“You can’t trust kids these days.” “They never do what you ask.” “Kids always talk back.” “Kids today don’t know how to follow through.” “If it doesn’t require a social media post, don’t count on your kid to do it.”
I have worked with youth and their parents for more than 20 years. I hear the same things time and time again from parents, youth leaders, coaches, and the like.
But, in my experience, kids act this way because of the models they have. In my experience someone meaningful in their lives is absent (maybe spends 60 hours a week at work or just not there at all). Someone may be in their life but has broken promise after promise. That weekend promised to teach them to ride a bike or go see them in the school play comes and goes with an apology only.
Children are taught how to behave by adults in their lives. Great children are taught to be great adults by adults who invest in them. It is that simple.
I was lucky to be raised by a man who worked long hours during the day and went to school at night. But, every school play, every graduation, every school assembly growing up, if I asked, Daddy would be there.
Daddy taught me three significant lessons that have instilled in me the very foundations of who I am and how I raise my little one. These lessons are at the very core of what it is to be me. These lessons are what I hope to pass on to all those young kids who come into my life.
Honor Those Who Came Before You
There is no one in the entire history of the world who accomplished great things on their own. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Martha Tereasa all built on pioneers like Martin Luther, Thurgood Marshall, and John Weasley.
Women today have the right to vote, to work in respectable jobs, and to be educated in the United States because of people like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
American freedoms, the very foundation, were built on the hard work and determination of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson who tirelessly worked together writing not just the Declaration of Independence, but researching every known government in preparation for the Congressional Congress created our Republic.
Great-great-great Granddad John Adams, though admittedly opposed to the rule of law of the day, represented the British soldiers accused of the Boston Massacre to ensure they received a fair trial successfully negotiated the Treaty of Paris (ending the American Revolutionary War), and went on to be the first American Vice President, Second President and his son became the fourth President.
These men denied everything, fighting for life and liberty, for a world that NEVER existed before. In fact, it took over 20 years, war, and near collapse of a nation under the Articles of Confederation from the Declaration of Independence to the signing of the US Constitution and the birth of American freedoms. Our nation, imperfect as it is, was the first in the world to allow basic human freedoms to the average citizen.
When I look back at my accomplishments (graduate degrees, excellent job, published, author, award-winning public speaker), I know that those accomplishments are a direct result of those who invested in me. My parents, my coaches, the amazing adults who poured into me through Youth Focus, Inc. all impacted not only my success, but the trajectory of my life.
Daddy taught me, not only to be aware of this, but to thank and acknowledge those who invested their time, money, and energy into me. Thank you, Coaches, Mr. & Mrs. S; Mr. and & Mrs. G, Shim, and Brandy, Florence, Carl and Mary Carol, Patty, and most importantly, Mom and Dad. Your efforts have helped create the amazing life I have. I could not have done this without you.
Let Your Yes Be Your Yes and Your No Be Your No
Daddy taught us, no matter what, yes is yes. Sounds easy. But in a world where we glorify a social hierarchy that loves self-image, self-entitlement, and immediacy, this is a hard thing to grasp as a kid.
Simply put, if you make a commitment, follow through. If you said you would help you kid sister learn to ride a bike, but the lead cheerleader invites you to a party, you help your sister. If you said you would watch your little siblings so Mom and Dad can have a date night once a week, you do that instead of going to the weekly football games. It means, if you said you were committing to the school play, track team, debate team (pick a team), you follow through with your best the entire season long – especially when it gets hard.
This allows everyone to trust your word – the very basis of integrity. People will know they can count on you in the big things because you showed up in the small things every day.
Find Something Worth Dying For and Go Live For It
The most important lesson Daddy taught me is to “Find something worth dying for, and to live for it.”
That has been Daddy’s motto for as long as I can remember. And when you think about, it is perfect for finding and understanding your calling.
A key characteristic of leadership is the belief in the cause. The causes that pass the 24-hour news cycle, are those whose leaders are willing to walk the walk, and lay down their life, if need be. IF we want to raise excellent leaders, we need to know what their passions are and help teach them how to cultivate them for good.
As our children grow, we often ask them, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” or “What are you going to study in college?” But these do not get to the root of a person’s passion. Passion is what will keep one motivated through the dark woods of real life. Passion is what will change a weak leader to a strong leader.
Instead, let’s ask our children, “What excites you?” or “What gets you fired up?” “What are some things that you want to change?” When they tell us, regardless of what we believe about those passions, celebrate them. Help them cultivate them. Because they will find a way with or without your help. Use the opportunity to help lead and teach them to be the best at whatever they chose.
These questions will start leading our kids to find their passions so that they may LIVE for them.
This #fathersday week, let us honor those who came before us. Let us stay true to our word. Let us find those things worth dying for, and go live for them. Let us be the beginning of positive change for our children.