Thursday, April 25, 2013


For the next couple of weeks, I'm going to be sending out several lists of three...three of the best gifts we can give our kids...three inexpensive ways to have fun as a family (anywhere)...three books I think everyone should read...three things kids need to hear when someone dies.  And to kick it off, Three Mistakes We Make Leading Kids and How to Correct Them.

This was the name of an article by Tim Elmore that came across my desk recently, and I think it is definitely worth a read.  You can read the full article here.  What Tim has to say isn't rocket-science nor anything new, but I do think it is worth taking to heart because it definitely influences the kinds of kids we'll send into the world when they grow their wings and start to fly.  For those who need the cliff notes version of what Tim writes, here it is:

Mistake #1: We risk too little.
Certainly as parents we want to do everything we can to protect our kids and keep them safe.  But, as Tim writes, "The truth is, kids need to fall a few time to learn it is normal."  Similarly, taking calculated risks plays a huge role in helping adolescents form their identity and confidence.  They need to learn, via experience, the consequences of certain behaviors.

Mistake #2: We rescue too quickly.
We've all heard the term "helicopter parent," and we've likely all seen it in action.  The worst of the worst is the parents who call a college professor complaining about the grade "we" got on "our" paper.  Yikes!  Granted, this is an extreme, but rescuing our kids too quickly relates to letting them risk too little.  It's "parenting for the short-term" and sorely misses the point of leadership--to equip our young people to do it without help.

Mistake #3: We rave too easily.
Study after study shows that if we want our kids to develop intrinsic motivation and initiative (things I certainly want for Esme and Reid) it is far more beneficial to praise them for their effort rather than the result.  For instance, when Esme tells me her colors correctly, instead of raving, "You're so smart!" I try to say, "You've worked really hard to learn your colors!  You must be very proud of yourself."  The truth is, though we mean well, when we praise something like smarts rather than effort, eventually it will lead kids to work less.  They will say to themselves, "If it doesn't come easily, I don't want to do it."

The good news is that there are plenty of things we can do that help teach our kids healthy leadership.  Obviously, negative risk-taking should be discouraged and there are times when our young people need our help and affirmation.  They need to hear that God made them special and they are loved, simply for who they are.  Here are some simple things mentioned in the article that we can do as parents:

  1. Help your kids take calculated risks.  As parents, our primary job is to prepare our children for how the world works.
  2. Instead of tangible rewards, how about spending some time together?  Be careful you aren't teaching them that emotions can be healed by a trip to the mall or an ice cream sundae.
  3. Don't let your guilt can in the way of leading well.  For me, this is the one I need to be most cognizant of.  It's helpful to remind myself that I'm not doing any one any favors if I let guilt guide my parenting.  As Tim writes, "Your job is not to make yourself feel good by giving kids what makes them or you feel better when you give it."

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