Friday, September 25, 2015

Keeping Your Eyes on the Destination

It would seem foolish for you to jump in your car, fill up your gas tank, and jump on a freeway not knowing where you are headed.

Yet that is how a lot of well meaning people train their children. 

Without a destination in mind, it is difficult to plan the trip.  Without knowing where you want to end up, it is not possible to go around the roadblocks, construction and obstacles that will hinder the path there.

I have had many parents of teens come to me not able to understand why their teenager is so selfish.  Once you start looking at their family habits, however, it would be difficult for the teen not to believe the world revolves around them.

At birth, your little cherub is placed into your arms and you know your life is forever changed.  From that point on, every decision you make should have that little life in mind.  You want to do all you can for your child, of course.  But if you don’t really have a destination and make a calculated plan, it is very easy to have a child-centered home which results in growing a narcissistic teen.

The Problem

Rise of Narcissism

Narcissism is alive and well.  What is narcissism?  It comes from Greek mythology: Narcissus, who was a son of the river god and known for his good looks, was drawn to a pool by his enemy Nemesis (which means something causing misery or death).  When Narcissus saw his reflection in the water he wasn’t able to realize it was just an image, he became absorbed and unable to leave that image and he drowned.  Narcissism starts with that kind of fixation on yourself, and your image and appearance. 

Beginning in the 70’s with the self-image movement, many people focused on building self-esteem in order to fuel success in their children.  “Don’t correct misspelled words; it may crush a child’s spirit.  Don’t give someone a prize based on performance because the others may feel badly; give every one a prize.” 

The findings, however, have been constant:  self-esteem building not based on actual personal achievement or positive behavior is not necessarily a healthy thing.[i]   By not rewarding achievement and hard work, we have fueled passivity and entitlement.  By not recognizing children’s strengths, we have taken away the ability to recognize that each person has different strengths and weaknesses.  By not focusing on personal achievements, we have made it easier for our children to pit themselves against each other in comparisons rather than achieving personal bests. 

Feeding on image-centered social media, “selfies” reign where every one else is literally out of the picture except you.  Following many beautiful looking young people on Facebook and Instagram, in tracking their vacations and events of life, it often appears they are the only ones there!  Or at least they are the only ones being focused on.

Rise of Depression Amongst Young People

Eleven percent of adolescents have a clinical depressive disorder by the age of 18 according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement.   Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year olds and the sixth leading cause of death for 5- to 14-year olds.  In the next 24 hours, 15,006 teens will use drugs for the first time, and 3,506 teens will run away.[ii]

The Solution

If you see the statistics and problems ahead, you need to strategically plan how to get around those things to make it to your destination.  There are  several things parents can do, beginning with training toddlers, that can contribute to raising teenagers able to overcome the obstacles that will face them.  REMEMBER:  children will model your behavior and will often learn from the way they see you live even more than from the things you say.  That is a reason in itself to walk in victory and maturity so your children can learn to be empowered to do the same without excuses.

Pursue Excellence Not Perfection

There is a small dividing line between raising children who know they are special, have certain gifts and talents, and can make an impact on their world in a way that only they can, and raising children who believe they need to feel good about themselves and create themselves to be something based on others’ admiration of them.  Pursuing excellence and being a perfectionist are two different things:  one is based on being the best you can be; the other is based on people’s opinion of who you are.  One noticeable difference is where you put your focus and where you train your children to put their focus:  is it on recognizing the value of other people and their achievements or is it on undermining others in order to elevate yourself?

Some of the things to pay attention to in raising children who pursue excellence vs. perfection (examining yourself first since you can’t teach what you haven’t learned):

*Be sure that they are more worried about having good character than looking of being “cool.”
*Don’t belittle others in order to make them feel good (“Look at you!  You ran faster than Jane!” or “You got more goals than John!”)
*Help them applaud and recognize others’ achievements, even in sports and competitions.
*Help them establish value by who they are and not just what they can do.
*Help them meet high standards that are within reach, and just be the best they can be versus striving for impossible goals.
*Help them keep going despite disappointment, and learn from failure without being devastated by it.
*Help them correct mistakes and learn from them rather than dwelling on them.
*Help them be happy not coming in first, as long as they know they’ve done their best.
*Help them accept positive criticism without falling apart.
*Don’t make everything be about achievements; make time for creative play and times to just enjoy life.
*Help them be comfortable with who they are not as well as with who they are.

