Perhaps the most profound lesson I've learned from this initial school exposure is how similar I am to my own kids. In learning to identify more with what they are experiencing, I am beginning to understand what it is critical for me to be aware of how others are processing this "human experience" so that I can help inspire, encourage, motivate, challenge and lead them. Here are three must knows for every parent and leader.
1. They are thinking the same thing. After my daughter's first day of school, I learned that I ask the same questions that she does. Questions like "who am I going to sit with," "I wonder if that person will remember my name," and "when is snack time?" I'm fascinated by watching and observing cultural patterns, behaviours and trends (maybe I should have become a sociologist?? - yeah...not likely!). The questions of who we are going to meet or interact with are common questions that each of us ask. As a leader and a parent, I think my role is more about helping my kids (and myself) understand that they can be the answer to someone's question (or prayer) by recognizing that these "connection" or "interaction" questions are common to us all. It's been fun coaching my daughter to initialize the connection instead of waiting for it to happen or to occur. Sometimes awkwardness is the result, but I have yet to hear about someone who lost their life due to some social awkwardness. Take a chance, be a friend and get involved in the lives of people.
2. Development is a process, not a reaction. My daughter is only 4 days into the whole Kindergarden scene. Day 3 was a little tough for her. She told us she had a tough day because her indoor shoes were too difficult to get on and by the time she got her shoes on everyone else already had their play buddies for the day. As she told me her story I found myself asking the internal question of "should I talk to her teacher about this?"I never thought I would be one of those parents...thankfully sanity returned to my inner dialogue and I resisted the temptation to go speak with her teacher this time around. But I do think this thought pattern is indicative of how we as humans process life. Instead of understanding the overall development of the trajectory of life, we sometimes commit to knee-jerk type reactions that end up damaging our development more than we recognize. Don't believe me? Consider this: A friend or loved one sends you an ambiguous text message...one that requires some level of clarity. A person could simply look for an opportunity to pursue clarity in communication, or they could decide that this individual should be cut off from relational interaction completely. This might seem like a ridiculous or harsh example, but I think it illustrates my point. Development occurs over time. Sometimes our initial reactions aren't the best options or ideas. Instead, as parents & leaders, we should be proactive in our approach to life...anticipating potential roadblocks to the development of those whom we love and working to circumvent the roadblocks or even move through them. What this requires is having an idea of what values and/or habits we desire to impart to those we care about instead of reacting erroneously to different situations as they occur.
3. Celebrate the successes, learn from the mis-steps. We don't take enough time to celebrate the successes. Day 3 was a rough day of school for our daughter, but day 4 was amazing...and it started with her being one of the first ones to get her shoes on (meaning she was no longer left behind as the other kids headed into the classroom to play, she instead was leading the way!). So, we celebrated the "shoe" success as a family. Let me ask you this...when was the last time you stopped to celebrate something? If we understand that development is a process, that means it's going to take different amounts of time for different people to grow in their development. It also means that we must be creative in how and in what we celebrate in the lives of others. Maybe it's grad, maybe it's social interaction, or maybe it's something else. What I'm suggesting is that if we do not have a culture of celebration, we may just lose our ability to inspire others.
Additionally, we need to learn from the mis-steps. My youngest son is just learning how to walk. There have been several falls already due to a mis-step. There are many things my son is learning from these mis-steps. They include (but are not limited to) - the importance of balance, knowing how to get back up from a fall, falls hurt and there will always be another challenge. As parents and leaders we need to model what it means to learn from our mis-steps while demonstrating to those under our influence that these mis-steps, while painful, should not have longer term debilitating effects to one's development. While the mis-step is painful in it's season, it can be and must be overcome in order for development to continue to occur.