Focus on character: You’re a Human Being, Not a Human Doing

What am I praising my kids for- Is it for what they DO, or for who they ARE?

That is a question I constantly ask myself while trying to build confidence in Bauer and Reese. For kids at ages 10 and 12, I want them to know I absolutely love being their dad and I always accept them, even when they fail.

The easiest thing to do is default to praising their accomplishments. I mean, it comes naturally right? When Bauer does well at basketball, it’s the normal thing to say “great shot.” When Reese gets a good test score, I’m used to telling her, “I’m so proud of that good grade.” But focusing on the accomplishment itself doesn’t tell them we’re proud of THEM, it tells them we’re proud of what they DID.

Reese has always been a good speller. A highlight of her school year is the annual spelling bee. She studies for the weeks leading up to it and works super hard to get the words right. I remember doing the same thing when I was 10. The only difference between her and I? She gets the words right. She has typically finished well in the bee and a good friend hilariously joked to me recently, “Ya know, Reese is like the Tom Brady of the spelling bee. She’s already won enough and she should just be done now.”

Going into this year’s bee, she practiced and prepared as usual. The bee came and it was really fun. All the kids were so brave and confident. They were spelling words that you wouldn’t imagine, all in front of a pretty big audience! Finally, after a tense spelling battle, Reese misspelled a word. She was out. An awesome girl from her class won the bee. That sweet girl had also worked very hard, studied the words, and been excited and ready for the competition.

When the competition was over, I knew that Reese would be disappointed. I went up to her, gave her a hug and told her this: “Reesey, I’m proud of your courage in front of all those people. I’m proud of how hard you worked. I’m proud of how brave you were to take that on.” I focused on her character, not on what she had done.

The year before this, she had won the spelling bee. Afterward, I saw her and said something like this: “Reesey, I’m proud of your courage in front of all those people. I’m proud of how hard you worked. I’m proud of how brave you were to take that on.” I was not proud that she had won, I was proud of what what she had done to get there- effort, hard work, determination.

The best part about focusing on character rather than accomplishments is that it’s something our kids can control and repeat in the future. They can’t control if they always win, get an A+, or finish in first place. However, they can always be strong, brave, honest, loyal, courageous, trustworthy, and kind. These traits will get them somewhere in life and will also result in great rewards. Those traits are what I praise.

The truth is that there will be times when our kids finish last or don’t win. So what do we praise then? Instead of giving them a “Great job honey!” that they know is obligatory, we can build up the person that they are and are still becoming. They aren’t appreciated because they win something or finish in a certain position. They are loved and accepted because they are a human BEING, not a human DOING. When they know this from us as their parents, they can focus on building strong character, rather than doing things to win. Then great results will naturally follow.

Each one of us is a human BEING, not a human DOING!

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Exposing our Kids to the Right Things: Everyone Else is Doing It!

I couldn’t BELIEVE the things my parents would NOT let me watch when I was a kid.  In my mind, EVERYONE got to see all the best movies and they basically had run of the television in their homes.  I remember how badly I wanted to watch some of the coolest action movies when I was a wee lad.  Well, that was a no, and now I know why.

As Renee and I continue to try raising independent kids who can confidently think for themselves, I am careful to remember that there is a balance in doing this.  We want our children to grow to be strong, wise, and ready to face what life has for them.  We also do not want them exposed to dangers that may permanently or irreparably harm them. Continue reading Exposing our Kids to the Right Things: Everyone Else is Doing It!

Leaving a Life Legacy: What Will My Quilt Look Like?

There was an empty seat at our Christmas dinner table that year.  Grandpa passed away on August 17, 2008, leaving a huge vacuum in our tight-knit family.  Grandpa was not just any “grandpa” to me.  He was the Best Man in my wedding, my roommate for 14 years as I grew up, and my mentor & friend who taught me that there has never been a better golfer than Tiger Woods.

