Balancing the Bar of Love & High Standards

Want to talk a little bit to Jeff. I know, both of us have been getting into this psychologist named Angela Duckworth. She wrote a book called Grit. One of the things that it’s clear that the Bible talks about when we enter into this conversation around parenting is it really has a high bar for both love and really having high standards. And this is really, really important because for a lot of intentional parents, the biggest problem that they have is either they’re not supportive enough or they’re not demanding enough. And what Angela Duckworth really points out in her book is, instead of seeing one of those as the ideal parenting strategy, you don’t want to be low and high, you want to be high in both. Both high and being very supportive, knowing your kids, loving your kids, being really interactive with your kids, and at the same time, being really high in the standards or the demandingness of what you are bringing to your children.

And oftentimes, we’ve seen what happens when you’re low high, right? What happens is you see somebody who’s low in support, but high in demanding. And then, the whole idea of being demanding and having high standards as a parent takes a huge hit, especially if books or philosophies are being written by people that have had low support, high demanding parents. And of course, there’s another part of the spectrum that I think is becoming really popular, which is the very low demand, low standards, don’t expect much from your kids, but be super supportive, full of grace, and love, and just forgiveness, and all the time just give in. And either of those strategies don’t work. It needs to be high in both. And so, that’s what she points out in this book called Grit.

One of the things I love that she does in this book is she really gives a very practical prescription for how to do this with your kids, how to get started. And I love this idea. So, just read this piece. “Duckworth, in her book, Grit, has one major prescription for being this kind of parent. This kind of parent is high in support and high in demandingness. And that is the one hard thing rule. You want your child to choose this voluntarily, but then, they need to stick with it, practice near daily, and don’t let them quit when they hit the valley.” I love this idea of wanting our kids to really lean into one hard thing because they need to learn how to rise to those higher standards. But if you do that in every single area, all at the same time, then you can begin to tyrannize your children.

And so, it’s really important to be high in both, and also to pick something where you’re going to really hold the line in. One last thing I want to point out to you guys is it’s possible to think about this one hard thing rule, not just as an individual, but as a whole family. Right? Our family really did this with, when we got involved in taekwondo. It was like, “We’re going to spend two years. We’re going to be doing this constantly. We’re going to be working with this as a family team, and we’re all going to try to accomplish something together that’s really hard to stick with.” And so, instead of thinking about this, purely as an individual play, which is great if that’s what you do, but also maybe pick the one hard thing that your family can all rally around and get excited about, and then learn grit together as a team. But Jeff, how do you think about this?

Sorry, I just had to take a second because Alyssa was just asking something. But I agree, and that’s family life, by the way, right there with five-minute fatherhood when you film at home. I agree. And what I’ll say, I actually love her research, and I love what she talks about in her book. So, go read the book, Grit. One interesting way that we’ve thought about it, which is a little bit of an oversimplification. So, of course, this can’t be the exact way, but there’s another… I think he’s a journalist or a psychologist also that totally riffs on a lot of her work in the book called How Children Succeed.

And it’s actually one of my favorite parenting family books. And the way he talks about it is very similar to what she says, but he talks about it, which I think is a helpful way to think about it too, in two phases. Right? If you split up the 18 years of a kid’s life, then go zero to nine, nine to 18, right? You got two halves. He says, “Zero to nine should be heavy on the supportive, the attachment, the love, just so heavy on… They’re safe and they’re secure.” And then, nine to 18 should be the things where you’re demanding really, really hard things of them. You’re trying to stretch them. You’re trying to grow them. You’re trying to call them to a standard that they don’t think they can get to, but you believe they can.

And he says, “When you do those right, it’s the perfect scenario and way of growing.” Because then, they have this hot bed of security and safety. So then they can leap out, so that they can risk, so that they can push through the valley, like you said. But, if you only do one of those, if you only do the supportive love one all the way through, that’s pretty much our culture now of like coddled 20-year-olds that don’t know how to do anything. And if you only demand all the way through from zero to 18, then we know what that does too where there’s no actual love, or relationship, or intimacy there. Now, it’s a little oversimplification, because you’re still going to have some support on this one and on the other one, et cetera.

But, I agree. And I liked that that’s a way to think about it, that we have to build and go… There’s building blocks to our kids, right? And I think it is safety, security, attachment, love. And then, you actually have to leverage those things for their growth. That’s the whole point of those things is to leverage it for their growth, not so that it self-terminates, because then that would turn cancerous. Literally, the definition of that word is just the cells overgrowing in and of itself. And so, that’s a good way to think about it, I think. And I love how you guys have done that, taekwondo. Wasn’t there a season where it was tennis? Right?


And then, doing that as a family, I think is brilliant. And I love that. And especially what she said is, “Make them stick with it, practice nearly every day, and then don’t let them quit in the valley.” If you can teach your kids that lesson, that’s one of the core discipleship tools. And if you can really get that into their heart, into their mind, you’re sending your 18, 19, 20-year-old out into the real world, I would say, 10 years ahead of pretty much everyone else.

That’s a huge part of the kingdom, huge part of discipleship. And even adding Jesus in there, he meets us in that, right? We can be stretched, and we can take risks because we are the most free people there are. There’s no such thing as failure to us, or there’s no such thing of failure that is our identity. Failure does not define us. And so, that’s huge. And so, to give your kids that foundation, that bedrock is absolutely enormous. That’s what we’ll leave you guys with today is, can you say, like Jeremy said, that you’re a 10 out of 10 on both? 10 out of 10 on supportive, 10 out of 10 on actually demanding something of them. And when those go together, that’s how I think the relationship is supposed to work.

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