Focus on Progress Rather Than Destination! (pt 1)

Over 1,000 families signed up for our Influential Parenting Academy in just over four weeks. As a result I have been receiving more phone calls from parents related to their kids. Many of these calls come from parents who have finished the class and are about to begin the implementation process or have taken the first few steps of the implementation process.

Those who have taken the first steps report that their kids are responding positively. In fact one couple whose son had moved out and in with another family that condoned drug use shared that their son had moved home in less than 10 days!

Parents who are hesitant to start the implementation process or are just getting into it, are often fearful that their kid will either go wild or not change if they remove the consequences. Their fear stems from their preconditioned belief that consequences restrain and train their kids. It also stems from the fact that they are comfortable with consequences and offer some sense of power and control.

If we ponder these conclusions, there is a clear disconnect. If rules and consequences gave us control and our kids were being changed by them, why did 1,000 families sign up looking for a different approach?

I find that the disconnect is often driven by our focus on the destination, which can subtly become having a good or even perfect kid. One that listens, makes all the right choices and does not talk back and gives us no doubt. Yet if we really stop and think about it, that’s an impossible destination. They are young, learning, imperfect and sinful just like us. They will fall short until they arrive in heaven, just like us. This should cause us to rethink what our role as parents is and what our desired outcome should be.

One of the main reasons it is hard to see a different parenting approach today is driven by a societal shift that occurred. From the 1800’s through about 1980 the focus was on preparation for life, learning skills, tending the farm or even working in factories prior to 1935.

Then as syndicated media exploded and we heard about things happening to kids in cities across America, parents’ fear increased and the focus shifted to protection. Fear and protection move us towards control and away from preparing and empowering our kids. This in turn frustrates our kids, especially adolescents. This is why we need to ask ourselves some questions and decide what we really believe rather then letting society dictate how we lead our families.

  • What is more important, our relationship with our kids or their behavior?
  • What is more important to Jesus, His relationship with us or our behavior?
  • Are any of us perfect this side of heaven?
  • Are our sins forgiven; past, present and future?
  • Does this apply to our kids?
  • Can we change our kids?

It’s so easy to become focused on our kids’ behavior, decisions and attitude. They are obvious and frustrate us especially when they happen repeatedly. If they would just listen and do what we say… smile! The challenge with this focus is that our kids never arrive and never feel successful in our eyes. This week I talked with two families who have begun the implementation process. They were calling because the destination they desired had not yet been reached. After relying on consequences for 15 years and trying their new approach less than a month they were doubting and growing impatient. From the first half of the calls with them, no one would have known they were seeing any positive signs from their two teenage boys because their focus was on the destination they desired. As a result, they were focused on what had not changed.

Earlier I mentioned the family whose son had moved out of their home at age 16 and in with a friend who had a very permissive home. After about thirty minutes of addressing their questions about their son’s issues and how to handle them I had to ask, “Where is your Son? Is he living with you again?” When they said, “Yes, he moved home.” I was excited, until I heard the but… To which, I said, “Do you realize how huge that is. Most parents never see their kid move home once they move out during high school.”

They had completely overlooked how monumental that change was. They were focused on their desired destination and unhappy because not all the changes they hoped for had happened in less than a month. They were having doubts in spite of the fact that their previous approach with consequences lasted many years and lead to their son moving out.

They were focused on the destination rather than the progress. If that were to continue it would not be long before their child checked out again. Why? He would still sense his parents’ displeasure and disappointment even if the consequences and conflicts had abated.

If our destination is not behavior change and or sinlessness, then what should our focus be and how will it change our kids’ lives?

I wrestled with this very question after talking with thousands of kids who had had it with their parents. Many of these kids were straight A students and well behaved according to their parents but leading dual lives. I too was once a behavior focused parent.

I believe our focus should be on:

  • Discipleship: showing, teaching and modeling life for our kids.
  • The progress they are making.
  • Most importantly on love.

Love is the only expectation I can find that Jesus had of His disciples.

What lead to this striking change in me was a study I did into the expectations Jesus had for his disciples. At first I found what I believed to be many expectations when Jesus was directly addressing his disciples. However, after pondering and praying, I found that they were not expectations

Follow Me

I discovered this was an invitation. Jesus never pressured or forced anyone to follow him.

Fishers of Men

I found that Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Ah, here is an expectation; we are to become fishers of men. Yet, as I examined this further and looked at his wording it was not an expectation at all. In this verse who is the active agent? Who is doing what to whom? Who is the failure if they do not become fishers of men? Jesus! This was not an expectation, but a promise and it came true.

As I crossed things off the list I became more uneasy as a parent. Then I found Jesus’ last teaching time in the upper room where he says: If you obey my commands you will remain in my love. I was excited… here is the list of expectations Jesus had for the disciples! As I read on he repeated obey my commands twice but then goes singular and says, “This is my command, love one another.”

At first this struck me as way too simple. How in your last teaching time can you leave your disciples with just one expectation, this one command to love one another? This command along with the Holy Spirit is what is to guide them to start the church? It was definitely too simple for my kids!

Then it struck me there is nothing simple or easy about love! Could my house be managed by this one rule? Love one another. Is this all I should expect or desire from my kids, to love others? Obviously I came to the conclusion that it was just that simple.

In next week’s blog we will explore love and how it can bring order to our homes if we are willing to let go and trust God to change our kids.

Coming Topics:

  • Love, the Only Rule and How It’s Leveraged.
  • Practice Gratefulness for the Problems.
  • So What Is Our Role Apart From Love? Encouragement and how it stems from love. Encourage one another on to love and good deeds.
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