Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
I don’t know what you hear when you read this verse (or hear someone using it to tell you how to raise your child), but this is what I hear: “Raise your kid right. Teach him all the rules about how to live a Godly life and how to treat other people and when he is old, he will live that way. Train him to be a Godly man, and he won’t go down the wrong path. Whatever you teach him or forget to teach him, will determine how he will live and if he will be a productive member of society.”
Well..I hear something like that anyway. However, this is NOT what the Scripture says. I’m not going to debate all the ins and outs of what I hear, but I do want to point out what the verse actually says. Charles F Boyd says:
“The phrase ‘in the way he should go’ does not refer to some prescribed path that every person should follow. In the Hebrew language, the phrase is better rendered, ‘according to his way.’ And the Hebrew word for ‘way’ is derek, which literally means ‘bent’ and refers to a unique inner design or direction.”
This verse is not about rules and a path, but about a relationship with my children. It means I’ve got to learn how God made them – their spiritual gifts, their skills/abilities, their passions/heart. I need to work at God’s side. God designed my children a certain way for His specific purposes and my role is to watch them closely, to recognize God’s handiwork, and then to join Him to strengthen and grow those gifts within them. I need to pay attention to the people in their lives and the opportunities that God presents to them. All of these things can be pieces to discovering God’s will for their lives. In order to “train them up in the way they should go,” I’m going to have to know something about the way they should go. Building close relationships is my best chance at getting that part right.
In the world we live in, it’s clear that people are able to accomplish more when they operate in the their strengths. That’s what this verse is about: finding our kids “strengths” (spiritual gifts) and then training them to develop those gifts to their full potential.
Check out this article from Ed Stetzer’s blog. It describes some pretty interesting research on the state of affairs for most Christian parents today. What does it mean when less than 10% of Christian parents think that “being Godly” or “having faith” is one of the marks of parental success? That means that over 90% of “Christians” believe they can be successful parents without passing on their faith to their own children – those whom they love more than anyone else. Huh?
The research also shows that 83% of parents believe that they are the main spiritual influences on their children, but 48% (almost half) of them don’t consider their own faith as an important influence in their parenting. This means they recognize their influence, but don’t see their faith as a priority in parenting.
All this stuff got me to thinking. I’m gonna sit down with Miranda see if together we can write up a “basic” list of the things we want to instill in our children – I’m sure there will be more, but if we want to be successful, and we want to be intentional about what we consider to be the marks of a good parent, then writing it down certainly can’t hurt. Even if it’s an incomplete list, it’ll be better than nothing.
This leadership model is grounded in the idea that different people need to be led in different ways. Let me explain the basics.
Commitment and Competence – Development Stages
Development stage 1 (D1) – People are usually highly committed to a new project, but have low competence since they’ve never done it before.
Development stage 2 (D2) – When the honeymoon is over commitment levels typically drop and competence remains pretty much the same. (This is where people most often quit.)
D3 – If they persevere both commitment and competence rise again.
D4 – The longer someone does something the better they get. Both commitment and competence continue to rise.
Directive and Supportive Behaviors
All leadership breaks down to these two kinds of behaviors.
Directive = *goal setting, action planning, clarifying roles, *showing and telling, time lines, evaluations, priorities, etc.
Supportive = *listening, praise/encouragement, info sharing about organization or self, *problem solving, asking for input, rationale (explaining the whys), etc.
* = most critical behaviors.
Putting it all Together
A “D1” (high commitment and low competence) needs an “S1” Leadership Style – S1 = Low Support/High Direction (leader decides) This is sometimes referred to as a “Directing” style of leadership. Motto is “Leader decides.”
A “D2” (low commitment and low competence) needs high direction and high support since they are in the “quitting” stage. This is “S2” style is a “Coaching” style. The motto is “Let’s talk, leader decides.”
A “D3” whose commitment and competence have increased needs a “Supportive” style of leadership with high support and low direction. Motto – “Let’s talk, you decide.”
And finally a “D4” (high commitment and competence) needs a “delegating” style. The “S4” is a low direction/low support style which empowers others to “run with it.” Motto is “You decide.”
OK -in my opinion, most of these behaviors come pretty naturally if you truly care about those you are leading. If you’ve developed a relationship with them, then you can sense a lot of this stuff. It’s certainly a good model to understand and having this knowledge will give you a way to evaluate your efforts, but it really all comes down to relationship.
