The greatest lessons are not taught, they are lived. #parenting

Posted: February 11, 2013 in Life Lessons
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Hardwork

As a mentor, it requires you to interact with the parents of the young people whose life you have been given charge to lead and direct. I would spend time talking to their parents to gain perspective and insight on the lessons and angles to take to be relevant, which is one of the only ways to make a connection. By default, a relationship formed between myself and some of the parents. They are entrusting me with their most precious gift, a life that God has blessed them to raise. Some days, I could see the defeat in their eyes. They hope that I would have “the” answer to why their teen was acting that way. “I give them everything! Why are they talking to me like that?” The pain was too much for some of them to take. Tears would often streamed down their faces and drip on the paper as they unfolded the report card so that I could take a look.

The vulnerability and feeling of inadequacy that can come when raising a child, especially a teen, can become unbearable. Even though I did not know many of them personally, in one conversation, exactly who they are and who they wanted their children to become would be crystal clear. They would articulate their optimisms and passion for their children to do much better than they had, but did not understand why the life of their child was starting to mirror their years as a teen. #disappointment

They would share some intimate details about who they were as a parent (or who they were not); things that they have tried, demands that was outlined, discipline that was laid down. The level of intimacy from the parent was not always intentional. I had another perspective that came from building a relationship with their child. Hearing the other side, I could sometimes put two and two together (but it did not always equal 4). Go figure.

Then…I had a LIGHT BULB MOMENT. It is amazing the things that you can find out when you hear the same story told from 2 people who do not realize that you will gain another point of view. Time and time again, parent after parent, mentee after mentee, year after year, I realized something that greatly impacts how I parent and even live life today. You may think that this is elementary and even a given, but what I figured out is that just like every other principle, it only works when applied.

I was watching a movie called Love & Basketball (great movie I might add) and there was a scene of the movie where the son was upset with his father for cheating on his mom. The son asks the father a question that pierced the depths of my soul, ”Why couldn’t you be the man that you have always try to make me?” (((Whoa!))) As I sat in silence…thinking that is a statement that I NEVER want to hear from my son or daughter. There is nothing that father could say to that? Really…how are you supposed to respond? I had to watch the movie again to see what happened after that, because I think I blacked out thinking about how powerful that statement was. I guess thinking back I realize just how early I have had a passion for parenting.

One day, years later…it happened again. I was talking to a group of youth and one of them asked me a question that solidified it for me. After one of my “talks” (I have been accused on blending in a life lesson into everything I do and say), a youth looked me straight into my eyes, almost with tears and asked, “you are holding me accountable for the things say and do, but who is holding my parents accountable? What I am supposed to do if you are telling me not to do something but my parents are doing it? I’m trying, but what am I supposed to do?” ((((Double Whoa!!!)))

I mean…WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THAT!!!!!!!! This is a moment when you just wish you could shrink as small as possible or just run. I can’t tell them not to listen to their parents, but wrong is wrong…Right?

Ok, here it is, parents! I warned you, it may seem like a given, but I realized that as parents:

The Greatest Lessons Are Not Always Taught, But Lived. The lessons that parents are trying to teach their child(ren) are not always the lesson that is being lived. Therefore, we must realize that kids are watching us far more than they are listening.

I love my mother and I think that she did a great job in raising me and helping me to become the person, man, parent that I am today. However, I thought she coined a phrase that I later found out was a statement that was a parents excuse to do whatever they wanted. “Do what a say, not as I do.” Hello!!! That does not work…well it might when I am standing in front of you, but me seeing you do it makes your words sound like the adults from Charlie Brown…Whomp, WhomP, wHoMP, wwwhoommmpp.

So, now I felt it burning inside, so I decided to do a little experiment. I asked my mother, what was the greatest lesson that you tried to teach me going up? Because I asked her out of the blue, I saw her contemplate it for a second, look up left then right. I saw that she wanted to ask me why I was asking the question, but figured there was not right or wrong way to answer the question. She then replied, “To never tell a lie.” That’s great. Every parent wants their child to be honest!

Well to her surprise, that was NOT the greatest lesson that I had actually learned from my mother. The greatest lesson that I had learned was the value and importance of an education. My mother became pregnant at 16. Therefore, she dropped out of high school to raise me. Years later, when I was almost in middle school, we were sitting at the dinner table and she said, “Baby, I am going back to finish school. How will I be able to tell you to graduate high school if I never did?” She then started taking night classes, in which I attended many of them with her. I was in “day care” as she attended class, but I remember eating the Kraft Mac N Cheese and Goldfish crackers while waiting (what seemed like forever) for her to come back to get me. I still recall taking a picture with my grandfather, with my mother in her cap and gown…she did it!

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a match ladies and gentleman. Her words and deed aligned. She was “intentional” about teaching me a lesson. Being a parent is about communicating the lessons, but also living the lifestyle as well. I recall the day I walked in the door after school and she had an envelope in her hand from Michigan State University. She wanted me to open it. When I read, “Congratulations, we are pleased to announce that you have been accepted…” she hugged me so tightly. She was so proud and happy for me (tears are coming down my eyes right now). I remember thinking that it was no big deal. She had already taught me the value and importance of an education. It was something that was a given in my eyes. After high school comes college.

Later as I reflected, I cannot recall my mother EVER talking to me about college. However, I do recall talking to my guidance counselor about where I may go and she giving me the application to Michigan State and ensuring that I attended the early admissions seminar (I can see her face, but cannot recall her name…thank you). I said all of this to say, Parents, when you are intentional about the lessons and teach your child what they should know, 9 times out of 10, they will respond without you having to take any effort at all.

I continued to test my theory by asking my friends and some of my friend’s parent’s the same questions (separate from one another) and to date, no one has had an answer that has matched. As parents, the lessons that we think we are teaching our kids are not always the lessons that they are picking up on. Actually, some lessons may be ones that you do not want them to learn at all. Remember…the greatest lessons are not taught, but lived. “Do what I say, not as I do” is not an acceptable way of parenting in this day and age. We must be intentional and live the lifestyle that we want to model for our kids.

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