Typically I embrace summer with a slowed-down schedule, but the first two weeks of it have been anything but slow. Even with my kids leaving for camp in a couple of days, there will be no true respite this season since my second manuscript is due in August and plans for our church-plant’s particularization service need to be underway!
Finally though after a long-weekend out of town I have had time to at least sit and process some very significant events I have been a part of over the last few days: an adoption, a graduation, a wedding and a meeting with a university president. There is much I could say about any one of the first three events as they were sweet reminders of God’s faithfulness and the blessing of family and dear friends. But with my daughter nearing college it is the meeting with Baylor’s president, who also happens to be a famous Judge (think Clinton-era), that is at the forefront of my mind.
Specifically, it was his answer to the question my daughter asked him:
What makes a successful student?
While many things could characterize a successful student, what he said, without missing a beat, sounds more descriptive of a student from a bygone generation than it does today. And to be honest, I think it’s more telling of our parenting than anything else.
The two things he listed:
What followed was a conversation reflecting on today’s world of “iPhones, iPads and selfies” as indicitive of our me-mentality and self-first mindset.
While we do service projects they are often done to boost resumes or to help us feel good about ourselves. Though there are genuine acts of service, for most students and parents alike our overall concern is for Self. We do not love others as we ought and we care way more about ourselves being first, getting ahead, receiving recognition and achieving what we want than we do about diving in, rolling up our sleeves and walking alongside someone else.
When it is convenient, sure, we will do something nice for another. But, if it encroaches upon our time, not so much. If it costs us little, okay, but how often we bail when it requires major sacrifice of our time, money and emotional well-being – Self!
Along those same lines is a sense of self-entitlement. A belief that we deserve something – not because we have worked hard – but because of who we are. In today’s world our kids are accustomed to getting what they want, when they want. Whether it be the newest fashion, constant entertainment, special exceptions to the rules, extentions on projects or extra opportunitites, they know how to manipulate for the betterment of themselves.
I am not saying there are not kids who work extremely hard against all odds to acheive goals. There definitely are, but by in large we as parents do everything in our power to shield our kids from disappointment, hardship and consequences by coming to their rescue or doing things for them.
But how is this preparing them for college and beyond when we know the real world does not always give us what we want? What is going to happen when for the first-time they experience rejection, can’t talk their way into something or lack the funds to do what they want? Will they sink into a self pity-party or be able to rise above?
From the president’s assessment of what a truly successful student looks like, I am reminded of something my husband often tell my sons in regard to their sports. That is most coaches would hands-down take a kid who is a hard worker and a team player over the one with most talent because hard work beats talent every time. And someone who works to make others great knows what it means to be great.
So how about instead of leading our kids to believe success comes from being the best, making it to the top, earning the most money, receiving the most accolades, getting the wins or what they want, we reorient them to these Biblical truths:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men…” Colossians 3:23
“… love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12
To see these things in my kids is what will make them Valedictorians in my book!