Eight of us sat around the Christmas tree, remembering that the year before it was nine of us.  Mom and Dad had special gifts for us three pairs of “kids-and-spouses” to open at the same time.  Mom was sure to mention that these must be opened last.  We all held the gifts and curiously opened them together once all the other ones had been unwrapped.  Then we froze as each of us, along with our loved ones, began to cry.  Inside the beautiful wrapping was a quilt with a note that said in part, “This quilt, made of Grandpa’s shirts, pajamas, bathrobe and jeans, was made with our love and tears for all of you to treasure and remember.  ~Mom & Dad”

I am looking at the quilt right now.  It is like looking at different parts of Grandpa’s life.  I can remember different experiences and memories with him in each square.  The brown and yellow plaid shirt is the one that I left at his house one time.  He liked it, so he adopted it as his own.  The bathrobe reminds me of his last Father’s Day, sitting in Grandpa’s room watching Tiger dominate the U.S. Open with an injured leg and listening to Gramps joke and laugh with me, my dad and my son.  The gray wool shirt is the one he would often wear to church to dress up.  Grandpa loved God and everyone knew it.  The jeans are tired and worn out.  He mowed, painted, nailed and built.  Grandpa was a hard worker all of his life.

Grandpa’s quilt represents a life well-lived by a Godly man.  Each fabric is woven with years of experience and Godly wisdom that my family and I can model.  When I grow old, I wonder what my quilt will look like.  The decisions I make today is the yarn that knits those squares.  If I am to pass on a meaningful legacy and heritage to my children, my choices happen now.  I just pray that my quilt is as rich, full and inspiring as Grandpa’s.

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Encouraging Our Children: What Every Kid Needs at Christmas

The most meaningful gift I have ever received is currently worth $2.99.  One year when I was a kid, my family was having a particularly tough Christmas financially.  We lived in a 2-bedroom apartment with my Dad, Mom, 2 sisters and Grandpa.  Needless to say, no one got an X-Box or an LED TV that year.  We had a Charlie Brown sort of a tree and some simple decorations that my mom had cobbled together.

We don’t do the “one present on Christmas Eve” thing in my family.  We do the “all presents on Christmas Eve” thing.  That night, my youngest sister passed out the gifts around the tree to each person in the room.  That was her job and it still is, even though she’s 34 now.  My lone gift was an envelope.  Taking turns, everyone opened their presents and it finally got to me.  I tore open my little envelope and found a note.  The note was just a piece of paper with a handwritten clue on it.  The clue led me to another clue in a different part of the apartment.  That clue took me to another clue.  In my PJ’s, I scurried from clue-to-clue, covering all 700 square-feet of that tiny apartment.

Continue reading Encouraging Our Children: What Every Kid Needs at Christmas

Gratefulness: 92, Going on 32

“I wake up each morning and live my life to honor Jesus. I’m just thankful for each day.”    ~Grammie

Renee’s Grammie is 92, going on 32.  She is sparkly in every way: her smile, her fashion, her laugh, her personality.  There is not a room she enters that doesn’t light up.  She has spent her life making others feel better about themselves and spreading gratefulness in so many ways.

This was never more evident than last week when Grammie had an accident and broke her shoulder.  This is a serious injury for anyone at any age, let alone someone 92 going on 32.  Tests were done, arms were poked, and x-rays were taken.  The result is that she simply needs to rehab the shoulder as much as possible while managing the intense pain that comes with that.

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Teaching Independence: Preparing Our Kids For the Road

“Many of us prepare the road for our kids; what we should be doing is preparing our kids for the road.”  This quote was courtesy of Ray Johnston, Pastor of Bayside Church in Roseville, CA.

There seems to be quite a tension for us parents when it comes to protecting our kids and letting them experience failure.  The truth is that many of us hurt deeply when our children fall on their face, literally or figuratively.  However, the other side of this coin is the simple fact that life will not be easy for our kids, just as it has not been easy for us.  One day, we will not be there for them and they will need to be ready to succeed, fail and face challenges. 

“Many of us prepare the road for our kids; what we should be doing is preparing our kids for the road.”             ~Ray Johnston

Continue reading Teaching Independence: Preparing Our Kids For the Road