Five critical do-overs for parents

Tim Elmore is a best-selling author of more than 25 books and founder/president of Growing Leaders, an organization that invests in young people, hoping to help them become future leaders. I recently read an article in Forbes Magazine about Dr. Elmore’s “5 Critical Do-Overs That Parents Wish They Could Have With Their Kids.”

He is quoted in the article as saying, “In recent years, we’ve seen a pattern of over-protection and over-connection in many. In light of our findings, I’ve observed that there are five critical ‘do-overs’ that a majority of parents wish for – and can still make – to enable their kids to become more prepared, confident and successful in their adult lives.”

I think these are important parenting tips if you want to raise strong children. I have to admit, I still struggle with parenting even though mine are grown. Parents of older children don’t resign our job, but we do need to step into a much smaller, part-time position.

The five crucial “do-overs” apply to parenting, but each has a spiritual application as well. Let me know if you agree.

Do-over #1: Do less preventing and more preparing. Dr. Elmore described all the nagging (my word) that parents think is necessary so that kids will remember to do the right things. He suggested that all of our reminding removes the responsibility from the child to the parent. Kids need to own their consequences so that they can own responsibility for their lives. Let them forget their backpack and deal with the teacher. Let them forget to attend a sports practice and deal with being benched for a game. Spiritually, let them take responsibility for their own souls, as well as their lives. For example, parents pray for their children but they should teach, encourage and expect their children to pray themselves. We need to teach our children that there are consequences for their behaviors, and consequences for their souls.

Do-over #2: Offer fewer explanations and many more experiences. Dr. Elmore stated the obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be stated. He said, “Looking back, it’s clear that kids don’t learn well from parent’s empty lectures. They learn more from lesson-filled experiences.” He said the shift parents need to make is from control to connection. We can lecture our children all day about the importance of choosing good friends but the best lesson is learning to be a good friend. I’m reminded of the once-popular phrase, “Don’t tell me I have a friend in Jesus until you show me I have a friend in you.” I often say, our lives are the loudest, most powerful lessons we will teach.

Do-over #3: Risk more and rescue less. Dr. Elmore said that parents have moved from Supervisor roles to Superman roles. He said, “Children’s social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual muscles atrophy when they are not exercised.” The news programs and Internet statistics have caused parents to feel a greater need to protect and shelter their children. This statistic should give parents pause: Overprotected children have lower test scores and are less likely to achieve in college and in life. If children are over-protected they will not be prepared to handle the world. Spiritually, if the only relationship your children have with God is through others, they do not have a personal relationship with God. Paul described it as “milk” (food processed by the mother before consumption) – versus – “meat” (food that must be chewed on by the person alone.) Only 2% of college students attend church. Most parents are excusing that statistic, rather than feeling responsible for it.

Do-over #4: Be less concerned with schools and more concerned with skills. Dr. Elmore described many parents as “fanatical” about positioning their kids to get into certain colleges, thinking that those schools will guarantee better lives for their children. Meanwhile, more and more employers are describing graduates as “unprepared for the job market and lacking an adequate work-ethic.” I wrote a blog post recently about Michael Lindsay’s book, View From the Top. It is an excellent book that proves Dr. Elmore’s point. Almost two-thirds of today’s top leaders did not attend a prestigious school, but rather learned from their parents the value of working hard. Titus 3:14 stands in agreement as well: “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.”

Do-over #5: Focus less on possessions and more on perspective. Dr. Elmore pointed out this sobering fact: “The #1 growing demographic of at-risk kids are teens who come from upper-middle class homes. Why? The more resources they have, the less resourceful they become. Possessions without perspective can lead to real trouble.” He said our kids need “less ribbons” and “more reality…offered with lots of TLC.” Spiritually, our children need to live with less “stuff” and more blessings. Teach your children to make choices that God is able to bless. That is their best life, and your best parenting.

I hope all of us will think about ways we should have parented and ways we are able to parent more effectively in the future.  We serve a God who has been faithful to allow us “do-overs” most of the time. Just think about Moses, David, Paul, Peter, Samson and almost every other Bible hero and realize that all of us are imperfect people, parenting imperfect children, in an imperfect world. The joy: we have a perfect God, who works perfectly through us and for us, so that one day we can live in a perfect place. Maybe the most important “do-over” I would suggest is that we begin by aiming at the right target. C.S. Lewis said, “It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

What goals do you and your children share?

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