Couples, Get on the Same Parenting Page
- Pam and Bill Farrel Contributing Writers
- 2006 14 Aug
So much marital stress is caused because the husband and wife are not on the same page in the way they deal with their children. One way our marriage has been protected is through the "Learner and Leader" day we do each fall. Years ago, when Bill was a youth pastor and Brock was a baby, I looked around the youth group and then looked at this precious baby in my arms. I prayed, "Lord, there seem to be kids that soar and succeed at 18 and others that stumble and fall. What traits, what skills, what leadership character qualities do we need to train and pass on so that our sons can soar by age 18?" Then I set about creating a long list of traits and skills (listed in our book: 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make).
In spite of my great intentions, the list seemed so long I felt a bit overwhelmed. So I showed the list to Bill, and he said, "Pam, it seems like there are really three main categories here. We want our kids to be:
1. Learners: Have a teachable attitude
2. Leaders: Be influencers in their own unique God-given style instead of followers
3. Love God: We want them to own their faith."
We prayed, and I asked God to show us a fun way to instill the values (because kids respond to fun!) That was when we came up with a Learner and Leader Day. We decided to hold it each August, and on that day we’d negotiate privileges and responsibilities for the year. We’ve done this now for over 20 years! We select one trait off the list and focus on training and equipping in that area for that particular child in that particular year. We select a verse to pray over that child which relates to the selected trait (as the kids entered second grade, we taught them how to select their own verse). Then we give a gift (because we wanted it to feel like Christmas in August!) The gift is one that will build into their God-given passion or calling as the Lord reveals their strengths year by year.
We have a set of criteria in choosing the gift:
• It must be practical, something I might have to buy anyway.
• It must be personal. The child should be able to tell I thought about the gift.
• It must be prophetic, meaning that it speaks the truth about the uniqueness, the calling, or the strength we see God building into each child.
We organized the Learner and Leader privileges and responsibilities into a chart and developed other tools, like a list of what children can be responsible for at what ages (chore ideas) , plus a teen relationship contract, driving contract, education contract, and a set of Freshman Foundation questions to use when our kids entered college.
Each year, we have our children sign the contracts, and included in each are the consequences they will receive if they do not follow through with their commitments. As the children get older (early in elementary school), we have them create their own consequences ahead of time so they know exactly what their punishments will be if they drop the ball on their commitments.
By spelling everything out year after year, and having everyone sign off (both parents and the children), we’ve had little arguing in our home and the children have never been able to "play one parent against the other," thus protecting our marital harmony. And because there is a built in relationship time -- the fun family activity on Learner and Leader Day -- the kids have always been motivated to complete the small yearly assignment (the chart). Also, because our Learner and Leader Day has a built in incentive plan (the gift that applauds the child’s unique strengths), the child is easier to live with all year!
The less child-created stress a marriage has, the more everyone enjoys being in the family. And because we delegate work to our children as they grow, Mom and Dad actually have time to date and stay in love—which is the best gift that any set of parents can give their children. So this year, before you run to the store for new school clothes and pencils, pens, notebooks, backpacks and lunchboxes, take time to hold your own Learner and Leader Day. Maybe this year, you’ll get in a few dates and stay in love!
Pam and Bill Farrel are international speakers and the authors of over 20 books including Every Marriage is a Fixer-Upper and their newest, Red Hot Monogamy. For more information on their books and ministry: 800-810-4449 or http://farrelcommunications.com.