Number four on the list – Ignore your emotional or spiritual life – seems very relevant to talk about within the context of choice theory. I will share a few thoughts below, however I am interested to hear from you regarding how tangible this one is for you as a teacher or as a parent. What kinds of differences do you see in yourself or in your students or children when you put your spiritual life on a back burner? How long does it take to see these changes? Let me know. On to #4.

The 7 Worst Things Good Parents Do

1. Baby your child.

2. Put your marriage last.

3. Push your child into too many activities.

4. Ignore your emotional or spiritual life.

People that use commercial air travel a lot can probably finish the stewardess’s pre-flight set of directions for her. These directions include something like this –

We do not anticipate a change in cabin pressure; should it occur individual oxygen masks will drop  from the compartment overhead. Pull down on the mask until the plastic tubing is fully extended as this activates the flow of oxygen. Place the mask over your nose and mouth and breathe normally. For those of you traveling with small children, secure yourself first, then assist the child. Continue wearing the mask until otherwise notified by a crewmember.

This scenario is a classic example of an everyday occurrence in which we as adults really do need to take care of ourselves first. It is an especially good lead-in to the importance of teachers and parents nurturing their own spiritual and emotional health, because we cannot give what we don’t have.

One of the choice theory axioms is that the only person we can control is ourselves. This, hopefully, reminds us that instead of putting our energy into forcibly shaping the spiritual lives of our children, our time and effort is much better spent on gently bringing ourselves into alignment with God’s will for our own lives. It is easy to forget about the power of example, about how effective modeling is as a teaching tool.

Choice theory describes two basic management approaches – one approach is referred to as boss management, while the other is referred to as lead management. Simply put, boss management relies on external control strategies like punishment and reward to manipulate others, while lead management acknowledges the internal control mechanism that God placed in each of us.

The following quote seems to capture the concept of lead management and the importance of adults caring for their own emotional and spiritual lives about as well as any quote I have ever seen. We’ll close with this thought, but I encourage you to memorize the sentence and reflect on what it means. Let the thought inspire you.

Let it never be forgotten that the teacher must be what he desires his pupils to become.                              Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 58

5. Be your child’s best friend.

6. Fail to give your child structure

7. Expect your child to fulfill your dreams.

Friel, J. and Friel, L. (1999). The 7 worst things good parents do. New York: Barnes & Noble.