Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Missing Piece in Our Parenting

On his website, “Growing Leaders”, Dr. Tim Elmore tells the story of Donald Miller, who had a friend came to him in distress over the fact that his teenage daughter was dating a “Goth” whose lifestyle seemed to represent the opposite of their family’s values. In fact, some of the boy's behaviors were downright immoral and illegal, and Dad was at a loss to know what to do.

Miller asked his friend if he had considered the possibility that his daughter may simply be choosing a more interesting narrative than the one he was creating as a father. When the man looked puzzled, Miller explained that everyone wants to be part of a story that is compelling. They want their life to be about something significant. He wondered if the daughter had simply decided her life at home was boring in comparison to her boyfriend's.

According to Elmore, this was a light bulb moment for Miller's friend. Over the next months, the father did some research and came up with the idea of becoming involved in an orphanage project in Mexico that desperately needed help. They needed a building, some supplies and some volunteer workers, he said, and he planned to personally get involved.

In a matter of weeks, his kids became interested. His son suggested they visit the place, and his daughter figured out a way to raise money for the project online. Eventually their family story became more compelling, and before long the teenage daughter told her father she’d broken up with her boyfriend and said she couldn’t believe she had been attracted to him in the first place.

Needless to say, dad was elated, not only because of the change in his family, but in his own personal life story.

Dr. Elmore believes we haven’t challenged our young people enough with worthwhile goals to accomplish. We have overwhelmed them with tests, recitals and practices to the extent that our kids report being constantly “stressed out”. But adults seldom arrange for assignments that seem relevant to life or that might actually help make the world a better place.

While we tend to do much more for our kids today, he adds, we don’t expect very much of them. They are left to fill their spare time with video games, texts and Facebook, and much of their potential goes untapped. A hundred years ago, he says, seventeen-year-olds were "leading armies, working farms, and learning a trade as apprentices." But today’s young are primarily consumers and students, and don’t see themselves as a part of a life narrative that really matters.

What do you think?
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