Most of us want to lead well in our job settings. We want to excel at motivating and mentoring others to high levels of achievement whether we run a retail business, serve in an academic environment or a corporation. We want to lead well but the truth is someday we’ll hand it all over to someone else to do. Other generations are inevitably going to take over what we do. But there is one
leadership role we have that no one else will ever take from us: being a parent. Lots of other people can and will do our jobs at work but no one else will ever be the father or mother of our children. Andy Stanley challenges working parents: “Don’t give up something that’s unique to you for something someone else can and will do.” In parenting the days are long but the years are short. We really don’t have much time to lead at home and it’s best to be all in for the full eighteen year stretch. Getting leadership right at home is far more important than outside the home.
Most of us aren’t child psychologists or social workers, nor do we need to be. The key to being a competent parent is engagement. Indeed that is the key to all human relationships: being engaged with others: seeing, hearing, caring, being attentive, and being available. This is certainly how Jesus taught and influenced his disciples. He had them live with him. For three years they walked, talked, camped out, ate and watched everything Jesus did and said. He engaged them.
Home is not the place to go passive, be absent, check-out or leave matters in the hands of someone else—like a spouse or even the kids themselves. What if the goal of parenting is not behavior modification and obedience but healthy relationships? This makes the family dinner not an exercise in teaching manners but mainly a channel for relationship because this is where family conversations take place. Is the parenting strategy in your home focused on proper behaviors or creating healthy relationships? Which is more important in your home: adhering to specific rules or learning to honor others in relationships?
Stanley tells the story of coming home one evening to hear an extremely negative report from the babysitter. After she left, the kids were convinced they were going to lose some privileges. Instead they were invited to sit down and write letters of apology. The next day they were taken to the grocery store where they were to buy flowers with their own money. They took the flowers to the sitter and took her out to lunch—again on their dime. Undoubtedly the kids would have preferred losing some TV or cellphone privileges! Certainly this would have been easier for the parents too! Instead the children were given a life lesson in how to restore relationships. It wasn’t a “punishment” it was training. This is what Solomon had in mind when he said, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
What are your goals for your family? How can you emphasize healthy relationships with your children?