I once blogged about the importance of parental influence and mentioned five things that can increase it. In this–and the following four posts–I will elaborate on what I call the Five Optimizers of Influence. While nothing guarantees that our kids will make wise choices, my 31 years of youth ministry taught me that parents who become proficient in these five areas will have maximum impact on their kids.
1. Model authenticity.
Since character and values are more caught than taught, careful management of your own life and character is of critical importance.
- Want them to have high moral character? Live it. How can we expect them to be honest if we’re cheating on our taxes? How will they be truthful if they see us calling in sick on the way to the golf course? How can we expect them to be respectful when we mock those of different political persuasions? How will they learn patience and forgiveness if we don’t work on our road rage? How will they be humble if they never see us apologize?
- Want them to learn? Show that you don’t know everything and that you have a teachable spirit. Model a desire to seek truth wherever it may be found. Show interest in learning from them; they will likely want to learn from you in return.
- Want them to open up to you? Open up to them, speaking about things that really matter. Be transparent and vulnerable about how you are growing and what your personal goals and dreams are–physically, relationally, spiritually, financially, etc. Authenticity breeds authenticity just as superficiality breeds superficiality. Such conversations may help you discover the unique person that they are.
- Want them to be spiritually strong? Devote yourself to the spiritual disciplines (prayer, Word, solitude, etc). Spend less time monitoring their spiritual walks and more time focusing on your own spiritual development. Let them see you carving out time to get alone with God. Let them see your open, underlined Bible. Let them see how developing intimacy with God is a priority in your life–not just lip service–and that it is changing you for the better. Show joyful obedience, generous giving, and eagerness to do ministry — all flowing from a heart of thankfulness, never obligation.
- Want them to be careful about their internet use? Show them your own commitment to internet accountability by giving your social media passwords to your spouse and not shying away from random checks on your computer use. Show how you proactively guard yourself against porn and other online temptations.
- Want their dating life to be God-honoring? If you’re married, model a God-honoring marriage. Let them see you reading books to strengthen your marriage and see your eagerness to attend marriage conferences. Let them see two imperfect people who are committed to relational growth. Be a team. Regularly show forgiveness, love, and respect toward one another as well as much displayed affection. Talk about the importance of exclusivity in your relationship. If you’re single, explain your beliefs about marriage and expose your kids to healthy marriages.
- Want them to be plugged into a faith community? Don’t allow Sunday sports leagues to interfere with church attendance–think what that teaches them about your priorities! If you make church involvement important to you it likely will become important to them for the rest of their lives.
- Want them to take care of themselves? Show how you are taking care of yourself. Attend to your personal growth needs and show self-respect. Parents who are so busy meeting the demands of their children become doormats, unintentionally teaching that parents are push-overs and that kids can be entitled.
Tomorrow I will elaborate on the next Influence Optimizer!
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