Think lab, not lecture

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This past Sunday one of my personal mentors, Dr. Tim Elmore (who happens to be an expert in leading millennials), shared a message with our church about how to help the next generation win.  He shared a number of messages, but here are a few take home messages that Samantha and are I still pondering as we reflect on our own parenting:

We must prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.  The further out I can see, the better the decision I will make to help the next generation win.  Don’t think control, think connect.  Don’t think rules, think equations.  Don’t think lecture, think lab.  

The key verse for our message was 1 Chronicles 12:32- God help us as parents to understand the times in order to lead well.

It’s funny how when you hear a message at church, you quickly have an opportunity to put it into practice.  Our teenage niece who is living with us failed to live up to a few basic expectations concerning social media and academic performance this past week.  Instead of grounding her and instituting an arbitrary punishment, we wanted to be thoughtful about what would best set her up in the long run.  Think equations, not rules.  Personally, in my frustration all I wanted to do was lecture about the dangers of her choices, but I know enough now to see that probably wouldn’t do any good.

So last night we created a lab.  I printed out a few documents for her to review.  One was her own list of expectations for her own behavior that we had her create when she moved in.  It was basically her own contract with herself, including punishments that she felt would be fair and appropriate.  Another was a vision letter that Samantha and I created as we made the decision to bring her into our home.  We had not really discussed this explicitly with her, but it has implicitly guided all of our decisions and actions these past few months because it clearly outlines a destination, priorities, and goals for our parenting approach of her.  Finally, I shared with her our own personal family goals document.  Every 5 years Samantha and I create a 5 year plan for our family, complete with priorities and goals of what we’d like to accomplish.  We use this to guide our decisions and actions and review frequently throughout the weeks and months of each year.

After giving her these artifacts one by one, without a lengthy explanation, I simply asked her to take a look at them and share her reaction.  It was interesting, she had strong reactions to the vision document we created for parenting her, and she was intrigued by our family goals for ourselves (even surprised and impressed?).  Then, without a lecture (which was by far the hardest thing for me to do), we told her that we’re doing our part in creating the conditions necessary for you to be successful.  You still have to do your part, and it starts with creating your own vision and plan for what you’d like to accomplish with your life.  How are you going to take advantage of this opportunity right now?  We put a few guardrails in place to help narrow her focus for the next week or so (a social media fast, we’ll be setting up a few career shadowing opportunities during her fall break next week).

With that, we told her we loved her, use the examples you have in front of you to create a plan, and we’re looking forward to seeing what you come up with.  When I woke up this morning, I came into my office to find pages of her work along with research and the beginnings of her own powerpoint presentation on the computer.  Looks like our lab is working!

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