One of my favorite sports movies is Friday Night Lights. It's an emotional film about a small high school football team in west Texas overcoming great personal odds to make it to the Texas State High School Football Championship. In the climax of the movie, the team is losing the championship to a superior opponent and they mount one final run down the field as the clock is ticking down. Down by a few points, the team marches down the field and makes it to the goal line. In one final play, the ball is hiked and the quarterback makes a break for the end-zone, time stands still and the crowd goes wild as the the pile of bodies fly towards the ball carrier. In the final second, the quarterback falls forward only to come up short of the goal line and the team ultimately loses the game and the championship.
What is equally tragic is witnessing well meaning, good parents spending top dollars putting their kids in the best schools, spending countless hours on sports programs, and enrolling their youth in highly dynamic Christian youth programs only to come up short and have their efforts blow up on them at the end of their children's adolescence.
Over and over we continue to see parents falling into one of two extremes.
1. Focusing Children Predominately on the Success Illusion,without greater emphasis on Character. Parents today are hurried and have to focus their time accordingly. Many parents still believe that grades, sports and extracurriculars have top priority while morals, values and character development come in at the bottom of the list. These parents believe that through school, the Church or some other outside entity; their children will develop character and the morals of right and wrong. But studies conclude that this does not happen, the home and parents are the single most influential factor in how children and ultimately our society develop.
2. Controlled Environment, Behavior Modifiers. The second extreme fills the parenting section at bookstores with promises from psychologists and academics of new kids in 5 days, babies reading Tolstoy at age 3 and gluten-free, vegan kids with supercharged health. These parents fear the evils of society and create a controlled environment for the tots to grow in with the hopes of keeping the evil world at bay for as long as possible. This approach focuses on modifying the external behaviors of children in order to reach the desired effect; which tend to be nice, presentable kids for the parents ego. The effects of this style of parenting has been evidenced Here and Here and also do not produce strong, productive adults from our children and often have the highest concentration of children who rebel later in adolescence.
So what is the answer? Grace.
Grace or moderation in parenting focuses on putting down strong boundaries in the areas that matter most, internal behaviors. Character, Morals and Values are modeled and mentored to the children daily. Academics, Sports and Extracurriculars are not thrown out but also not placed above the internal behaviors. The environment is controlled tighter in the early years but loosened as the child ages to afford maximum independence and decision making/consequences. Mistakes are made in the home so the parents can offer advice and mentorship. Parents are not worried about producing presentable kids, they focus on producing morally driven adults. Kids will be kids but the end result is always the goal.
This principle is the heart of Legacy Dad and cannot be explained in one blog post, one book or a quick step by step guide. It has to be witnessed, lived and learned. While this concept may seem foreign or maybe even reckless to our newer readers, I invite you to continue reading to learn why this style of parenting is ultimately producing children who will be tomorrows leaders in society.
When instituted properly; Grace will raise kids who will question and challenge cultural norms, will be spiritually tested by the world but will ultimately go to God and let the Holy Spirit work in their hearts and let their morals, values and character act as a compass in their lives.