Three Fundamental Skills Every Parent Should Know

"The world is passing through troublesome times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They talk as if they alone know everything. As for girls, they are forward, immodest, and unwomanly in speech, behavior, and dress."

This statement may seem to be a severe arraignment of the youth of today, but it was actually written in the year 1274 A.D.

There is a tendency to think that young people today are worse than they used to be. That simply is not true. We need to look at each young person with kindness and charity. We are their "Life Coaches." If we enter into their lives in a way that will gain their confidence and trust then we will more likely have a chance to grow and succeed - together.

Parenting has never been something that was mastered on the first attempt.

My three-year-old son Tucker, received a "Magna Doodle" for Christmas. He worked intensively on a magnetic masterpiece that would give "Picasso" a run for his money. After he was finished, he examined what he had done.

With one stroke of the erase bar, he wiped the slate clean making a new unblemished surface to work on. I was puzzled at how he could so quickly erase something he had put so much time and effort into. Then it dawned on me that Tucker recognized that he could do better by clearing the slate free of any old images and then starting over anew.

Success must be measured on a daily basis. Every morning when you wake up, wipe your child's slate clean, and while you're at it, clear your own so that you too will have a fair chance to win.

As a parent, championship performance consists of how well you can combine three basic elements to coach your kid's:

First, ABILITY. An ability is a general and enduring trait that is affected by both learning and heredity.

You were born with natural parenting ability. Parenting ability is to "TUNE IN" to your child. Many parents spend too much time regretting what they have done wrong rather than emphasizing the good that they do. To be in tune, a parent must be humble, teachable, and coachable. They must possess confident humility. If you are down on yourself, or if you are too proud, too busy, or too arrogant to listen to what others are saying, your ability to tune in will be clouded and impaired.


A principle is a comprehensive and fundamental law. Seven basic parenting principles are: 1) Time, 2) Example, 3) Motivate, 4) Praise, 5) Teach, 6) Encourage, and 7) Discipline.


Three fundamental skills that every parent should know are to: LISTEN, LOVE, and LEAD.

A skill is a learned power of doing a thing competently; it's technical expertness.

By looking at parenting as a composite of these three skills, you find a simple diagnostic way of identifying what is happening and what is needed.

There is a story about a horse named "Dandy." Dandy was a well-bred colt that had a good disposition, a clean, well-rounded eye, was well proportioned, and all in all, a choice possession. Under the saddle he was as willing, responsive, and cooperative as a horse could be. He had confidence that if he would do as his master required, he would not be injured.

But Dandy resented restraint. He was ill-contented when tied, and would nibble at the tie-rope until he was free. He would not run away; he just wanted to be free. Thinking other horses felt the same, he would proceed to untie the ropes. He hated to be confined in the pasture, and if he could find a place in the fence where there was only smooth wire, he would paw the wire carefully with his hoofs until he could step over to freedom.

But his curiosity and desire to explore the neighborhood led him into trouble. Once on the highway he was hit by an automobile, resulting in damage to the car, injury to the horse, and slight, though not serious, injury to the driver.

Recovering from that, and still impelled with a desire to wander, he inspected the entire fence and found the gates wired. So, for a while dandy was secure in the pasture.

One day, however, somebody left the gate unwired. Detecting this, Dandy unlatched it, took "Nig," his companion, with him, and together they visited the neighbor's field. They went to an old house used for storage. Dandy's curiosity prompted him to push open the door. Just as he had hoped, There was a sack of grain. What a find! Yes, and what a tragedy! The grain was poisoned bait for rodents! In a few minutes Dandy and Nig were in spasmodic pain, and shortly after, both were dead.

How like Dandy are many of our children? They are not bad; they do not even intend to do wrong, but they are impulsive, full of life, full of curiosity, and they long to do something. They too are restive under restraint, but if they are kept busy and guided carefully and rightly, they prove to be responsive and capable; if left, however, to wander unguided, they all too frequently find themselves in the environment of temptation too difficult to resist.

Young people need to grow up feeling good. They need to define the purpose for their lives, and positive parental involvement is crucial for them to achieve growth.

Start by designing a common goal for each family member to strive for:

*Our family mission is to love each other, to help each other, to believe in each other. To wisely use our time, talents, and resources to bless others. To cheerfully do our tasks and chores. To worship together, and fulfill our individual responsibilities.

You might have a teenager who is seeking independence and drifting away from family activities. If that is the case, support their quest for independence by providing guidance and intervention in their personal, home/family, school, and (when applicable) employment areas of life. As you approach your teenager, timing is of utmost importance; when and where you get together is key to your success.

While you keep your children busy, and guide them carefully and rightly, they will indeed grow up to be responsive and capable.

Violence, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and sexual promiscuity are just a few of the critical issues that concern parents in our day.