This understanding of leadership could also be beneficial to parenting. Kids need to have a different type of relationship with their parents as they develop. In the first few years (1-5years) a lot of directing is needed. Between the ages of 6-12, they probably need more of a coaching-style of relationship with their parents. The parents still make the decisions, but begin having discussions to help their children understand why they are making those choices. As teenagers (if parents have done well with the other steps), parents could begin to play a more supportive role where they allow kids to make some decisions based upon the talks they have together. It’s important to recognize that this stage has “low” direction not “no” direction. In certain cases, the leader/parent must still make the decisions. By the time they leave home, (like it or not) kids will be responsible (or not) for their own actions. If a parent has been successful in leading his children as God would call him to, he would probably be comfortable delegation or even with sending his child out on his own.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be the leader and parent that You’ve called me to be. Allow me a special ability to discern where people are so that I can lead them in the way that will most benefit them. Help me to be more intentional about training others so they can lead. Grant me favor in the eyes of those I lead so that I can grow deeper relationships with them in order to bring them to new places and to understand what challenges they need or what support they need. Give me a vision which is worthy of commitment – one which honors You at every turn. Glorify your name through my life and my influence upon others. AMEN.
The other night in class we were talking about how a leader’s identity effects how he leads. How we view ourselves makes a difference. As a new father, this subject really jumped out at me. Dr. Ayers showed us a quote by Nathaniel Brandon, “In considering the many parental messages that may have a detrimental effect on a child’s self-esteem, there is probably none I encounter more than some version of “You are not enough”. . . The tragedy of many people’s lives is that in accepting the verdict that they are not enough, they may spend years exhausting themselves in pursuit of the Holy Grail of enoughness.”
When he showed it to us, I couldn’t help but think about my own son, Kasen, and I wondered how I would communicate his enoughness to him. How could I communicate his value and worth? How could I show him that God Himself thinks he’s worth dying for? I was reminded of something I read in “Wild at Heart” by John Eldridge. Here’s the excerpt I thought about:
A Man’s Deepest Question
On a warm August afternoon several years ago my boys and I were rock climbing in a place called the Garden of the Gods, near our home. The red sandstone spires there look like the dorsal fins of some great beast that has just surfaced from the basement of time. We all love to climb, and our love for it goes beyond the adventure. There’s something about facing a wall of rock, accepting its challenge and mastering it that calls you out, tests and affirms what you are made of. Besides, the boys are going to climb anyway – the refrigerator, the banister, the neighbor’s grape arbor – so we might as well take it outside. And it’s an excuse to buy some really cool gear. Anyway, when I climb with the boys we always top-rope, meaning that before the ascent I’ll rig protection from the top of the rock down, enabling me to belay from the bottom. That way I can coach them as they go, see their every move, help them through the tough spots. Sam was the first to climb that afternoon, and after he clipped the rope to his harness, he began his attempt.
Things were going well until he hit a bit of an overhang, which even though you’re roped in makes you feel exposed and more than a little vulnerable. Sam was unable to get over it and he began to get more and more scared the longer he hung there; tears were soon to follow. So with gentle reassurance I told him to head back down, that we didn’t need to climb this rock today, that I knew of another one that might be more fun. “No,” he said, “I want to do this.” I understood. There comes a time when we simply have to face the challenges in our lives and stop backing down. So I helped him up the overhang with a bit of a boost, and on he went with greater speed and confidence. “Way to go Sam! You’re looking good. That’s it. . . now reach up to your right. . . yep, now push off that foothold. . . nice move.”
Notice what a crucial part of any male sport this sort of “shop talk” is. It’s our way of affirming each other without looking like we’re affirming. Men rarely praise each other directly, as women do: “Ted, I absolutely love your shorts. You look terrific today.” We praise indirectly, by way of our accomplishments: “Whoa, nice shot, Ted. You’ve got a wicked swing today.” As Sam ascended, I was offering words of advise and exhortation. He came to another challenging spot, but this time sailed right over it. A few more moves and he would be at the top. “Way to go, Sam. You’re a wild man.” He finished the climb, and as he walked down from the back side, I began to get Blaine clipped in. Ten or fifteen minutes passed, and the story was forgotten to me. But not Sam. While I was coaching his brother up the rock, Sam sort of sidled up to me and in a quiet voice asked, “Dad. . . did you really think I was a wild man up there?”
