Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Manager of My Home, A Leader of My Children

Eric and I spent a considerable amount of time discussing our parenting styles, and our overall vision for our family, last night. I am blessed with a super-insightful husband who has a lot of things figured out, whereas I'm still treading water and praying I will get it figured out someday. Luckily, Eric is patient with me. His desire is not to change me, but to help me grow. I fully see that and accept it and am so thankful for it. As the head of our household, the heavy responsibility of directing our family falls to him. My responsibility is to make sure I help him carry out his vision. The most important way I can do this is to make sure I am on the same page as Eric when it comes to the training and raising of our children.

As we were talking, we came to the realization that I tend to manage the children much like I manage the home. The downside of this is that I do not set them up to succeed with proper behavior. They are managed from one event throughout the day to the next. When discipline problems arise, each one of those is managed on a case-by-case basis. This does not make for a happy mama, or happy kids, or especially a happy husband. So, Eric's challenge to me is to LEAD the children, not manage them. At first I was a little apprehensive of this approach. I like to be a MANAGER of my home. That is my biblical duty. I am the "Keeper at Home."

However, as our discussion progressed, I really began to see the light in Eric's rationale. (And I realized that being a leader of the children in no way diminishes my role as a manager of the home. I can manage an inanimate object, but I should lead the living, breathing souls God has entrusted me with.) Together we researched traits of a great leader. The characteristics we felt most drawn to, and most easily applicable to the role of a parent, were laid out by Mortimer Adler. He was a U.S. Philosopher and a professor at Columbia University. (Beyond his views of leadership, I do not vouch for ANY of his other theories.) He viewed a great leader as holding a trio of traits: ethos, pathos, and logos. Here, I'll break down his definitions and how Eric and I applied them to our desired parenting style.

1. Ethos - Moral character
As parents, we should know why we believe the kids should follow us. It is our job to convince them that it makes sense to follow our leadership, and then they will freely choose to follow.

2. Pathos - Ability to touch feelings, move people emotionally
The children should question: What will I gain when I choose to follow? They should have the recognition that to follow us, their parents, feels good. This mutual respect creates a positive emotional environment.

3. Logos - Ability to give solid reason for action, to move people intellectually
It is our parental duty to show our children the path we are leading them down after they have chosen to follow. (For us, this path is simple. It is our family vision: To lead our family down a Christ-like path toward victory.) We can do this through loving consistency and discipline, as well as playfulness and affection. Our children should always know that our word is our bond and they can trust us to not steer them wrong.

Maybe now you're wondering, as I was, how do I put this into action? It's simple really. I am to view myself as the leader. Or rather, Eric and I are co-leaders, although most of the day-to-day leadership falls to me as I am the one at home with the children. I know that I am in charge, which allows me to present myself in such a way that the children feel questioning me is not an option. I speak firmly and make sure everyone keeps the path I am leading them down in mind. One way to do this is to lay out the day for the children in a concise way. As an example, this morning, after saying good morning to all of the kiddos, I firmly said, "Ok everybody, here's the plan. We're going to have breakfast, then get dressed, then go to church. When we get home you will make your beds and clean up the toys while I make lunch. Then we'll eat lunch." Would you believe they all said "Okay" and were completely onboard, and we had very few disruptions to the plan? It's true! By presenting myself as the leader, they let me lead them. I am amazed. (And quite frankly I once again stand in awe of Eric. What a blessed woman I am to have him as my head. God sure knew what he was doing when he put this broken, lost woman together with this smart man.)

Now I know it isn't all going to be sunshine and smiles from here on out. I have some difficult work ahead of me that involves a LOT of time on my knees, crying out to the Lord to help help me honor and submit to my husband, to help me be the mother my children need/want me to be, to help me stay strong in my convictions. The words of God that I will be carrying with me as I proceed down this path of being a LEADER to my children are:

"but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint"
(Is. 40:31)


A Grammatical Disclaimer

I freely admit to consistently using improper grammar in the following areas:
1. I like run-on sentences.
2. I have a tendency to end sentences with a pronoun. (I really do. I can't help it.)
3. I always seem to use passive voice in my sentences. (See?)

I've been trying to break this habit, unsuccessfully, for years, so now I just accept that as my writing style, and since I'm not writing for grades anymore, I embrace it. (Again, see?)

Hence, I invoke Blogger Artistic License for this blog!

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