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Leader: Another Way to Love with Boldness and Courage

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash Leaders, here's a blog about love as it relates to leadership.  Leadership can be summed up as many things, and one is certainly this: Leadership is loving those whom you lead. Jesus, the ultimate leader, doesn't do business as usual “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.” Whew.. that’s a killer quote. You can check out the context by reading Luke 6 , one of Jesus' most extended recorded lessons. Jesus' point is that the way of the world is not loving.  Not by a long shot.  The way of the world is easy, doing what comes naturally, and moving on quickly from those who cause difficulty.  Avoid painful relationships. The whole time from Advent, through Christmas, and into early January is to be a time of anticipation and appreciation of love, hope, joy, and peace.  It is a time to

Parent: Literal, Linear, & Distractible. Yep, that's me.

Vincent Van Zalinge on Unsplash
Updated October, 2020
I am reprising this blog from five years ago, because it is just as relevant, and I hope you find some language that you might use with your children. I also hope we can study our sons and daughters to find out what helps them participate in home life better.

NOTE: Five years ago when I first wrote this, this was hard, and my boys didn't have smartphones. Now they do, and whew.. it gets hard. I've added some 2020 suggestions at the end, and some chorelists we've used over the years, sorted by age (keep reading!). Our family triad is: help, teach, protect. So as my wife and I strive to help teach and protect our boys, this content helps us. I encourage you: Develop your family triad, crest, or saying, and put all your efforts to grow their character under that banner, reminding every day.

I have to keep reminding my wife of our boys’ nature. They are literal, linear, mono-task minded, and easily distractible.


“Clean that up”, “Take care of that”, or “Put your clothes away” are typical familyspeak on any day. But those commands are given with a specific vision in the mind of the parent. So ask them to confirm what “clean that up” [or whatever the command is] means. Brene Brown calls this "Paint done for me" have them tell you in detail what the completed job should look like. Then help clarify if they missed anything. This facilitates language development, listening skills, and requires patience from everyone, anf full attention (no devices allowed during chore time). Watch any movie with sailors repeating commands back to their captain and the boys will get the point. Right now, I recommend Greyhound with Tom Hanks on Apple TV, both for the suspense and the illustration of my point here about repeating commands.

Have them tell you or boil it down to a couple of verbs. “Rinse the bowl and put it on the lower rack of the dishwasher" is restated as,  "Rinse, bottom rack” and is pretty clear and boiled down.  "Brush your teeth, comb your hair, clean the clothes off the floor, and make your bed" can be boiled down to something very simple that is repeated every day, like "Hair, teeth, bed, and clothes"

Or, taking another tack, you might ask the young man to stand next to you and look at the table, say, if the command is to “clean up” and ask, “So you're almost done. What are you gonna do to make this kitchen table all cleaned up?  How are you going to be a family helper?”  If they have a mostly similar vision to yours, let them go to work.  

Ask them to come to you when they are done. I give my boys a couple of chores and ask them to come give me a high five when they are done. If they are competitive, ask them to do just as good a job in 5 less seconds. Gamify it. If you don't have them come to you after completing the work, then hours later they will be at school and you will realize they only got it half right, they got distracted.  You can also ask them to look at their watch and by a certain time (no more than 5 min. from now) they need to be done and come see you.  This pressure is what the male brain was made for--to focus on one thing intensely and come celebrate (that's when they come to you as you asked). When older, the celebration might be allowance, a wage, or some other reward. Ultimately this is what men do--work hard then play (celebrate, recuperate from work) hard. Let's teach them to work first, then play.

Boys like to keep moving forward, unless they are enraptured in a tv show, a Lego project, or waiting to scare the snot out of someone.  They don't like to stop or go backward when they have momentum. That’s why a mandate like, “Go back and do it over” is so infuriating.  So chore lists should ideally be in chronological order at home. And, in my strong opinion as a 20+ year veteran of education is that school flow maps of what to do in what order, or large agendas that are numbered are very helpful. Parents can have boys work with the area they are in when they first give directions and try to organize chores so that boys eventually end up outside and go thru the house in the order they would walk through the house normally. If the boys are older and have smartphones a list of chores can be sent by text. My wife has accepted this in her dealings with me (yes, I'm still distractible quite the space cadet) and it works like a charm. Just gotta keep the phone charged.

