consider, except in the most extreme cases of impudence. The custom tailored instructions in meeting the legitimate needs of your children are within your grasp so much more than others so buried by the demands of a roomful of kids. Because of this, your children can be much more capable socially and confident as well.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Do You Want More Influence With Your Children?

Teaching Leadership in the Home Series - #1
(NOTE: When I talk about leadership, I am talking about the art of getting
things done through other people, who help because they want to.
This is leadership through influence, which gets things done
AND builds people up simultaneously, as opposed to leadership through power
which gets things done, often at the sacrifice of interpersonal relationships.)

I don't know why or how we came upon it. I know it was early in our marriage, but after we had our first few of eleven children. It may have been after a family visit, as we were driving home. We were discussing the difference between my father's approach to being a dad and my mom's approach to being a mom. In any case, Cyndy and I both decided that in our home, we wanted to raise leaders. I am sure we didn't understand leadership as I have defined it above. I think we meant that we wanted them to be independent deciders, independent thinkers, independent doers and be able to communicate well. I don't think we visualized them having winning personalities or powerful speakers. We both kind of felt we would know leadership in our children when we saw it, and also know it, when they were followers of the crowd instead. As our children have grown up, we still all have a long way to go in becoming leaders.

This is one reason why we decided to home school. If for no other reason, deciding to home school sent a message to our children that for their parents at least,  the world is OUR oyster and we as a family would always feel comfortable using what was good and discarding the rest, with little or no concern for the thoughts of others around us. This is still true. We have always tried to follow an inner compass, instead of making decisions based on what others thought or valued or what we had personally experienced growing up. The fact that my parents gave us such a hassle for choosing home schooling as well as most of our married siblings, meant little to us, because we were so sure of our inner compass. We heeded them not.

I have always felt that our children are influenced far more from who we are and how we act vis-a vis our values, than what we say or preach to them. So this independent attitude, and our living true to it, has imprinted on our children, that they are free to stand up for the right and expect us to support them. And we do!

Yet there is more. Again, in "The Servant" by James Hunter, he forwards the idea that building influence with others, or authority, as he calls it, is the result of three elements. They are service, sacrifice and meeting the legitimate needs of others. Most responsible parents, serve their children. Most sacrifice for them. But meeting legitimate needs instead of wants, is often a problem. Not doing this well, can erode our influence with those we love the most. 

In order to meet the  legitimate needs of our children,  we must have a clear vision in our minds, of the kind of skills and attributes we feel our children need to possess. Have you ever taken the time to actually write down what skills you want your children to have and what attributes you want them to develop while in your home? Try it. Right now. Take a minute and write down some thoughts regarding these two topics, skills and attributes. Then for each one, write down why each of these skills and attributes is truly important for your child to possess. This can get a bit sticky, in that often a dad,  for instance, often wants desperately for a son to be a jock like him. Or a mother "needs" her daughter to love music, or cooking because she does. Of course, this isn't always fair. So try to be as objective as you can in making the list. Objective and honest. 

Finally once you have decided on a few things, ask yourself, what kind of experiences does my son or daughter need to have, in order to gain this skill or develop this attribute. Write those down as well. This exercise should help you crystalize your intentions toward your children, and help you be more consistent in your interactions with them. 

One quick story. Sorry, it's a personal one. I lettered in three high school sports my junior and senior year. There were only two in our class to do that. After playing basketball my  junior year and being one of three to make the team as a junior, I really learned to love the game and wanted badly to do well my senior year. I told my dad that I didn't want to risk injury to my legs by playing football my senior year and preferred to use the time to improve my basketball skills. My dad said that when I   accepted the letter as a football player, my junior year, I obligated myself at that time, to play my senior year. I had no option. He expected me to play football. 

Well, I did play football, I did injure my knees (plural) and at the end of the season, I came down with mononucleosis. So much for Senior Basketball. But you know things still worked out. I did get a basketball scholarship to play in college. I had a good experience, and I learned a powerful lesson. Commitment. I learned that true commitment is not something given lightly and comes with responsibility. When you commit, you accept the good and the bad at the same time. It all comes together. All for good too. Just like building an enduring marriage and family. 

My dad was right. I had a legitimate need to learn about commitment and taking the good with the bad. He saw to it that I learned something important, because he knew I needed to learn this tough lesson even if I didn't want to learn it. This kind of example in leadership  has served our family so well. I look at my children and endure the complaining and arguing and attitude that sometimes occurs, and I endure it well, because I am meeting their legitimate needs, not wants. 

Over time, serving them, sacrificing for them, and meeting their legitimate needs time and time again, I build a powerful influence in their lives. When it comes down to it, if I asked them to walk through walls because our family really needed them to, they would. Or at least they would try. 

So what can you begin doing right now, to build more influence with your children? Why not share some examples of how this has worked or not worked in your life on the blog? 

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