The Family Team Should Rely on the Children

So, is there any area of your family’s life, where your family relies on your children, where they actually know that they make a difference, that they know if they don’t step up, then the family will suffer? This is an interesting idea. And it’s one that… I have various friends that have really intense ideas. If you want to like get into the most intense version of this, then listen to my interview with Justin Wolfsberg on the Dad’s Building Team podcast. He does this in a really powerful way, but I wanted to contrast this with a problem that is emerging in our culture, that is being called, which is, I think is a brilliant phrase, snowplow parenting. So this is where a parent is trying to create the most… The trajectory. And they just clear all the obstacles out of the way. So the child has almost… There’s no way the child isn’t going to go down this path.

And so they just… And so a lot of this has come up. This conversation is erupted around this scandal where parents are paying money to get their kids into elite schools. This is like the ultimate example of snowplow parenting. Now, look, there’s a lot of areas where we do need to be like training our kids, really helping them get down a certain path, but should we be always in front of them, clearing out all the obstacles? And I think that one of the ways to be careful of this is that this actually can really hurt kids. I was recently listening to Adam Grant. A psychologist. And in his book, Plan B, he talked about how there are really three ways that we need to communicate to kids why they matter. He says that knowing if you matter really is dependent on, “Do you notice me? Do you care about me? And do you rely on me?” And I really-

The last was awesome.

Yeah. I think we get the first two. Do you notice me? Okay. We spend time with our kids, we’re showing up at their baseball games, whatever. Like we know how to do that. Do you care about me? Okay. Like, so we can communicate that their love language. We’ve talked about both those things a lot, but the third one is, do you rely on me? And this is the most counterintuitive. I feel like element of what it means to feel like you matter. And a lot of times we don’t realize that when you’re a snowplow parent, one of the things you’re subtly doing with your kids is you’re saying, “Hey, look, I don’t need you.” In fact, I can not only get done everything I need to get done, but I can also be the snowplow. And you’re in front of your path. And in basically in this way, your child just really begins to feel like they don’t really matter.

Like they don’t really make a difference. And so, there’s all kinds of ways we can be communicating to our kids that they matter, in the area that we rely on them. Okay. This is one of the reasons why we really advocate for having your children as early as possible, helping around the house, right? This is why it’s really important and not a bad idea that when you have a larger family, having your older kids help their siblings, right? Because you’re showing them a lot of times, we’re like, “Oh, that’s child labor.”

It’s like, “No, no.” You’re showing your child, that they matter by relying on them, right? You having your child help in very practical ways, with ways that your family is going about their mission. As soon as you can find ways that they can participate in that, we want to begin to rely on our kids, helping our kids actually step up in leadership roles in the home in various way. So, yeah, there’s a lot of ways to do this. This can be done in very practical ways, in a very big picture ways. But I think it’s just one of these we wanted to in this segment is just talk about, it’s really important that you see this as a value that you want your kids to feel like they matter by being relied upon. But Jeff, have you guys thought about this?

Yeah. I think the paradox is really funny and culture, right? Where we believe it’s actually doing our kids a service and that we’re helping them by making them not have a hard life or making them taking away all the obstacles or making them just be able to… Let kids be kids, let them only… Which essentially by the way, which I’m actually fine with that phrase, but I’m not fine with that phrase with what it usually means, and what that usually means so they only have time to be entertained and consume. Like that’s different. I’m not okay with that, right? Because that’s really what that means. Let kids be kids means just like, I want them to only absorb and take in stuff, I want them to consume and be entertained. So I don’t actually agree with that.

One thing I’ll say though, as the paradox though, is we’re interested because we think that’s us. We’re doing a kids a service there, but there’s no adult in the world that actually loves being in a workplace and being unneeded, right? That’s literally actually like one of the most detrimental things to a lot of our identities. Now there’s some level there that’s actually like identity workaholism, et cetera, that needs to be messed around with. But on a fundamental level, I do believe we are called vocationally as image bearers to work, to create, to cultivate, to bring order and beauty out of chaos. And so yeah, what adult do we know? Like that’s one of the most detrimental things you can have in a workplace is if you feel like, “Oh, I’m not even needed here.” Like this can all happen. This can all go. This can all do its thing. And this can all totally still spin into existence and be successful if I just left or another way is when people say, “Would anyone even notice if I left,”. Right?

That’s super detrimental to an adult, but yet that’s actually what we’re trying to give our kids. So it’s like, “Why do we think it’s detrimental to us, but let’s give it to our children?” So that needs to be actually heated and understood that the best thing you can do is grow them, stretch them, create grit in them. But then on top of that, give them meaning, give them purpose, give them story. If you’re giving meaning and you’re giving story, and also kind of calling someone… Anytime someone’s needed, they’re immediately inherently called out of their individuality, right? That this is bigger than just you. This is a collective effort. This is a team effort. This is a big thing. And so that’s really what this is about, is you’re calling them out of themselves into something greater.

And that is actually the magic of every human spirit. When the human spirit gets that, when they feel like they’re being called out as something else into something greater, that is when they come alive. That is when they have purpose. That is when they have meaning. So understand that the things we think we’re doing a service for, to our kids, with the snowplow parenting at the most fundamental level is actually the biggest disservice. And so assess that, think of that, look at that, and then make sure you’re setting your kids up for success in the more biblical model of what success is.

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