Preparing for the Holiday Season: Parenting-Growing Servant Leaders

Parenting is such a powerful opportunity and ominous responsibility. No two people parent the same. No two people agree 100%  on how to be good parents. Nobody is a perfect parent. Most would agree, however, it is the most important challenge we will take on in this life, and we would like to get it right.  How do we go about doing this? We read books, we observe, we reflect, and we wing it. Winging it is probably the most commonly used method, and this method is most influenced by how our parents winged it, or how others in our community wing it. 

Sometimes we reflect on the things we didn't like about ourselves or didn't like about our childhood, and we invent  counter measures to  combat our children from suffering the same indignations and mistakes we suffered. That often fails. Parents in my generation have struggled with allowing their children not to suffer from the natural consequences of their poor choices and mistakes. Many of us hover like helicopters, ready to swoop in and protect or save our children from some indignation, shame, or humiliation. Why?  Most likely because we were the first generation of latchkey kids...both parents working outside the home. Many of us felt unprotected and disconnected from our generation of parents who were focused on work and finances and often missed in the relationship/protection department. We longed to be connected to our parents and so we have done a great job connecting to our children, but a less great job instilling discipline and allowing for consequences to shape our children. We have protected our children from failing, and in the process we now have a generation of millennials who fear failure and have very high rates of anxiety.  

For some parents, having their children feel empowered to express themselves is important, because they struggled to feel they had a voice. This is one of the huge consequences for those who grew up in a generation of white male privilege, but were not white and were not male.  Because of this, we have given children many opportunities to express themselves and have a voice, but unfortunately we failed to recognize that having a voice is something that needs to be taught and earned. For every privilege we bestow upon our children, we must also give a responsibility. For every responsibility, we must bestow a privilege.  Power bestowed without responsibility creates an egocentric narcissist who does not think of others or calculate the responsibility of his actions. It creates a person who goes and gets what he wants for himself. For those Game of Throne watchers...we have created little Joffreys. We have a generation of angry kids irresponsibly acting out on social media or even worse with violence. We must teach our children "What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.”   ― Brené Brown

For some parents, growing up there were not enough boundaries in the home or in the school setting, and they found themselves in off-balanced relationships where people just took from them or took advantage of them. Takers on the other hand were those who did not have their needs met so they learned to just go get what they needed without regard for their friends and family.  It is true that it is more rewarding to give than to receive, to be the provider of joy or opportunity for others, but it is never a good feeling if you are being taken for granted or taken advantage of. Some givers learned to be givers but not because they wanted to give, but because they did not know how to say no, or they did not want to be rejected, or disliked, or left out. At some point, givers learn that takers and receivers are not the same. Takers are those who are concerned about their own self promotion and selfish needs or wants. Receivers are gracious accepters of the beneficence of others, and shift into givers when it is their time and opportunity to provide. Teaching children a healthy balance of giving and receiving and teaching children to monitor the reasons why they feel a certain way or behave a certain way will allow them to set boundaries on themselves and on others in order to create healthier relationships. “When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.”   ― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

For some parents, growing up their parents struggled with poverty or with lack of position in employment.  The focus on success, both financially as well as in their education and professions becomes so important, that they can lose sight of relationship, lose sight of love, lose sight of spirituality and they can gain a false sense of control. The focus is on creating human doings versus human beings and the focus on building character becomes less important. In the process important attributes and perspectives can be lost, such as compassion, humility, empathy, understanding, and gratitude. It is so important to not lose sight of your whole child. When we focus on raising children with good mental health, and high emotional IQ, they will become successful, they will be employed, and even more they will become leaders with the skills to positively impact others who need more help, guidance, and direction. "Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are    

For some parents, growing up they learned to be people pleasers dying to be accepted, acknowledged, and loved. They had to earn love, or at least that is how they perceived the situation. They learned to accommodate and appease and lay down like rugs and servant-hood was a sign of weakness and duty instead of strength, opportunity, and choice. Others grew up with the understanding that servant-hood is beautiful and powerful and making a positive impact in someone's life creates confident, thoughtful, and strong offspring. It is the same action but the purpose behind the action is what is so different. One comes from a position of deficit where we feel defeated and believe there is not sufficient resources to go around. The other comes from a stance of abundance and gratitude where to be a servant is from a privileged position where love flows over, above and beyond and to give love only makes room for more love to grow, to serve  is to have the power and privilege to give love and impact change.“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are    

Action Step: This holiday season Pay attention to those messages in your head about what you are wanting to teach your kids and explore why you are wanting to teach them what you are wanting to teach them, and how you are teaching them. Your parenting voice has so much power and if you aren't paying attention you may be teaching unintended lessons or blocking important lessons.

One idea may be to introduce the idea of a sparkle box. Place a beautiful sparkling box under the tree or by the Menorah. During the holiday season take your children into the world and allow the opportunity to serve others. Take food to those who don't have food, take toys, presents, clothes, and blankets  to those in need, visit a retirement home to bring light to the lonely. As your family does these beautiful deeds, record them and then place the notes in the sparkle box. On Christmas Day or during the Chanukah or Kwanzaa celebrations have your children open the box and present them as a gift to Jesus, or God, or to the world. Build an understanding that being a servant is rewarding, and essential in being a well balanced human.

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