Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Falling to Stand Up

"It is one of the most difficult things I have ever done!"

This statement has come from the lips of parents who, even though they could have prevented the outcome, refused to intervene and allowed their kid to fail.  To be transparent, these words have come from my lips as well.  Knowing the foreseeable outcome and letting your kid fail and suffer the consequences of their own actions is truly difficult.  However, even though one of the most difficult challenges faced by a parent, it is imperative that we not intervene in every instance that failure is the certain outcome of a poor choice. 

Certainly, there are times when a life/death decision is in the balance and intervention is warranted.  For example, a kid that believes they can float from the highest tree branch via umbrella needs to be stopped.  Or, the kid that runs into the street needs to be stopped and instructed of the danger present when such action occurs.  This type of intervention is part of helping children grow and understand the inherent dangers of living.  However, at some point, a child will have all the information they need and will make a choice.  That choice will have consequences-good or bad.

This is where the blur begins.  A parent/guardian and the wise adults providing counsel (hopefully everyone reading this has or is building a wise team for counsel-parenting is a team sport) will arrive at a point that they know they have to step back and let the kid accept the consequences for their own choice.  That point is different for each student (the blur).  BUT the point where training has been completed will arrive and the parent/guardian will let their student experience the pain of failure.  Again, it is one of the most difficult things a parent can do but it is essential to a kid's development that failure is allowed to happen.

Failure is not fatal.  Failure can refine and define a kid.  Kids that are allowed to fail refine their efforts, focus and determination to learn from their mistakes.  Kids that are allowed to fail define their true strengths and weaknesses. 

Yes, there are extremely painful allowed to fail situations in which a student's moral failure(s) has lead to major consequences.  Allowing failure in these scenarios causes great and nightmarish pain for parents/guardians.  Even so, without the consequences of a hard fall some students will never be able to refine and define their lives.

So, here is a set of questions for all of us to consider:
  • Do you complete your student's homework and projects because you are afraid of them failing?
  • Do you complain when your student does not get the playing time you believe they "deserve"?
  • Do you fight your student's traffic tickets because you are afraid of their "permanent record"?
  • Do you cover your student's moral failures from caring adults that have expressed concern?
  • Do you work harder than your student in trying to make them "successful"?
  • Do you allow your student to "work you" and remove consequences from them when house rules are broken?
I know that in the real world these questions are not always cut and dry.  Even so, how did you do?  
Even though difficult, failure is an essential element in a child's moral, spiritual and social development.

Remember when your child (all of us) learned how to walk?  Falling was the natural consequence of balancing first steps.  If our parent/guardian never allowed us to fall we would not have learned to walk.  It was literally a falling to stand up learning experience. 

It is good to let kids fail.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Observations from a Social Media Addict

"Hello, my name is David and I am a social media addict!" 

I have discovered this truth while in my recent Social Media Fast adventure.  Many times over the last few weeks, I have reached for and/or wanted to check my status, likes/dislikes, comments and messages.  Hopefully, as I have trickled back on the "social media juice," I have learned a few things. 

