Effective Parenting Part 2 – The Power of Choice
Crowell’s Life Skills for Effective Parenting
by Fred Crowell
The Difference: A Relentless Pursuit of Excellence
The difference between poor and good; good and great; great and excellence is a “never quit” mind set. The difference between success and failure is a thin line. The relentless pursuit of excellence is the single most important life skill for children to learn. It makes all the difference. As Paul Meyer, author and founder of Leadership Management International once stated, “Success is the progressive realization of predetermined, worthwhile, personal goals.” As you read the following Crowell Life Skill for Effective Parenting, practice integrating it into your life, and begin to set specific goals starting today that will lead to success tomorrow.
In my view, the perfect number is three. Every life situation has three phases. The first stage is the preparation or “getting ready” phase. The second phase is the actual event, “the experience” phase. The final phase, often the most valuable, is the “memory” phase.
I believe the third phase to be the most valuable phase because memories can be relived to our benefit or disadvantage. We can use painful experiences to help us avoid them in the future. Similarly, we can relive positive experiences for the rest of our lives. Many years ago, my wife Susie said, “Fred, when we are old the only thing we will have are memories. Let’s make great memories.”
The Power of CHOICE: Mankind’s Greatest Gift
To maximize each experience, choice is the single most important factor. Each life opportunity offers three choices; not four, not five, ONLY THREE. These are YES, NO, OR I DON’T KNOW. Two of these choices are usually poor choices. In my opinion, “I don’t know”, or simple indecision, is the worst choice that an individual can make.
My experience tells me, most people answer, “I don’t know” when presented with life opportunities. They fail to take initiative but instead allow time and circumstances to make their choice for them. They live aimlessly instead of living with purpose. As a parent, you must make the conscious choice to live with purpose. Your child will see your life example and learn to live with purpose when their life experience presents them opportunities.
Answer these questions right now:
Do you want to live? Yes, no, I don’t know. Two are poor decisions.
Do you love life? Yes, no, I don’t know. Two are poor decisions.
Do you live to work hard? Yes, no, I don’t know. Two are poor choices.
As a general rule, people do not like to make decisions. It is much easier to make a decision for another person than it is to make a decision that will directly impact your own life. For example, many can easily tell their spouse what to wear to an event but have difficulty choosing their own clothes. While dinning at a restaurant, many people ask a waiter to make a decision on the dinner they will eat. It is much easier to make decisions for others or to allow others to make our decisions than it is to take the initiative in personal decision-making.
Why?, because it is costly to make decisions. We are responsible for our decisions. If we find a way to delegate our decision-making, then we have also found a way to delegate responsibility. The delegation of responsibility often seems a very attractive option, but as parents we must learn to take responsibility and teach our children this lesson as well. As Joan Didion, an American writer once said, “the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” We must teach our children to take responsibility for wise decision-making as one of the first steps towards self-efficacy.
Children must learn to make decisions. It is a difficult but necessary life skill. The wise parent must be willing to teach a child to know and understand how to make wise decisions. The power is in the choice. Bill Gothard, the founder of the Institute n Life Principles Seminars, gives excellent advice to parent and child alike by saying that “wisdom is understanding that difficult family responsibilities are actually God’s way of building essential character” in youth “and that a far bigger ministry can result through” the responsibility that parents and children take on. Make decisions with responsibility and you will build character in yourself and rest of your family.
Three ways the art of teaching a child to make wise choices:
- Begin the training of choice early in a child’s life by making it simple and logical. For example, when shopping with a child, reduce all purchase opportunities to three acceptable choices. At this point encourage the child to make the final choice. Of course, make sure that all three are acceptable choices to you. When a compliment is given concerning the purchase, give the recognition for the choice to your child. Compliment your child publicly in making a wise decision.
When our son was very young I often found it difficult to decide between two choices of shoes. I liked them both. It was fun to look at our son Jay and say, “Son, I really can’t decide. Will you help me? Which pair should I buy?”
“Nice look shoes, Fred,” remarked a friend.”Ya I like them. Jay picked them out for me”, The look on Jay’s face was worth a million bucks to me. This technique can be a very effective confidence builder for your child.
- Teach failure as a necessary component of ultimate success. Sometimes our choices are not good choices, but no decision is often worse than a decision (either affirmative or negative). Making a decision sets a positive precedent for the future and gives the person making the decision an opportunity to learn and grow (even when the decision turns out to be the wrong choice).
Nothing teaches a child this success principle more than the example a parent provides through failure. This happened to me when I wrecked my daughter’s car. I made a stupid mistake: I ran through a stop sign. Jennifer’s new car was badly damaged. When I humbled myself and asked Jennifer’s forgiveness she said, “Dad, it is only a car. I am just thankful you are not hurt.”
- Practice decision-making initiative by holding family meetings to set family goals. Establish a family rule that “I don’t know” (indecision) is not an acceptable answer to opportunity or choice. It is acceptable to say “I can’t choose now but will decide later,” (if you do say this, set a time and date) but ensure that the phrase “I don’t know” is removed from your family’s vocabulary.
Setting goals is a difficult choice. The difficulty lies in the reality of choice and human free will. Free will is God’s greatest gift to us. However, free will is expensive. I have always liked stuffed animals. I bought hundreds for my kids. My wife, on the other hand, loves real, live animals. They have free will. Stuffed animals don’t make messes; they don’t destroy beautiful lawns or eat nice furniture. However, they don’t give unconditional love like pets. They don’t snuggle, lick faces or love us even when we are not lovable. We love pets because they love us.
God gave us the freedom to love or to hate Him. How we make choices is key to our success or failure. We love life because we can. We are thankful because we can be thankful. We love God because He has given us the freedom to choose to do so. The beauty of all this is we have been given the power of choice. What is your choice? How are you going to teach your child the gift of choice? For your family’s sake, I hope you will teach your child the power of initiative in decision-making and effective goal-setting by setting the example.
Meet My Head Coach, by Fred Crowell