Self-perception, not self-esteem, is at the heart of teenagers sexual, drug and alcohol, and other behavior decision making. Self-perception is the sense of what and who one is, can be, and wants to be.

When a person thinks about his or her self-esteem, they focus on the way they feel, or have felt, about themselves at a certain specific time and place. The static nature of this self-imagery develops a concern for good self-image that results in the creation of a bad one.

In other words, preoccupation with a positive self-image creates the basis for doubting the validity of that image.

On the other hand - when a young person defines who he or she is, can be, and wants to be, they are no longer focusing on a static posture, but on a life that is in motion; a focus, that if lead appropriately, will be on achievement, genuine goodness, and service to others; they will desire to make their dreams come true, and contribute positively to society.

Self-esteem is important, but self-perception is the area where you can expect to experience the most results.

As you listen, love, and lead, you will find help from seven supportive parenting principles.

1) Time: Quality time? Quantity time? SPEND THE TIME!

Nobel Prize winning poet from Chile, Gabriela Minstral wrote:

"We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer 'tomorrow'. His name is 'today'."

2) Example: Take this advice from Edgar A. Guest:

"I'd rather watch a parent than hear one any day; I'd rather one should walk with me than merely show the way. The eye's a better pupil and more willing than the ear, fine counsel is confusing, but example's always clear; and the best of all the coaches are the ones who live their creeds, for to see the good in action is what everybody needs. I soon can learn to do it if you'll let me see it done; I can watch your hands in action but your tongue too fast may run. And the lectures you deliver may be very wise and true, but I'd rather get my lessons by observing what you do; for I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give, but there's no misunderstanding how you act and how you live." I'd rather watch a parent than hear one any day.

3) Motivate: A motive is something as a need or desire that causes someone to do something. To motivate is to provide with a motive. Motivation is the force or power that enables people to do what they do. Believe it or not, everyone is self-motivated - a little or a lot, positively or negatively. There are two basic kinds of motives: fear motivation and desire motivation. It is much easier to get someone to do something because he wants to do it than because he is afraid not to.

4) Praise: "Take a moment to hear today, what your children are trying to say. Listen today whatever you do, or they won't come back to listen to you. Listen to their problems. Listen to their needs. Praise their smallest triumphs. Praise their smallest deeds. Listen to their chatter. Amplify their laughter. Find out what's the matter. Get to what they're after. Tell them that you love them every single night, and as you tiptoe out, say, 'Happy dreams, sleep tight, night, night.' Turn out the light. Turn around and say, 'Oh, by the way, regardless of our differences today, tomorrow everything will be all right, and things between you and I are bright.' Take a moment to hear today, what your children are trying to say. Listen today whatever you do, and they'll come back to listen to you."

Denis Waitley

5) Teach: Everyone is a teacher. Much of what we do is teaching. Showing a youngster how to tie his shoe, showing a boy or girl how to run the lawnmower, teaching a young person how to drive a car, helping a daughter with a new recipe, cleaning a son or daughter's room together, sitting down and working on homework assignments - all of this is teaching, and we are doing it constantly. One cannot teach what he does not understand. To teach love you must comprehend love.

6) Encourage: We must see positives instead of negatives. The good accomplished toward the making of a better world through upbuilding, trusting approaches to life situations, in contrast to those that tear down, could very possibly be the necessary characteristics that will lift and buoy us up, and encourage us to forge ahead. To encourage ourselves and others is an attitude that can be developed, a habit that we can cultivate.

7) Discipline: Discipline is the basic set of tools required to solve life's problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing. With only some discipline we can solve only some problems. With total discipline we can solve all problems. Four tools of discipline are: delaying gratification, accepting responsibility, dedication to truth, and balancing.

What part do kids play in a successful family? In many respects, kids have the same kind of responsibilities that parents do. Parents need help! So do kids! Each member must be individually accountable; each member must not use the excuse that they are a victim if things don't go their way. In order to claim our destiny and the future of our enterprises, we must overcome the illusionary traps of victimization and get rid of the philosophy that we are entitled to things that we haven't earned.

The family is like an orchestra. Before a symphony begins, the Concert Master cues the oboe player to sound an "A" note. Everyone tunes their instruments to the pitch of the oboe. They are in perfect harmony with each other. The oboe player sets the standard. Every musician has a copy of their own unique, individual score. Without each player the orchestra wouldn't be complete. Ready to perform, the conductor LISTENS, LOVES, and LEADS the orchestra to achieve the greatness that they have worked so hard together to attain.

Parents, YOUR sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters are going to do things that will stagger you.

Have faith in them and have hope and courage for the future as you coach your kids to be CHAMPIONS FOR LIFE.

Darol Wagstaff

(This Coaching Your Kids article is an excerpt from the book with the same title.)

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