Some time ago, I saw a man and his young song walking along Broadway Street in downtown Nashville. I witnessed a great lesson in parenting … leading with love, standing side-by-side, and pressing forward.
Leading in love, side-by-side, pressing forward.
The extraordinary thing about this event was that the young boy was blind. It appeared to have been a recent condition because the father was trying to teach his son how to navigate with a walking stick. As exhibited by this father, parenting involves the following:
- Leading with love is about reaching the heart of your child. Too often I get caught up in the outward behavior of my children and forget about the inward heart. I’m learning that if I reach the heart my children, and teach them the lesson that will be forever pressed in their soul, then their “good behavior” will follow. This father did not waste any time, energy and frustration just to get his son to walk straight and avoid objects like street signs and benches. He was focused on his son’s challenges and building his heart and esteem to face those challenges.
- Standing side-by-side is right where your kids need you to be. For this father helping his blind son to walk … there he stood right by his son’s side. Leading him … hand to arm … arm to hand … down the street. Then the father would let go, while continuing to walk by his side. As parents, we need to not only stand beside our children, we need to get down on their level and talk to them eye-to-eye. I mean this literally and figuratively. Literally, our kids need to see our eyes when we talk to them (and particularly when we talk about life issues). Figuratively, they need to know we understand what they are saying. For instance, if your young man is excited about his green bean, pickle, and peanut butter “Alien Sandwich” … then so should you.
- Pressing forward means we must continually grow. In life, our children will be challenged to accept mediocrity, the norm, or the worldly standard of what is considered “right.” As parents, we have to push, press, encourage and in some instances force them to reach for excellence. Notice I did not say, perfection, but excellence. We must not get caught up in the mistakes we have made in the past. Press forward in all things.
As I watched this father lead his blind son along a busy street in downtown Nashville, I wondered truly about the father’s resolve and the son’s reliance. Certainly, this man could have bullied his son to use or rely on that walking stick. But that is not what I witnessed. And the son, at some point in this experience, ultimately had to come to the realization that he was going to rely on his father’s leading.
Question: Are you leading your children in love, side-by-side, pressing forward?
I regularly write about work-life balance. Not because I am an expert at finding the correct mix, but because I am right there in the middle of the challenge…the same as you. So when a leadership guru like John Maxwell provides good insight on juggling priorities, we should all listen closely.
Maxwell recently recounted a university commencement address by Brian Dyson, former CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, who spoke of the relationship of work to your other commitments:
Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.
But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.
As Maxwell suggests, it is not selfish to take care of your family, relationships, health and spirit. The work ball will bounce back if you drop it – these others won’t.
Question: As you view your priorities, have you made your work ball out of glass, crystal or some other precious, breakable material?
Image: Eric Petruno
My wife and I have an insecurity problem. She’s insecure. I’m not. Okay, maybe that’s reversed. Maybe it depends on the day…or the hour.
One of my readers recently sent us the following praise, along with a question:
I have found your blogs to be very honest….you guys put it all out there and expose the reality that it isn’t all ribbons and rainbows! Appreciate and value the perspective you both share.
Anyway, how do you navigate the waters day to day together without losing connection and/or questioning the direction along the journey?
The questions really are about insecurity. I am not joking when I say that the insecurities in our marriage ebb and flow with the tides. But as long as we know that truth prior to getting into the boat, we tend to find our way through stormy waters. Here’s how:
- Talk openly. We got much of our fighting done prior to getting married. We went through a 12-week pre-marital counseling program at our local church, where we talked about all the stormy waters of a relationship: finances, in-laws, children, expectations, sex (…can he say that?…yep!…), church, communication, work, etc. The program created an environment where we could talk openly about these issues before they arose, since we knew they would arise sometime in our marriage.
- Walk humbly. The storm will get thicker the more your focus on your own individual losses, feelings, emotions, goals, etc. As an attorney, I can argue (or justify) my way out of any marital situation. But that is not the best route for the relationship. Most of the time when I think I am “right” about something, I dig my heels into my position and let her have it! And every time I do so, I am closer to losing what I love most. I have learned that even if I have the better side of the argument, most times I can calm the storm with two words: “I’m sorry.” If you humble yourself, you can minimize each of your insecurities.
- Hold tightly. We navigate the waters without losing connection because we hold each other tightly…both literally and figuratively. In a literal sense, no words can give my wife the security she desires more than a tight hug, arms wrapped around her tightly, and a kiss on her forehead. Figuratively, we walk hand-in-hand through each challenge. When your hands drop from your partner (out of selfishness, anger or laziness), you stand alone.
- Laugh regularly. When you realize that you are navigating rough waters, with no oars in the boat, and you are out of food, sometimes you need to look at your spouse and say, “Good time to start a diet, sweetie! Look out Sports Illustrated: Couples Swimsuit Edition here we come!” Courtney and have become marital comedians over the past few years because we have decided to change our outlook on situation. It does not always take the hurt away, but a giggle or a smile will often help you weather the storm.
- Learn continually. All of this may sound really good and may help you through a fight or two, but Courtney and I find success when we remember the lessons of a prior storms just as we are going through a new storm. It won’t be a guarantee success this time, but we often know what “not” to do based upon the prior challenge. And so will you.
Question: How do you deal with insecurities in your relationships?
I was driving home last night after my fourth marathon workday. Yep, left the house before the kids got up and returned after they had gone to bed. (…You ask: I thought this guy had figured out work-life balance?…Me too…). In any event, I was talking to my wife on the phone about the week’s victories and tragedies in the home when she abruptly stopped mid-sentence: “I gotta pull Dylan’s tooth. Bye.“ She hung up.
She was not mad. She was not angry. Most of the other kids were already asleep. But, as a-matter-of-factly as she could, my wife dropped everything to attend to another something. I continued my drive home thinking of those words…gotta pull a tooth…
Sometimes, when work gets hard, you just gotta pull a tooth. In simple terms, that means the following:
- You will experience toothaches. Whether it is now or later, you will face adversity: a work crises, a financial hardship, a health challenge, a problematic co-worker or boss. Whatever the obstacle, you need to recognize that life is full of these aches.
- There’s not always a clear choice. When you experience a challenge, you will have many avenues. Don’t over-analyze those options, but be mindful of the choices and the consequences of each choice. For example, I have made a conscious decision to work very hard during the week so that I can play very hard with my kids on the weekend. That decision does not make the late nights during the week any easier, though. In your life, you may have many options before you and the pathway may not be clear. But press forward.
- Eventually, you must do something. For my son and his loose tooth, that time came last night at about 9:00 p.m. when my wife made a decision to just pull the tooth. That sucker had been rolling back and forth in my son’s mouth for numerous days. He giggled. He whined. And again, not out of frustration, but out of resolve, she acted. You will need to do the same.
In his post about working hard and playing hard, Chris Brogan answers the frequently asked question about how to get so much done all the time. His answer: “I’ve learned how to really put a lot of hard work down into a really short period of time, so that I can free up more time to pursue my passions when I’m done my other work.” In other words, sometimes you just gotta pull a tooth…step up…work harder.
Question: What tips can you give when work gets hard? Leave a comment here.
Image: Alex Barth