Back in the days when I used to attend church regularly, I was, for two years, privileged to be a parishioner under the guidance and leadership of Dr. Roy D. Bell. Roy was an intelligent, no-nonsense man who was willing to reveal his humanity, good and bad, and who had such an obvious care and concern for people without being at all saccharin.
One Sunday morning, Roy departed from his traditional presentation of the sermon and set up a screen and an overhead projector smack dab in the middle of the platform in place of the pulpit. He proceeded to draw a simple chart on the screen in messy black marker which indicated four general approaches to raising children.
LOW EXPECTATIONS with LOW SUPPORT
LOW EXPECTATIONS with HIGH SUPPORT
HIGH EXPECTATIONS with LOW SUPPORT
HIGH EXPECTATIONS with HIGH SUPPORT
The accompanying “sermon” highlighted the concept that in order for parents to have the best chance at raising a child who possessed the tools for ‘success’, the ideal model was having High Expectations of said child accompanied by High Support.
For some reason that message stuck with me and as I started to raise my own girls, it became a foundational underpinning for my approach to parenting.
If I were to expect great things from my daughters, not my great things but their great things, and then support and facilitate in any way possible those expectations that they had set out, maybe I could raise young women who loved themselves, women who were comfortable in their bodies, didn’t exhibit self-destructive behaviours, didn’t look to others to tell them they were worthy, knew and trusted the directions they wanted to take in life and didn’t ever once question their value as human beings. I realized that was a tall order but it seemed better than any of the other alternative models
Although most of the story of my daughters’ lives is yet to be written by them, I think we have managed to implement the model of high expectations / high support with a great degree of success. We are not highly competitive individuals in this household. We are not all “Rah rah, go team go!”, with the blood sweat and tears kind of high expectations, but we do expect our girls to strive in areas such as knowing themselves and being clear about what they want for their lives. We expect them to not stay in situations that are not life-giving for their spirits, and we expect them to remember that they are growing, changing ever expanding versions of themselves, and anything that brings them true joy is the direction we hope they will pursue. Yes, in these ways we expect and hope a great deal from our daughters.
Just for the record I like the “High Support” part of this equation the most. I don’t think there is such a thing as too much praise, too many hugs or enough encouraging notes in lunch kits. I’m not one of those mothers that thinks you can spoil a child with too much love or attention. I do think we can hamper our children’s progress with over-functioning in their lives (and I have been as guilty of this as the next person at times), but I do not think we can do any damage by over-loving them. High support, high support, high support!
One more thing: I expect that my children will surpass me in most, if not all, aspects of their human experience. I hope that they find their place in the world sooner than I did, that they trust their instincts and stand up for what they believe is right even more certainly that I have, and that they fulfill every creative and relational impulse known to them without shame or doubt or guilt or fear.
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Tags: children, church, expectaiions, guidance, humanity, life-giving, parents, spirits, support