Dave Kleinendorst is our guest writer today. He has been a student of Al Larson for 11 years. He has done lay counseling over the years and also gives clinics on personal change, using TNT concepts as the foundation.
Dave is a husband of 44 years, a father of two successful children and a proud grandfather of two boys who provide him with endless joy. When he’s not working with horses, he’s working with Al to advance the ministry of Jericho Ventures.
I’m not sure I want a mini-me
The fact is, that regardless of what you would like your children to become, the odds are that they will become just like you. How could they do otherwise?
Let’s start from the beginning. When we were born, we had basic human physical and emotional needs, but we didn’t have a clue how to get those needs met. Our emotional needs include both the need to avoid pain (fear, rejection, loneliness, etc.) and the need to gain pleasure (a sense of value, a place of belonging, a sense of being loved, etc.). There’s no baby school that we can go to where we can learn how to get our needs met, so we watch others and learn and later we try our own human strategies to see what will work. The people with whom children spend most of their time in their early years are their parents. Therefore, they will be the role models after which the children will pattern their lives.
Kids little brains are neurological sponges and they see and hear EVERYTHING!! They see how we do frustration or anger. They hear our opinions and frustrations about our spouse or the opposite gender in general. They see how we treat our spouse, our neighbors, and family members. They hear what we say about the boss, the teacher, the government, and most importantly what we say or don’t say about God. From what they experience, they come to conclusions and attach meaning to words and ideas. One little boy once said that he wasn’t going to get married. I asked him why and he told me – “Because girls just boss you around”. What a terrible generalization to already have settled in a young boy’s mind.
Kids don’t have the intellect, maturity, or authority to challenge what they see or hear. If the person who is modeling the behavior is someone that they love or look up to, the child will simply adopt that behavior as their own. You might think that they can discard behavior that is obviously hurtful or evil. Not so. I had a client whose twenty year old daughter started dating a fellow who hated his dad because his dad was physically abusive to this boy’s mom. Within six months, the boy started physically pushing the girlfriend around. Amazing, isn’t it?
One day, my 5 year old son came out of the house and said to me, “Dad, you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them”. I asked him what he meant. He told me that he had asked his mom for a peanut butter sandwich and she wouldn’t give him one. Where did he learn that little phrase? Yeah – from me! I use to do anger by hitting stuff. One day, I was having a “discussion” with my wife, got mad, and hit a hollow-core door, splitting the veneer from top to bottom. Several years later, my son came home from college, got upset about something and hit the same door, spitting it from top to bottom on the other side. I taught him how to do that. I also taught him that Benny Hill is good humor. Regrettably, with my words and actions, I taught him so many things that were wrong.
I know the importance of doing things differently, now, so with my grandkids I do my best to model behavior that represents the values and principles in which I believe. I’ve seen adults pick up little boys and say “Let’s look at the pretty girls in this magazine”. Those adults will be the first ones who will admonish this young man, when he reaches 15 years old, to view women as equals. When my grandson was just one year old, I actually said to him – “You will never hear me say anything that objectifies a woman”. Of course, he had no clue what I was talking about. He’s seven years old, now, and I’ve kept that commitment to this day.
For those of you who are starting your families, I want to give you a challenge. Determine right now what kind of person you want your child to be and you be that person for the next 18 years. It’s a daunting task, but the rewards are so much worth it – having children with ideals and principles that you value, held deeply at their heart level along with the knowledge that you, too, have been true to your own value system.