Become “Other People Conscious” Rather than “Self Conscious”

When I became more “God conscious” than “self conscious,” I learned to live my life
more concerned with what God thought than with what I thought.  When you train your children to be more “God conscious” and “other people conscious” than “self conscious,” you can give them habits that will detract from them believing the world revolves around them.

Some of the things to pay attention to in raising children to become more “God conscious” and “other people conscious” than “self conscious” (examining yourself first since you can’t teach what you haven’t learned):

*Teach them that some of their free time should be devoted to giving to others and not just spent on their own hobbies and pursuits.  Teach them the joy of giving time and efforts to others and how good it makes them feel.
*Make your children consider others’ choices in games to play, movie to watch etc. and not just get their own way all the time. 
*Train your children to be more concerned about other people than their own comfort:  train them to encourage handicapped people and to have compassion on those who have lost loved ones, are ill, or have special needs.
*Train your children to spend one lunch time or recess period at school with someone who needs a friend.
*Train your children to wait before interrupting a conversation when they come into the room, and to be considerate of others.
*Train your children to respect and be patient with the elderly and those needing patience.
*Let your children see you let other cars into your lane, allow others to go first, and hold the door open and be considerate of others.  As soon as they are old enough, teach them to do the same.

Teach Your Children What Success Means and What Makes Their Lives Meaningful

In Proverbs 30.15 (Msg) it says, A Leech has twin daughters named “Gimme” and “Gimme more.”  A leech can suck the life out of you!  Sadly, by pummeling our children with things, we can produce “Gimme” and “Gimme more” and they will never have enough things to satisfy them.  Don’t play into the materialism and greed of our society.  In what I call the “Lindsay Lohan” principle, you can certainly see the validity of Luke 12:15: He told the people, “Be careful to guard yourselves from every kind of greed. Life is not about having a lot of material possessions.”

 If you measure success by the amount of things you own, hear the perspective of the parable to one who spent his life for what he would leave behind:  “But God said to him, ‘You fool! I will demand your life from you tonight! Now who will get what you’ve accumulated?’  That’s how it is when a person has material riches but is not rich in his relationship with God.” 

What is your definition of success?   We have all been entrusted with different gifts and talents.  Success to me will be at the end of my life on earth to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful… enter into the joy of your Lord!” 

Success is not being everything I envision myself to be or what I wish I could be, but refusing to be anything less than what God made me to be!  And using all I am to make a difference for now and eternally in the lives around me!

Some of the things to pay attention to in raising children to define “success” and make their lives meaningful (examining yourself first since you can’t teach what you haven’t learned):

*From a very young age, let your children help you serve others and recognize the joy it gives them.
*Don’t give your children too many gifts.  Refuse to take away the joy of working to earn something and then enjoying what you have earned by allowing them to want things for awhile, making money and waiting for the reward.
*Keep Christmas and birthdays simple in the gift-giving arena and focus more on time together and relationships (see my blog on ideas:
*Make a mission statement with your children every year to focus on what they can do in their little growing worlds to “make a difference” in the lives of others.
*Teach your children how to respond in difficult situations such as illness, death, and disability.
*Give your children chores at an early age and allow them to see how much of a difference they can make by contributing.
*Keep television and computer times to a minimum, focusing instead on being of service and developing gifts and talents.  (Although physicians usually recommend no more than two hours of screen time per day, teens report spending approximately 7.5 hours per day using entertainment media, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.[iii])

Keep Your Child Training On An Offensive Path as Much as Possible

As in football, in training children you can take on an offensive or defensive position.  On the offense, you have the ball, are in control of the ball, and are in a position to score points.  On the defense, you are trying to prevent the offense from scoring.

If you see personality traits and tendencies that are heading for trouble, take the offensive approach.  Start training your child early on how to overcome those obstacles to score!  Don’t wait until your 14 year old is having social and emotional problems to have a court order “community service.”  Start with your children as soon as they are toddlers to be focused on “community service,” and you are parenting offensively. 

With a little thought and strategy, you can see like no one else can see where your child could be headed for trouble.  Train them to be strong in those areas!

And keep your eyes on the destination.  If you aim for nothing you will hit it every time!  Decide where you want to be headed, and focus your energies on taking you down the roads you need to travel to get there!  Enjoy the journey!