Parenting Tough Kids

I am teaching a parenting class at our church, and one of the fundamental principles or I guess words is that effective parenting is training and coaching our children not raising them. A parent who follows the training/ coaching model sees themselves as a coach teaching a five-year-old kid how to play tennis and become the world champion by the time they are 20 years old. The one doing the coaching would have a plan, a system for training basic skills and a way of measuring or determining how things were progressing. Very few parents have goals for their kids or strategies on how to achieve those goals.

Patty and I had at least ten goals for our kids, and one of them was that our kids would be tough. There are other words that are used by various authors such as grit, strong, and tenacious but I like the word tough. Tough means that they make adjustments to unexpected difficulties with grace and dignity, turning the trial into a challenge to be conquered and enjoyed instead of a crisis to be whined about.

Our main tool for training each of our eight children to be tough was camping. We went camping for at least a week twice a year. The basic principle in camping is that everything that can possibly go wrong does and so we learn to adjust, fix, or ignore the unexpected problem and turn it into a contest, a challenge to be won. The problems and the unexpected is what makes camping exciting and fun. It is those challenges that become the family stories that are told for year’s.

One of our daughters is getting ready to move into a school bus with her husband and six kids because they sold their house and they will live in the bus while her husband builds a new house for them. My son-in-law has done this numerous times as a professional builder who enjoys the challenge as well as the profit from building and selling houses. They have lived in a one room log cabin, a canvas wall tent, a garage, a little bitty camper, and now a bus. She sends videos to us and to all of her siblings of the remodeling taking place in the bus to make it a home, even if it is a small one. Her words and her tone of voice make it clear that she is not feeling sorry for herself but enjoying the ride. I am sure her kids, our grandkids will grow up to be very tough adults who will manage life and the unexpected well.

We are living in an age when change and the unexpected is becoming the norm. It will be the tough people who bring stability and security to their families, friends, and those around them. The problem is that tough-minded people are becoming very rare.

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