Sunday, July 18, 2010

Building Courage by Investing in Children

Building bravehearts with the courage to try depends on parents intentionally investing themselves in their children.  We make decisions every day about spending our limited energy and time.  Let me share three insights into the importance of investing energy and time in your children from an eclectic group of sources  I ran across this week, all saying the same thing: a country song, Harvard Business Review article, and a Bible verse.

I can't resist an occasional country song.  "Everything That Glitters Is Not Gold" by Dan Seals has become a new favorite, even though the song is old.  It talks about a rodeo star leaving behind her guy and their little girl, Casey:

"Everybody said you'd make it big someday,
And I guess that we were only in your way
But someday, I'm sure, you're gonna know the cost;
Cause for everything you win, there's something lost."

"But then sometimes I think about you, and the way you used to ride out
In your rhinestones and your sequins, with the sunlight on your hair;
And, oh, the crowd will always love you, but as for me I've come to know
Everything that glitters.... is not gold."

Next, Clayton Christensen, the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School writes in the July-August 2010 edition of Harvard Business Review:

"When people who have a high need for achievement...have an extra half hour of time or an extra ounce of energy, they'll unconsciously allocate it to activities that yield the most tangible accomplishments.  And our careers provide the most concrete evidence that we're moving forward.  You ship a product, finish a design, complete a presentation, close a sale, teach a class, publish a paper, get paid, get promoted.  In contrast, investing time and energy in your relationship with your spouse and children typically doesn't offer the same immediate sense of achievement...People who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers--even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness."

Christensen says that instead of creating a family culture of successfully working together, parents often use "power tools" when children are young, forcing cooperation through power because it is easier.  But, he says, "there comes a point during the teen years when power tools no longer work.   At that point parents start wishing that they had begun working with their children at a very young age to build a culture of home in which children instinctively behave respectfully toward one another, obey their parents, and choose the right thing to do.  Those cultures can be built consciously or evolve inadvertently."

Christensen continues:  "If you want your kids to have strong self-esteem and confidence that they can solve hard problems, those qualities won't magically materialize in high school.  You have to design them into your family's culture--and you have to think about this very early on.  Like employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works."

Last, Paul's blunt comment in Galatians 6:  "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."

Let's have no regrets about where we spend our energy and time.

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