Your integrity is more about your direction than your perfection.

Our ability to influence others is directly proportional to the integrity of our lives.

Without personal integrity, people feel cheated and cynical, for you have said one thing, but done another. The charge of hypocrisy is then justified, from our homerooms to our boardrooms, to our families, businesses, churches, and communities, short-circuiting influence and diminishing what could have been so great.

Integrity is critical to influence.

But integrity does not mean perfection. Having integrity does not mean we never mess up, that we never fall short.  In fact, unless you are talking about something mechanical or structural (in which case I’m kind of hoping that the integrity a bridge or a jet means something close to perfection!), then integrity signals more of our direction than our perfection. When we buy the idea that integrity means perfection, we increase our chances of hurting our influence, for who among us is perfect?

Instead, personal integrity means being honest about where we are at with respect to our higher ideals or goals. We state where we are failing, where we are growing, and where we need help. Integrity means that we don’t hold up a false front suggesting we are more than we say we are, or even that we are more than we are hoping we are! No, integrity comes when we are transparent and honest, authentic with who we are and deliberate about ways we need to grow. And more than that, when we model integrity as direction and not perfection, we are able to invite others to become more honest and open about their growth and their struggles, which will help us all learn and grow together.

So how do we do this? First, by being more honest with ourselves about where we are actually at–naming our failures and reflecting on our steps, humbly and with candor. And then, in ways that are appropriate, opening up to others about how we are growing and failing, reaching but also falling back.

I believe that the more authentic we are about our own attempts to live lives worthy of God’s high call, including our losses and missteps, the more integrity we will have. And the more integrity we have, the influence we will have. And with more influence we have, the more transformation we will experience together, as we come, step by misstep, through surges forward and wanderings throughout, toward all that God has for us.

 

My #1 Parenting Advice

If I could offer you only one piece of parenting advice, it would be this: do whatever it takes to grow your relationship with your child. 

Kayaking with the family
Having a life-long relationship with these two boys matters to me. I have to remember that every day.

Now let’s get this straight: I am not a parenting expert. I’m not one of those ultra-confident parents who always seems convinced of their parenting choices.  I mess up, regularly. My wife and I are right in the middle of figuring out how to raise two teenage boys, something we’ve never done before. Lord, have mercy.

But based on my experience as a father and as a pastor, I can tell you this: your relationship with your child matters most. Without that, everything falls apart.

Raising kids isn’t easy. And raising certain kids? Harder still. (Yes, I’m referring to that kid.) Parenting is one of my greatest joys, but it’s also one of my most daunting challenges. In the middle of the mess, things get murky. I easily forget what really matters. I get too focused on the latest incident or the pressure of a situation and forget the bigger picture. And so I need to be reminded that no matter what’s happening, I need to focus on my relationship with my boys.  It’s my relationship with them that’s got to last.

So, whether you’re in a parenting sweet spot or hitting rocky times, lean into relationship. When trouble hits, we often want to lean harder into the rules (or is that just me?). And while there needs to be boundaries and expectations, if we lean into the rules without fierce nurturing, we can end up destroying the only thing that will carry us through.

When conflict hits, it’s very easy to get fixated on the problem and forget what matters most. There will be times when you need to stop yourself and ask: Will this action help our relationship or drive a wedge between us? And then make the relationship nurturing choice. Ironically, out of love for our children we can make decisions that push them further away from us.

hold-on
“Hold on to your kids” transformed our parenting. We highly recommend it.

The one thing we have to do, above all else, is preserve the relationship. Dr Gordon Neufeld, who has taught extensively on parenting and attachment, argues that authority is placed wherever the relational attachment lies. Simply put, if your kids are more attached to their friends than they are to you, then what their friends say will matter more than what you say. The only way to dislodge that misplaced authority is not to demand obedience because “you are the authority” but to foster, intentionally, your relationship with your child so that by winning back the attachment, you become their primary authority again. (Why not read that sentence again? It’s key.)

