Recently, I attended a luncheon to honor Forty Leaders Under Forty. Each of them gave brief vignettes of that which steered them in their commitment toward leadership excellence. What stood out as a common thread in many of their personal stories was a very strong influence of parental leadership. One of the nominees mentioned his very young mother who was pregnant with him at fifteen. Contrary to the advice of others to discontinue her pregnancy, she gave birth and raised him, as a single mother, to be a now-successful physician who is being honored for his leadership. Another recipient, who overcame a possibly debilitating disease, chose to buck the foregone conclusion of working for his family’s hugely successful business to start his own and credited his mother for her wonderful example in his life. Another award winner praised the words of his grandfather that encouraged him to follow his dreams and to never give up on those aspirations. As a nation who seems to be raising a generation of entitled “millennials”, how are we as parents doing at being leaders to our children? I think there is vast area for improvement.
Do we hold our kids accountable? There are countless, age-old expressions that seem a little cliche today but were based in Scripture which we could apply to give ourselves a broad template to compare ourselves to. We reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-8). Regardless of ones walk of faith, we have heard that expression countless times, but do we really apply it? Do we allow our children to reap what they sow? After all, there is no better teacher than experience.
Do we allow our children’s peers to shape our most treasured? Parents fall prey to the hype that their kids need phones to be able to get ahold of them. Until they start driving and are in a car alone, is there really any need for them to have a phone? We didn’t have cell phones when I grew up and we didn’t need them. There was always an adult who would be happy to let you use their “land line” to phone your parents much less now every adult has a cell phone. Parents buckle to the pressure of their children’s peers without thinking of the ramifications. Teenagers and Tweens are plugged into their friends and/or social media 24-7. The teenage years are a mine-filled journey and we allow the inexperienced to advise our kids on navigating the rough waters of adolescence. When I was a kid, only parents had a phone in their room (which was a place we didn’t spend a lot of time in unless given permission). My brother and I had to use the phone in the kitchen within earshot of my parents. Were we thrilled about it? No! Did it allow my parents insight into what was going on in the hearts and mind of their children? Absolutely! From my own experience, once these kids have phones, they replace family conversation/ fun time with distracted attention texting their friends. Do we check our kids phones periodically and authoritatively simply because it is the right thing to do? I don’t think we would put our children into a car, put it in gear when they can’t see above the steering wheel but can reach the gas pedal, and send them out into a busy street, would we?
Why have we given up being stewards of our children’s innocence? Kids are participating in sex at much earlier ages than ever before. The rate of sexually transmitted diseases is at an all time high including HPV which has become epidemic in proportion. As a matter of fact, HPV is quickly surpassing tobacco products as the cause of throat cancer. Kids are dropped off at parties with no phone calls from parents to checking to see if there will be an adult chaperone supervising the festivities. I was listening to a speaker that was asking parents, ” How many of you in here trust your teenagers?” About half the hands went up. He said, “There is your biggest mistake.” I thought, “Really? Who are these people? Weren’t they once teenagers too? Could my parents trust me? Probably not…” The internet is loaded with pornographic images …when was the last time we checked what our children have been looking at?
Are we teaching our children the value of hard work. Today all the wants of American teens far outnumber the needs. Kids have iPods, iPads, iPhones, Xbox 360, PS4, meanwhile many of these families bury themselves financially to provide for their little darlings. I am most often impressed with the kids of families that insist that their children share in the fiscal burden of some of the extravagances that have become mainstay in our culture. Kids today are getting manicures and pedicures, massages, waxing, and having seen them at the salon, I am abhorred by some of their behavior. Periodically, I treat myself to a mani/pedi and get to sit and listen to a mother call her kid’s name over and over again only for that child to be rewarded in the end with getting their nails done. What do these kids have to look forward to?
To have a great society, we need great leaders. I think if we occasionally take a personal inventory of our job creating the futures leaders, we will all see areas for improvement. Make yourself a leader that will inspire your children to want to emulate and lead others.