It’s always tough when heroes fall. I knew the Lance Armstrong interview was coming this week, but I didn’t bother to watch it. I was pretty sure the most damning sound bites would be all over the airwaves when it was over, and they were.
Because I’m a cyclist, Lance was always someone I looked up to. My sons did as well, and it is terribly disappointing when someone you’ve admired, read about, followed his training regime and considered him one of the all time greats turns out to a let down. It happens over and over, and it would be easy to get cynical.
I’ve always known that man is inherently flawed. Scripture tells me that. Experience tells me that, and history tells me that. So, seeing Armstrong fall was terribly disappointing, but it was not all that surprising.
That brings me to my point. Kids look up to professional athletes in a big way. They want to emulate them. They want to follow their programs for success, and they want to succeed like them. I don’t blame them at all. I did the same thing as a kid.
What I’ve learned in life is that if I want my kids to have good examples to emulate, they can’t find a better place to learn than in the home. Whether you have a two parent family or a single parent household, you can still be a hero in the hearts of your children. What do I mean? How?
- Honor your word and follow through. If you promise something, honor it. That includes disciplinary moments.
- Always be there. Friends can be fickle, but family should be the one constant in a child’s life. Our house is still a triage unit for our sons and their friends. The boys are 20 and 22. I assumed that would stop when they were out of their teens, but it hasn’t. No problem. We have experience.
- Tell the truth, always. If you mess up. Apologize. You would be amazed at how powerful it is for a child to have a parent apologize for a mistake. No matter what the circumstance, be honest. Your kids depend on that. It’s another constant in their lives.
- Listen. When your kids need to talk, stop what you’re doing, turn the TV off and look them in the eye and listen. If you’re in the midst of something really important, ask them to give you a couple minutes to tie up loose ends (if that is possible).
- Be swift to hear, and slow to speak. If someone accuses your child of something, before you react, let your child explain. He may be in the wrong, or he may not, but he deserves the benefit of the doubt until you’re clear on the event.
- Inspire them. You are the coach for your children. Encourage them to reach for the stars. That doesn’t mean you give them trophies for showing up. That only builds an entitlement mentality, not self-esteem. Give them everything they need to succeed. Pat them on the back when they deserve it, encourage better performance when they need it and always be their support staff. Both of my boys are weight-lifters. I put a gym in our house. I taught them the fundamentals of weight-training until they were men, and then they moved on to a local gym with a lot more equipment. They have far surpassed my instruction now, and that excites me because they are reaching their goals. They are doing the same thing in other areas of life.
- Challenge them. Kids can be like adults. If you let them take the path of least resistance, they may take it. I always wanted my boys to be active. So, we planned a lot of family events around physical activity. If we could incorporate learning into those times it was a win-win. That might mean walking the streets of Williamsburg, VA learning colonial history. It might mean cycling through the back roads of Winchester, VA looking at Civil War battlefields. We wanted them to love learning, and we wanted them to love exercise. The best way for us to do that was to combine the two.
- Push them, a little. It’s not unusual for us to ask the boys, “So, what’s the next step?” “What are you trying to achieve?” “How are you planning to get there?” If they start out doing something and suddenly they’re not following through, it’s a great time to ask why. There might be legitimate reasons, but follow through is radically important because people tend to drop goals and dreams when the going gets tough. Theymay need a little push.
- Always treat them with dignity and respect. My sons never heard, “That’s a stupid idea!” Or, “What were you thinking? If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you jump off too?” Why? Because we directed them when they needed it the most, and we allowed more and more freedom as they demonstrated they were becoming more and more responsible. We treated them with respect. Thankfully, we’ve never had an argument. I think the mutual respect has had a lot to do with that.
This list could go on and on, but you get the idea. The most important heroes in your children’s lives are sitting across the dinner table. Have we been perfect parents? Far from it, but heroes aren’t necessarily perfect. Be that hero, flawed or not, be that hero.
Both of our boys have turned out to be high achievers in life. We couldn’t be more proud of them, and I would hope that they would be the first to say their parents are their true heroes.