Too many parents, in an attempt to get their kids to do what they want (even if that means making good choices), end up damaging an already fragile relationship and losing even more influence.

Instead of front-loading the rules, how about loading up the car for an extended road trip? Instead of dismissing her music interests, what about researching the bands and growing in your own understanding and appreciation? Make time for a walk, a movie or a special meal.

And so, from one parent to another, let’s do whatever we can to preserve and to grow our relationship with our kids. Because in the end, that’s all that’s going to matter. 

 

 

6 Common Ways We Erode Trust

Trust is precious.

You can’t parent without it. You can’t lead without it. You can’t love without it.

And when it’s eroding, nothing matters more than rebuilding that trust. Here are 6 common ways we erode trust in those we love and lead.

6 Common Ways We Erode Trust

Birling Gap Cottage Begins Demolition Process
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

#1. We Make Weird Decisions. When I make decisions inconsistent with my vision, faith or character, it causes people to wonder what’s going on and pull back in mistrust. This strikes at the heart of integrity, and undermines our influence. Trust is built through thoughtful, informed decisions that grow out of God’s vision for us and are consistent with who we are.

#2. We Fail To Listen. If people don’t feel heard, they won’t trust you. I hear this complaint from people all the time. I hear it from my own kids! And it stops me in my tracks. Trust is built by parents who listen. And leaders who listen. And friends who listen. And spouses who listen. If you aren’t willing to understand what is really going on, you can’t be trusted. But if you’ll listen well, trust will grow.

#3. We Offer Lame Explanations. The opposite of poor listening is poor explanation. Like when we refuse to divulge why we are doing what we are doing, or going where we are going, or changing what we are changing. Trust grows through good conversations offering helpful explanations, inviting people into the process and the “why” of our decisions. But if people are being asked to accept direction without good explanation, trust erodes.

#4. We Pull Rank. When being pushed for explanation, pulling rank is the worst thing we can do. It suggests that we either don’t know what’s going on (and are afraid to admit it), or what is going on is questionable (and we are ashamed to talk about it). Either way, shutting down questions because “I am the boss/parent/leader” is a sure-fire way to erode trust even further. We influence through trust, not position.

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Erosion control is needed, be that for soil or for trust. 

#5. We Are Unreliable. Trust quickly erodes when we fail to follow through, never show up on time, don’t complete our tasks, or gossip.  If we are always late, always forgetting, always stuck, never reliable, people can’t trust you. Reliability–faithfully doing what you said when you said–is key to building trust.

#6. We Betray Our Commitments. Taking unreliability to a whole new level, trust is eroded when we betray our commitments to love, to support, to forsake all others, to be at that special event, to serve in the ways we promised we would.  Obviously this applies to the biggest areas of our lives: our marriage, kids, work, friendships and faith. When we betray our most fundamental commitments, trust is more than eroded — it’s smashed. Can it be rebuilt? Yes, it can, but it’s going to be a long haul. More insidiously, we can betray our commitments in smaller ways. In marriage, by failing to put the other person ahead of our needs. Do that, and you’ll erode trust without having an affair.  In leadership, failing to seek the best for the people we are serving, opting instead to serve ourselves.

Trust is everything. Without trust, we cannot lead or love. Without trust, we have no influence.

Considering the ways we can erode trust challenges us to be people who work to build trust instead. That’s the kind of leader and father and husband and friend I want to be.

Why do you think trust is so crucial?

How have you seen trust rebuilt after it’s been eroded?

 

 

 

Five for Fighting: 5 Questions I Ask When I’m in Conflict with My Kids

 

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Image from Photobucket

Sometimes we fight.

I know, that’s horrible to say, but it’s true. And I hate it. When I can see the conflict coming with my kids, I try to head it off.

How? By asking myself five focusing questions, my “five for fighting.” I don’t always ask all of them, but usually one or two help me when I’m losing my perspective, getting into a no-win confrontation, or slipping in my priorities. Here’s what I ask myself.

