Every now and again, I’m struck by how relevant the popular author Ken Blanchard’s managerial adages are to family life.
Probably best known for his blockbuster book, The One Minute Manager, the sought-after business guru is regularly reminding his audiences to “Catch people in the act of doing something right.” It’s a tactic I try to employ around the office of Focus on the Family, but it’s not a bad habit for parents to use at home as well.
Our younger son, Troy, is six years old. His brother, Trent, is eight. They’re typical boys, which is another way of saying they’re regularly breaking, crushing, spilling and destroying things – not to mention raising a general ruckus on a daily [or Daly] basis.
Case in point, a few weeks ago, during a visit with a reporter from theDenver Post, the boys and I were jumping around on the backyard trampoline. In his excitement, Trent ripped the pocket off my brand new shirt. I had to catch myself. My knee jerk reaction was to scold; but it was an accident, a classic illustration of youthful exuberance. After all, he’s just a kid! It wasn’t a deliberate act; he didn’t mean to do it. But it’s funny, isn’t it? I never would have remembered that shirt after it wore out in the wash – but now, I’ll never forget it. And I’ll never forget that moment in the backyard with my six-year old son.
This past Saturday, the boys joined Jean and me at Focus on the Family’s Yard Sale here on the campus in Colorado Springs. We were just one of the 110 vendors who set up a table and tried to sell a few gently used items – some more gently used than others! – and donate the proceeds to the ministry.
Over 3,000 guests strolled up and down the aisles. The profits from our family’s sales were modest – just over $100 – but we’re still calculating the generosity of families from all over America who held similar events in their own neighborhoods. I’ve been on staff for over 20 years, but I’m continuously amazed anew by the selfless sacrifice of our friends. If you were one of the hundreds, if not thousands of participants, thank you!
But during the morning there was Troy and Trent, having a blast shopping in the hot Colorado sunshine. They seemed pretty excited, meandering from spot to spot on the parking lot pavement – all in search of a few treasures, not for themselves – but for others. Each time they bought an item, they’d announce whom they were buying it for.
My sons, budding philanthropists!
I think it’s true that values aren’t taught – they’re caught. It’s reassuring to think that maybe – just maybe – the boys are beginning to develop that burning desire to give more often than they receive. How good it was to be around – and expose the boys – to so many people of like mind. Our pastor has been preaching out of Paul’s letter to the Romans this summer. Each line is rich and so layered, but as parents, we’re wise to especially remember Paul’s admonition from chapter 12, verses 6-8:
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
As a father of two young boys, I also like what Robert Baden Powell, long credited with launching the modern Scouting movement, had to say about nurturing sons: “The spirit is there in every boy; it has to be discovered and brought to light.”
Parenting is a long and imperfect process, of course, a lifelong challenge that’s hardly going to be perfected at a yard sale on a picture-perfect summer morning. But it was encouraging to see the boys put into action just a little of what we’ve been trying so desperately to teach them for the last eight years.
Sometimes I think we’re so busy teaching and admonishing our kids that we forget to watch and see if they’ve been listening to us all. Saturday gave us an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the hoped and prayed for men we’re trying to raise as boys.
Have you had any opportunity lately to catch your kids doing something right? Have you put them in a position to succeed – or even just talked about what real success is in the eyes of the Lord?
As the economy continues to sputter along and we watch every dollar of the home budget, it’s reassuring to know that in God’s economy, it doesn’t cost a dime to teach our kids His word.
Look for the lessons of everyday life that all the money in the world can’t buy.