On the comments from Gary on my recent post Update on My Own Personal Legacy Dad Process, I’ve decided to unpack some of what I’ve talked about and explain it more in depth. Specifically, about what my wife and I did for the first 12 years, how it was different, why we did it and what was the ultimate outcome.
I often find that new parents are the ones who tend to go in search of parenting knowledge followed by parents experiencing some struggles in the teenage years.
Foundation Principle 2:
Cultivating and Developing Positive Biblical Character Traits.
This was done by focusing on the heart versus the head and teaching an important trait that is missing in schools today: Empathy.
1. Focusing on the Heart Over the Head.
In the olden days, when my wife and I were raised in the church, much of the children's ministry was focused on teaching rote memorization of bible verses, prayers and biblical stories. The kids who absorbed the most information into their heads and could recite it back on cue were seen as the "exemplary" Christian kids. I remember when own pastor urged me to consider ministry based on my memorization skills.
Some churches still espouse this type of teaching to their youth and while reading/memorizing bible verses and biblical stories is not a a bad practice per se, it is not effective if the knowledge only gets into children's heads.
The word and examples must get into their hearts.
I've met and read countless stories of kids/teens/adults who can quote you verse after verse from the Bible but their lives, decisions and treatment of others were less than Christian. In fact, in my younger years, I was one of these statistics. The word was in my head but not always in my heart. Again I must stress that I'm not against memorizing the word, but words without action is pointless.
To cultivate this in our own children, my wife and I focused more on practical application of the word than memorization of it. For instance, my children could not quote the verse of the story of the Good Samaritan but they instinctively stop and help those in need, the homeless and volunteer their time with no prompting. The idea is to be a living example of the word rather than just a mouthpiece. To cultivate this attitude, we flow into concept 2.
2. Focusing on Significance over Success.
Years ago, I did a 4 post series on The Success Illusion - a concept I borrowed from author Tim Kimmel.
The posts highlight many parents, both Christian and Secular, efforts today focusing on academic and athletic achievement as the primary efforts in their parenthood journey. To illustrate this, you only need to go to a social event with parents and ask them what they want for their kids. They usually site things like good grades and top sports programs ultimately leading to scholarships or acceptance into a top university with the hopeful outcome of some form of good job/career (they mean financial success) that lead their children to "less struggles and stress" in their lives than that of the parents.
While I understand their thought process and concern, their execution is flawed.
Research by Dr. Thomas Stanley has proven that GPA's, academic achievement and Ivy League schools have little bearing on financial success and Sports Illustrated and MCSC studies have cited the chances of reaching the professional sports level is similar to winning the lottery. Not to mention the irony that academic stress may also be the reason prescription drugs like Adderall are being peddled in high schools and colleges now to give students an academic advantage.
Despite these findings, many parents continue to make academic and athletic achievement the primary focus of their parenting efforts. However, if we as parents simply looked at the research and changed our paradigm, we could see that aiming our children at Biblical significance over the world's version of success would yield much better results by both Biblical and the world's standards. In fact, if financial abundance was something we wanted for our children, we could simply look further at Dr. Stanley's research:
According to Stanley’s research the traits most mentioned by millionaires that led them to success are:
1. Honesty – Integrity – Character 2. Discipline – Persistence – Long Term Thinking 3. Social Skills – Relationships – Focusing on the needs of others 4. Courage – Tenacity 5. A Healthy Marriage and Supportive Spouse
Did you notice that all of these are character traits?
While my wife and I could care less about our children's bottom line in the future, we actually tell them to follow their hearts versus dollar signs when choosing a career, we care deeply about their character development and treatment of others. Honesty/Integrity, Discipline, Perseverance/Endurance, Loyalty, Respect, Selflessness and Courage have been our number one priority in teaching and raising our children. Whatever our children do: Sports, schools, friends, youth group, etc. It is all done with these character traits in mind.
Example: In our home getting a B or C on your report card is not as serious as lying, cheating or being cruel to others.
One is a worldly measurement, the other a Biblical measurement.
If you think we are crazy or radical for raising our children this way, I challenge you to spend some time in a middle or high school and measure the lack of empathy by this generation. In Robert Shaw's The Epidemic, Shaw has some rather lengthy research and data on everything from the Columbine shooters to kids being raised under the "self esteem movement" to the rampant and often fatal epidemic of bullying that goes on in virtually every school in America. Watch this recent viral video on the suicide of Amanda Todd and ask yourself one question, where was the empathy and compassion from her fellow students in all this?
So there you have it. I highly encourage you to focus on the heart instead of the head and make Biblical character traits your primary focus. The rewards are beyond measure.