We guys were made to crank--cutting wood, shoot hoops… Great. Stay close to mom in a grocery or toy store… Probably not gonna happen without reminders. “Make your bed, clean up the tv room and brush your teeth…” Too many distractions along the way.  We tend to be more visual so all the distractions of toys and cool stuff in our rooms knocks us off the chore completion track.  I give my boys a maximum of two things to do when I'm most present to this, then restate in one word summaries: “Make your bed, and brush those teeth. We gotta roll to school. Bed, teeth. What are you gonna do?” Wait for confirmation, then send them off.  And as mentioned already, I also tell my boys to come see me when they are done. This give me the chance to give them more to do if there are multiple chores at hand. Of course I often write the day's chores down because I can't remember them all... They came from my wife and she’s off doing multiple things like grocery shopping at three stores to save money while simultaneously planning dinner and talking through a problem for a family member or listening to a friend. Seriously though, we need to plan for action, build patterns, and make the work we ask boys to do as fun or rewarding as possible.

2020 suggestions for our new reality, and screens, and older boys

The additions I would make now, 5 years later are the following:

Phones Forward: in the car, the phones go forward to mom and/or dad. Car time is a time to talk and bond, not veg out.

Screen Time Limits: Screen Time on iPhone, Family Link on Google, and Microsoft Family limits are critical, and I have spent the past five years wresting with each of those platforms as devices have proliferated in my home. These parental control apps have gotten more flexible and powerful. If your kids don't currently have limits, they will protest, but it only takes about three days to two weeks to adjust, and my boys will offer to do some extra help around the house to get an extra 30 minutes of screen time. They do not play xbox on school nights, and have about 2 hours on Friday and Saturdays, and 90 minutes on Sundays. We have great conversations about screen time use on their iphones, and we talk about which apps are "Always allowed" and which ones will be limited. I also have parent PINs on the TVs apps and the Xfinity set top box. Oh, and my boys cannot switch to my user on the xbox without me putting a PIN in the xbox.

Do not talk to your kids when they have earbuds/headphones on Don't waste your breath or time. Like the phones forward idea, I cling to the hope of raising boys that can be present in the 21st century, so I ask them to remove ear buds or headphones when I need their attention.

No phones at dinner have a box or charging center where the phones stay, and don't compromise. No phones on anybody's person while we eat dinner. Dinner conversations, and the art of asking questions are critical skills for their career and social life. I have a lot more to share about dinner traditions, but for now, let's give all the devices an hour long sabbath as dinner is prepped, eaten and cleaned up. This is critical.

No social media until about 18. Seriously. My son just joined Nextdoor this weekend, at age 14, and he saw a political rant thread go outta control... it was a GREAT conversation between he and I. Yes, in typical middle school society, he didn't get all the inside jokes, but he's fine. And he's not wasting time hoping for likes or feeling gut punched by some troll. This is a blessing and not a loss. And, if you want to maintain your child's access to social media, set a weekly or twice weekly in-person check in with your child to talk about what folks are posting, their screen time totals, and how they interpret what they are viewing. Do NOT avoid talking about this. Seriously. It is that powerful and often toxic. They can text friends, call them, and they will be fine.

That's all for now... I offer these suggestions that I actually use with my whole heart, desiring that we all be more present, despite all the distractions.

Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch: For more excellent, thought provoking reading, check it out. It made a deep impression on my wife and I. Very good stuff.
Chorelists in Google Drive are linked here too! Boys are concrete, so slide a chore list in a sheet protector and they can get that "checklist satisfaction" as they help out around the house. Tweak to your heart's content. 

Please comment: What was helpful here? What else would support you? What is working in your family?

Onward and inward! I release new content every Monday Wednesday and Friday, and I look forward to talking with you @maninmanyroles on Twitter. Subscribe via email using the button at the top of this page, or using RSS by clicking on the three bars in the upper left. Thank you!

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  1. Very wise advice, but I would say it not only applies to boys. I read some organizing advice today that ties in to this. When you are trying to clean up one room and on the way to putting something away, you end up in the garage or bathroom or closet, then you start organizing in there. Not supposed to do that. For efficiency and success, make a mental note that the garage, bathroom, closet, etc. also needs cleaned up and go directly back to cleaning what you were cleaning. Stay on task. So that you can get something accomplished and feel successful. It is important to feel successful.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, and the reminder that distraction is not limited to boys. I'm trying to offer what has worked best for me as a father of two boys, and am grateful to have others weigh in. We all have to find strategies to manage tasks, both our own and our children's. Oh! I forgot to say in this post that I use my alarm on my iphone often, and my boys do too, when I'm into one thing I need to finish a second thing. For example, when I'm in charge of laundry, or when my boys forget to take trash out on Sunday night for Monday pick up (they are quite consistent now, due to their every Sunday alarm!). The good thing about alarms on the iphone is that I can say it to Siri, and alarms will not respect Do Not Disturb (which begins for me at 7:30 pm until about 7am), so the reminder comes right on time, every time! Please keep reading, commenting and sharing. Thank you so much for participating


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