As a nine year old I accidentally discovered that I had a gift for music. My parents had gotten my younger sister involved in piano lessons and had purchased a small keyboard for her to practice. Actually, it was called a “lap organ” and only had one and a half octave on it. I remember it well; it was red and was run by batteries.
Melanie would practice her lessons and then when she was finished I began to play on it and my parents realized I could play by ear (that is, without any music). Now, it was very simple and basic music, but I enjoyed it and soon I was playing the keyboard making up songs.
So, they started me taking piano lessons. I became skilled enough to be able to play some in church, but because of my introversion I wouldn’t do so. Our minister of music, Lloyd Smith, asked me to play for choir practice one night as our regular pianist was gone. I did and one thing led to another until I was playing in church – and still do.
Besides my parents, the greatest influence in my life in the area of music was Lloyd music. He didn’t teach me how to play the piano, but he expected me to use the gift that God had given to me. We influence our children by intentionally giving them direction and providing a track for them to run on. Leadership provides expectations.
We parents dare not have minimal expectations and raise mediocre children. Our direction must be clear, specific and achievable. What are the qualities that God wants to see developed in the life of your child? Do you expect that of them and direct them toward it?
Let me illustrate by using a sports analogy. Our football practices in high school were very organized and focused. We didn’t go out and just scrimmage every day. When you do that only twenty-two players are on the field and the result is a bunch of people standing around watching others not getting any repetitions.
Each position had a designated coach (we called them position coaches) that was responsible for teaching and reinforcing the skills necessary to succeed at a specific position. Over half of our practices involved being divided up in small groups and stations where a single skill was taught or reinforced through repetition. If those skills weren’t refined during the station times it showed up loud and clear during the full-scale scrimmages.
When I coached basketball and baseball I used the same approach. I recruited a couple of parents to help me and we broke each practice down into several stations with a single focus on a specific skill. (You cannot expect what you do not teach; that is unfair. Expectations are based on time you have spent instructing and directing).
There was nothing haphazard about my practices at all. I prepared a written schedule that had the station and the skill to learn, the person to run it, and each station had a time limit. When the time was expired we rotated each group to another leader to be taught a different skill.
In baseball practice stations included proper base running, sliding, ground balls, fly balls, hitting in the batting cage, hitting off a tee to work on mechanics, pitching, covering steals and bunts, defensive situations, how to cover a run down (a pickle), outfielders hitting cutoff men, defensive alignments, backing up throws from the catcher to each base and many other areas.
The more clear the direction the greater the progress and the deeper the influence on the players ability to perform during game time.
For the first month in baseball practice we didn’t even scrimmage. Sometimes I would see coaches run their practices pitching batting practice with players standing in the field waiting for a hit to come their way. It was a waste of time. The coach would have gotten so much more accomplished and the players would have learned more if they had divided up into small groups, learned a skill and then rotated to the next station.
Here’s my point – if this kind of direction is important in coaching in order to be successful in a game, how much more important is it that parents provide clear guidance to their children? We influence our kids through our direction and clear expectations.
Abraham did this. He had expectations and clear direction for his children. The Bible records of him, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment…” (Genesis 18:19) The word “command” means to charge or appoint. It has the idea of an expectation of a specific direction. He was not a passive, pansy father.
One of the key roles of parents, especially the father, is that he give clear guidance to his children – “As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children.” (I Thessalonians 2:11) Note the three responsibilities of a parent – to “exhort, comfort, and to charge”. The first two terms speak of encouragement while the latter concerns a challenge, an expectation and motivation.
I believe we have so watered down our expectations for our children that they are not motivated to be what they could be. We are satisfied if they stay off of drugs, finish school and don’t have a child before they are married. Teenagers especially are not challenged by low expectations.
Recently I was on the phone with a friend and he challenged me in a specific area of ministry that he thought I would do especially well. Not only did I listen to his words, but after our conversation his words rang in my mind. He influenced me by his positive expectations and belief that I could accomplish them. I am going to try to do what he said because he stretched me and believed in me.
I want my life and that of my family to honor the Lord. Here is what I have learned, mediocrity does not glorify God. We must not settle for average, especially with our kids. (I am not talking now as much about academics as about character. I believe character will produce good grades, but always remember “grades are not God”).
Someone said, “Mediocrity is the best of the worst and the worst of the best. Either way, it involves the worst”. I read where the word “mediocre” comes from a French word which means “halfway up the mountain”. All of us start to do the difficult, but after a while we become tired and lose heart to get to the finish line. It happens in parenting, too – especially during the challenging teenage years.
I can’t think of anything more difficult, but also more rewarding than training and influencing our children for righteousness. May God stir us out of our passivity and mediocrity to influence our children by clear expectations and direction that will help them to discover and do God’s will for their lives.
A simple question: what are you expecting of your children? Take some time and write down a few areas that are crucial and list some measurable skills or character qualities you want to see in their lives – and then, direct them to accomplish them. Blessings on you as you do this eternal work!