Miss that moment and you’ll miss a boys heart forever. It’s not a question – it’s the question, the one every boy and man is longing to ask. Do I have what it takes? Am I powerful? Until a man knows he’s a man he will forever be trying to prove he is one, while at the same time shrink from anything that might reveal he is not. Most men live their lives haunted by the question, or crippled by the answer they’ve been given.
When will this moment come for Kasen? Will I recognize it? Will there be lots of opportunities? What kinds of activities can I be involved in with him that would bring out these opportunities? (I’m pretty sure I’m not a rock climber – of course it does sound fun, but. . .)
As a youth minister, I recognize this question being asked. I have even had the opportunity to give the answer sometimes (although I wish their own father could have been the one to give it). My job as a leader is to equip others to serve and that means delving into the character questions – into the identity of those I work with. What a huge task. . . what an incredible privilege. . . what an amazing opportunity. . . Thank you God for allowing me to be a part of Your work!!
Yeah – we’ve decided to do our nursery with a rainforest theme. We decided this before we knew if Kasen was gonna be a boy or a girl. The plan was that if it turned out to be a girl, we’d add butterflies and flowers, and if it was a boy we’d add monkeys and bugs. Anyway, we painted the room a really bright green pretty early on after we found out Miranda was pregnant. One of the youth (Montana) helped us get it painted. She did a GREAT job too – there’s only one problem – once we got it on the wall, we realized how bright it really was. Almost scary bright if you know what I mean. (By the way, the picture here doesn’t really show how bright it is – it’s so bright that you can see a green glow on the opposite white wall in the hallway.) Anyway, our hope was that when we started putting other things into the room, it would calm it down a bit. (Note: I really wanted bright colors instead of the typical pastel baby colors that are normally used.)
All this is to say that we worked a whole lot last week in cleaning things out of the closet so we could begin turning it into the nursery that we want. We got out all the stuff that people have already bought and moved a dresser into the room along with some fake trees that we bought. Anyway, things are coming together. My mom, sister, nephew, and niece came in town too and they helped us pick out some of the stuff. Mom even helped us figure out how to do some curtains (she’s gonna make them) and make them match some linens for the crib. (She’s gonna make those too)
Closets – so as I cleaned out the closet where Kasen’s nursery is gonna be, I found all kinds of fun stuff. That particular closet had become the “Steve’s old treasures” closet. I threw away quite a bit – a CD player, a DVD player, a set of speakers, and a few other things. But I also found some other stuff that brings back great memories for me.
My rock collection (yeah – you never knew I was one of “those” guys did you?)
Star Wars collector’s cards (I have the entire “Empire Strike Back” collection from when I was really little – I wonder what I could sell it for on E-bay?)
Sheet Music from Texas Wesleyan
School Yearbooks from Jr. High and High School
My Tape collection – Yes – I’m that old – I remember when I bought my first CD and it was long after I started collecting music.
Anyway, all of these things bring back all kinds of memories for me. They have helped to make me who I am today in one way or another. Of course they don’t even come close to the influence that God or my family has had on me, but regardless these things still have still shaped me and the way that I think. As I cleaned out this closet, I wondered what kinds of things would be collected these for Kasen. I wonder what things we’ll dig out of his closet one day? I wonder what things will help to shape him? I prayed over that closet. I prayed that the things which end up in that space, will be things which we have intentionally placed there. Things which we chose for him ’cause we knew they’d have an impact on who he becomes. I pray that God will give us wisdom in choosing these things. I also pray that it won’t become a place where we just throw stuff that we really don’t care about. (‘Cause I think that has an impact too – it’s just not an intentional one – it’s not an impact that you chose for yourself.)
Wow – all this just over a nursery closet – what have I gotten myself into? I’m not ready for this whole parenting thing. If there’s this much to think about over a closet – how will I ever think through everything else in his life in the way that I should?
God – I need you! Please guide me. Show me your desires for Kasen. I know you will provide, but help me to be a good steward and make the right choices which would help him to grow up in such a way that he comes to know You. In a way that he would choose to serve You. Keep my bride safe and healthy as she carries Kasen for these next few months. Hold him close to Your heart and continue knitting him together in the way that You see fit. Create him inside Miranda. Mold him into a man who will honor You with his life, his words, his decisions, his everything. – by the way, mold me to be that way too – AMEN!