"Prepare Your Child for the Path and Not the Path for Your Child"

Recently, Coach Brad McCoy (Colt’s dad) spoke at a local sports banquet in Austin. During his speech, he shed light on his and his wife’s philosophy on raising kids. Their philosophy, stated in one short statement, is that “you prepare the child for the path, not try to prepare the path for the child”.

If all my parent sessions were to be combined, this one sentence sums up the key idea in them all. All too often however, this philosophy is played out backwards by well meaning, loving parents who believe their task is primarily to prepare the path for their children. Parents do have a huge role in planning for their kid’s future.  We must be careful however not to focus more on establishing plans for our kids- the right environments, the right opportunities – than on transforming hearts.  As a parent, we desire to protect our children and “defend their rights” and sometimes we need to.   But if we are not careful, we can readily  foster an entitled mentality, when what they really need to do is develop character and manage their attitudes, regardless of the circumstances. What happens on the inside will have far more influence on their future lives than the external things that tend to consume our energy and emotions as parents.

The most important decisions we make in life really have to do with who we are and who our children are becoming! No one decides up front to walk down the wrong path. Instead the direction turns ever so slowly with each step –  or choice – made along the way. Slowly our character develops and becomes habit, as we make daily decisions.

Lying for example becomes habitual when we allow it. So does laziness.  Bad habits develop easily, taking little thought or effort. Virtuous character on the other hand comes by way of hard work and discipline.  Good or bad habits both develop by choice.

What enables one individual to put everything on the line while the next is afraid to even try? I believe one key difference is the character quality of courage – the decision to face fear and master it.

C. S. Lewis defines courage as “the form of every virtue at its testing point.” Many parents today believe it is their mission to remove “testing points” for their children. Not wanting to see their kids struggle, they behave like power blowers and knock down challenges. Or they find ways around the challenges either by taking care of the child’s responsibility for them or by finding excuses. Sadly, their kids grow up believing they need a power blower to pave the way. They learn to draft off others who block the wind but when they enter the world on their own, they readily give up when the winds begin to blow directly on them.

Colt McCoy was ready to meet the greatest challenge in his football career – to win the national championship. In the first drive of the game, passion, courage, and determination were all over him. Then unexpectedly he faced instead his greatest fear- a debilitating injury. Yet because he was prepared on the inside to meet challenges, in whatever form they would come, he stood tall in his darkest moment, and became a model of courage to everyone who watched him, as well as to those who listened after the fact to his post game words.

In Philippians 3: 14, Paul encourages us to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”.  All kids, regardless of how uniquely wired they may be, need to press on toward “the upward calling of God” – seeking after the absolute moral standards and essential character qualities God calls us all to embrace. Courage is a vital component of the process.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Fear not that your life will come to an end but that it will never have a beginning.” –  British theologian John Henry Newman

“Courage is righty esteemed the first of human qualities…because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” – Winston Churchhill

Courage is doing something you don’t want to do the best you possibly can.” – My husband, Glen.

5 Comments

  1. Really good! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. WOW! Words of Wisdom!

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  3. Ellen-I am so enjoying these letters. Keep them coming. They are right on the money. Love you, Debi

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  4. Thanks for more words of wisdom, Ellen. It’s so tempting to move those boulders out of the way. Then I’m clearing out rocks, next it’s pebbles. Pretty soon our kids will stand there paralyzed because they can’t take a step without someone to clear the path. Thanks for the reminder. It’s hard work to encourage them to climb the boulders and move the rocks. Sometimes it appears easier to do it for them but it sure comes back to bite you!

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  5. Your words are food for my soul. Due to my own perfectionist nature, it is hard for me to allow my children to fail. From my own childhood, failure wasn’t an option (in my mind). I want to change this for my kids. I need to be ever viligent about not preventing their failures and subsequent consequences (especially while the costs are low). But then (to paraphrase Danny Silk) maintaining a relationship with them where they are comfortable coming to me with their failures. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

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