5 Questions I Ask When I’m in Conflict with My Kids

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Image from ClearlySurely.com

The Wisdom Q: Is this worth it?

We’ve all had that experience of realizing, usually right in the middle of meltdown, that this thing I’m fighting for just isn’t worth it. Do I really want to let my relationship take a hit over a haircut? Am I really  going to push my agenda right now and risk hurting our trust? Of course there are times when we need to push through, hold the line, be the unpopular parent–I get that. I’m not arguing for always giving in. But for me, I know there are times when I lose perspective on what really matters, and end up harming my relationship over something I really, in the end, don’t care about nearly as much as I care about my son. The Wisdom Q helps me walk away at times I might have stubbornly held my ground and gained nothing of value.

The Purpose Q: What’s my goal here? 

In a similar way, I try to ask myself why I’m expecting something, saying no to a request, or urging some kind of behaviour. By asking “What’s my goal here?” I’m able to focus on the result, the end goal, which makes me more flexible in how we get there. It also helps me communicate with my boys more effectively, sharing with them why something is important to me, why we are doing this a certain way, why I’m concerned about this choice or that option. Asking “What’s my goal?” keeps me from being that parent who gives orders but never explains the reasons. Maturing kids need to know “why”, and so do maturing parents.

The Effectiveness Q: Will this even work? 

Haven’t we all had the experience of realizing, as we got further in, that this is stupid and won’t work? I’ve had “great” ideas about a family “policy” that didn’t account for reality. But how many times has pride kept us pushing, somehow thinking that if we just persevere it will work in the end? For the time’s that’s true, asking the effectiveness question can reassure your decision. But if you realize you’re now fighting for something that’s not going to work, show the humility needed and stop.

The Empathy Q: How are they seeing this? 

Oh, I cannot tell you how helpful this has been for me. I get so caught up in my perspective that I fail to really understand how my son is seeing all this. Getting around to his side of the table, asking questions, opening up to his way of viewing things will not only help build our relationship, but it’ll go a long way to understanding what is really going on. And I’ve been consistently surprised by how thoughtful and aware my sons are, and how together we will often come to a better solution.

The Action Q: What can I do to lean into relationship right now? 

This, my friends, is the game-changer, and it applies not only to conflict but across the parenting board. What action can I take to nurture my relationship, right now? There have been times when I’m not seeing eye to eye with one of my sons on a particular issue, and instead of just trying to hammer it through, I try to do something that will actually grow our relationship.  Sometimes it’s as simple as playing a game with them, taking them to the bakery for some “special son and dad time” (we have a long tradition of that one), or simply showing interest in something they’ve been doing. Taking action for the relationship, rather than focusing on the particular conflict we’ve been having, has had remarkable effect. Not only has our relationship grown, the conflict has often been diffused, sometimes even solved.

Which question seems most helpful to you?

What has helped you navigate conflict with your child?

 

How the First Five Minutes Influences Everything

The first five minutes really count. Think about it.The First Five Minutes

The first five minutes of a movie. Is it weird? Startling? Intriguing? Will I finish it?

The first five minutes of that recommended book. Dry? Lame? Confusing? (Perhaps making it the last five minutes as well.)

The first five minutes of a party. Awkward? Welcoming? Wish you hadn’t come?

The first five minutes of a meeting. Boring? Strained? Hilarious?

The first five minutes after getting home. Stressful? Embracing? Icy?

The first five minutes of the message at church. Inviting? Provocative? Offensive?

The first five minutes really count, because it’s in those opening moments that expectations are set, attitudes are decided, minds and hearts are open (or closed).  Important decisions, conscious or not, occur within the first five minutes.

This principle applies in so many ways, and I encourage you to think that through and make adjustments so the first five minutes of your next presentation/meeting/conversation goes stellar.

But, for the sake of this post, I’m going to focus on the first five minutes in family life.

Think about the first five minutes:

1. After your son stumbles out of bed in the morning

2. When you come home after work

3. When your daughter is dropped off after a date with friends

4. After time away from your children

How you act during those moments is significant.

