Trust The Children

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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  • I'm not sure I understand. How does enduring their arguing correlate with meeting their needs, not their wants? They need to be left to argue, but they want to be corrected? I don't get it.

    Thanks for your blog.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:02 PM, November 04, 2007  

  • Its just the opposite. The need to be corrected, but they want to argue. See the next blog entry.

    Thanks for asking.

    By Blogger Mark Weiss, at 11:19 PM, November 06, 2007  

  • Dang it. Where is my wife/proof reader, when I need her? Again...

    It's just the opposite. They need to be corrected, but they want to argue. See the next blog entry.

    OK, I think I got that right.

    By Blogger Mark Weiss, at 11:20 PM, November 06, 2007  

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