Follow the Leader: Helping Kids Picture Priorities
Just a few months ago we brought two children into our home from the foster care system. We’re excited about adopting them, and we can’t wait to make them part of our forever family. At the same time I’ll be the first to admit the process hasn’t been easy. These kids have a few years under their belts—plenty of time to have been trained in life. (And the training they’ve received wasn’t always positive!) These months have been a mix of pouring love into them and modeling how things work in the Goyer home. I know as they learn to follow me, they’re also getting trained to follow the eternal leader, Jesus.
No matter how many kids you have—or how long you’ve had them—the best way to teach your children about life is to model it. Here is an excerpt from my new book, Lead Your Family Like Jesus, about modeling priorities:
An important question for family leaders to ask is, “What do we want to influence?” Parents of a newborn might want to influence when he or she eats or goes to sleep. As the child gets older, the answer usually gets more complicated; you might want to influence the child’s manners, schoolwork, respect for elders, responsibilities, and the like.
Once we’ve identified these areas, we must specify clearly our values and priorities in each—so that parent and child know when the child’s behavior is on the right track. What does having good manners mean? When has a child done a good job on homework?
The key is specifying what carrying out your priorities looks like. Just telling a child, “I want you to keep your room clean,” is not as helpful as saying, “I want you to keep your room clean. What I mean by a ‘clean room’ is that your bed is made, your toys and clothes are picked up off the floor, your trash can is emptied, and all your dresser drawers are neat.” Even that final statement might need further explanation. While a child might have no trouble understanding what an empty trash can looks like, a “neat” dresser drawer could be more open to debate. For you and the child to know how well the child is doing, “what meeting expectations looks like” has to be clearly specified.
So many times, as moms, we direct our children on what to do. The problem with that is they may not be able to visualize what we are saying. We make training easier when we show our kids what we expect. I’ve been doing this a lot with my little ones.
To show them how we eat at the table—and not run around with our food—we sit together. To show them how to care for books—and not rip the pages—we read together. To show them that “cleaning” a room doesn’t mean shoving everything in the closet, I’ve designated bins for specific toys and we clean together.
The more my kids learn the more I realize they can learn more—it just takes me showing them how things work. And I know we’ll all benefit in the long run!