I have sorta ended my Social Media Fast.  I say sorta because I have established a few rules to better use the ol' social media in hopes that I do not let it consume too much of my time.  There is much I have observed and many lessons learned during my fast.  Here are a few that top my observations-lessons learned list:
  • We, not just teenagers, are way too involved with social media.  I really don't believe I have to unpack my observation.  Seriously, I can track several of my "friends" days from breakfast, lunch, supper,  date nights and love life (I know--ew) by reading their facebook and/or twitter updates.  My fast brought to light how many times I have often missed a present, never to be repeated moment because I had to tweet and post the event out to the world.  Or, I am missing a present, never to be repeated moment because I am responding to a tweet or post from someone else's life.
  • People really did not miss my presence on social media & I lost NO FRIENDS during my fast (Actually, I may have deepened a few of my friendships during this period of time because I had to old school text, talk on the phone and have face to face conversations). Hard truth, people are not waiting to hear and see what I have to post.  "What?"  "I love your posts Dave!"  "They inspire me!"  I am grateful that many of you like to read the material I post.  However, I am certain you found other inspiring material to read while I was away.  Point, we should not take our cyber presence so serious.  Hard fact, their will always be someone to take our place in the ocean of social media.
  • I am a much better husband, dad and friend without social media participation.  Why?  I was removed from the comparison, competition, consumerism and corresponding drama often created by social media participation.  It is amazing how much better I relate to others when I only have my present reality and context to draw from.
Here are some rules I am putting in place to better use and not abuse social media.
  • Turn off Social Media alerts.   This allows me to check social media information when I want to and not respond (like Pavlov's dog) when I hear a "ding" or other notification sound.  Test, if you have ever reached for your phone when you heard a familiar "ding" or notification sound only to realize it was the person's phone next to you, you may want to turn off those alerts.
  • Turn off your social media when in the presence of spouse, family and friends.  Sure, pictures and videos are fun-capture those memories; but, wait to post!  DON'T loose the moment! 
  • Stop rationalizing and accept accountability. Someone will or has let you know when you are way too into social media. Listen to them and accept their correction.  My wonderful and wise wife has spoken this truth into me countless times and let me know that my social media consumption was out of control!  We all need to listen and respond to those who are trying to tell us something.  Oh, I have seen where fellow social media "junkies" tell other "junkies" to ignore the accountability and rationalize the over usage of social media-That's called co-dependence folks!
  • I will control social media and not let social media control me.  To be clear, social media is important and real social contact takes place in this location. So, I will continue to take periodic fasts from and control my participation in this powerful, cultural medium.  
I hope these few observations, lessons and rules help your social media consumption.  Now, stop reading and tweet and post this blog to the world.  Oh wait...let the present reality of this blog hit home and post later (when you are not around your spouse, family and friends). 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Playing God

I just finished a great week at the National Conference on Student Ministry (NCYM).
Great Speakers
Great Information
Great People
It was know...great!

The Executive Director of Youth Specialties (YS), Mark Matlock keynoted a night of the conference and had a perspective on social media I had never considered.  He likened our (student and adult) obsession with our connections to media (social and otherwise) as an attempt to be omnipresent.  Since God is the only one with omnipresent capabilities, we end up stressed, burdened and unable to be fully present in any of our contexts. We are not built or intended to be omnipresent. So, if we want be fully present with our God, spouse, family and friends we need to Stop Playing God!

Yes, I know.  It hit me as well.  I never considered an obsession with social media as an attempt to claim an attribute of God, but Mark is right.  None of us are so important that a night without posting, checking or sending would stop the Earth's rotation.  Deep inside, all of us know that a night without posting, checking and sending would create a much needed breath and space in our already busy and crowded lives.  A breath and space that would allow us to be fully present.

Take this little quiz (totally made up and unscientific-but it helps evaluate your level of media obsession) to see if you are Playing God:
  • Do you ever "power down" your phone and media devices? Related, can you leave your phone or media devices off at night?
  • Do you "check" your phone and media devices during meal times?
  • Do you "share" too many moments or too much information via phone and media devices-in other words, you are often guilty of TMI? (This is a question best answered by a spouse or friend because those who "share" too much can't see the problem)
  • Do you "reach" for your phone every time you hear a ring tone (whether it is your tone or not)?
  • Do you "check" your phone or media device when in conversation with others?
If by answering these questions you have discovered you are trying to live the life of a god, the answer is simple (I did not say easy): Power Down and Live in the Present!

Power Down! Self explanatory, find the "off switch" more often. 

And practically, "live" more in the present and "share" less online!  Like this moment from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  A moment that ends Walter's adventure filled journey to find a famed photographer (Sean Penn) who is discovered while patiently waiting to snap a picture of an allusive snow leopard. Ghost Cat

Right after this moment (sorry-I could not find the clip), the Snow Leopard appeared and the photographer did something incredible.  He did not take the picture.  Why?  (paraphrased) Some moments are best experienced and not shared.  

Power Down and Live in the Present!