Do you take a few minutes to catch up? Listen to stories? Hug? Play?

Or do you ignore, complain, nag, or simply begin talking about stuff that needs to get done, didn’t get done, should get done (pack your lunch, take out the garbage, comb your hair, go to the store).

Make the First Five Minutes Count

Instead of jumping right into the “to-do’s” and “didn’t-get-dones”, we need to focus on who we love. When we put relationship first, the other stuff gets sorted out within the context of strong relationship. And everyone feels differently about it.

So, how do we make the first five minutes count?

1. Focus on your relationship. Which means: don’t immediately talk about what was missed, forgotten, or bothering you.  If that becomes the focus within the first five minutes, then a rift will form and you won’t connect on a heart level. First, the relationship must be reaffirmed. The person must know they are loved, and that is shown as well as told.

This is why Gordon Neufeld urges us to “collect” our kids with our eyes, first thing in the morning and periodically throughout the day. Collecting strengthens our attachment with our kids and it is crucial to a healthy relationship with them. Focusing on “who” instead of “what” is extremely important, especially when we feel we are constantly correcting a child, such as during a trying toddler season. Look for opportunities to connect with your child in a way that is not disciplinary or corrective. Relationship is first.

2. Listen with interest. What was it like to be home all day with sick kids? How are you feeling about your friend’s boyfriend? What are you looking forward to today? Let them tell their stories, share their excitement or frustrations.

3. Get in close.  Hug, cuddle, stand close by. Don’t remain at a distance or shout from the other room. Take the first five minutes and make that person your world.

4. Affirm their importance to you. Tell your kid you love them, that you’ve heard them. Let your spouse know you’ve listened, and how much you appreciate them. While listening you may have been tempted to correct, remind, insist, add something to the “to-do” list, but don’t. Not in the first five minutes. Let those moments be all about “who” is important and not “what” needs to get done.

5. Ask “what can I do to help?” And when these first moments are finishing, and it is time to get on with morning prep or making supper or the next thing on the list, ask “what can I do to help?”  For a frazzled stay-at-home mom or a frustrated teen-age son, this question is gold. It shows love and willingness to get alongside and do something that makes a practical difference for them.

The first five minutes influence everything. How they influence is up to us.

Can you think of a time when the first five minutes of something really influenced your attitude?

Of the five practices I mentioned, which one is the most helpful to you?

The Other Three Words Your Kid Needs to Hear from You

We know the three most important words our kids need to hear are “I love you.”  Everyday, with affection, no strings attached.

But there are three other words they need to hear from us, too.

“Please forgive me.”

I’ve needed to ask both of my sons to forgive me within the last couple weeks. Maybe you can relate?

You came home and immediately criticized your son’s choice of hairstyle.

You responded with sarcasm to your daughter’s innocent question.

You weren’t really listening when your kid was sharing something important to them.

Your mouth exploded in frustration at your child’s slow pace.

Parenting is hard, and we mess up. How we handle our sins are crucial to our child’s

Image by David Castillo Dominicifrom FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image by David Castillo Dominici from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

emotional, spiritual and relational formation. Asking for forgiveness models relational reality — we are humans who love and yet fail, who need to be forgiven, and who need to be honest about the ways we hurt and disregard others.  Through our honesty and willingness to admit we’ve wronged them, we inform our child’s understanding of who they are, of who God is, of what it means to be a parent, of how forgiveness is fundamental to all relationships, of the importance of emotions, of what it means to have integrity.

And by asking for forgiveness, we ensure that our relationship with them remains strong, healthy, open and responsive.

Our kids don’t need to see perfection from us; they need to see humble honesty. They need to see that we love them so much that we are willing to admit our mistakes and do what we need to do to repair the relational or emotional harm that has been done.

Let’s make sure we are telling our kids we love them. And let’s model that love by asking them for forgiveness when we need it.

How was forgiveness modeled in your own life as a child?

Why is asking your child for forgiveness so difficult?