Life Change: Trust vs. Authority

"Because I said so."

I love AND hate that tactic. I love it because it reminds me of my childhood and the many times it was said to me by my mom, dad, teachers, coaches and parents of friends. I hate it because, well, it's a lazy form of communication that adults use to exert their authority.

I've actually caught myself mid-sentence getting ready to say the exact same phrase to my kids. Then I stopped and thought, "Todd, you're an idiot." This tactic in authority may work to get a five year old to clean up his toys. It may work for a coach who's told his players to run laps. It may work for a moment... but that's it... for One. Short. Moment. The authoritative works in the short-term moments.

But, true life-change in an individual isn't inspired by someone's authority - for the most part. It's inspired by a person's trust they have in the other person trying to make their life better.

The question then becomes, why do pastors, parents, coaches - adults, use the authoritative approach to try to cause life-change in a person? We think, students need to change because of our position, age, experiences. We think students need to just take our word for it because of our authority. Why do we use this approach? Because it's easy. You see, it's not that our age, experiences or positions are bad or evil. Using our authority isn't necessarily a bad thing. But it becomes a bad thing - it becomes useless, if that is all we use. However, those things become tools if they are applied in a relationship of trust between us and the person we are trying to help. So, then, the next question becomes (and this is the coolest question), what the heck does this type of approach look like? Check this out:

"The Word became flesh and blood and moved into our neighborhood." John 1v14

Jesus is the perfect example. He literally had all the authority in the world. He could have simply said, "Follow me because I said so." And everyone would have had to follow him. He had the position. He had the experiences. But he chose a different way of bringing about life change... he brought it in by developing a relationship of trust with those he came in contact with. Check this out:

1. Jesus met people where they are at... "Passing along, Jesus saw a man at his work collecting taxes. Jesus said, 'Come along with me.' Matthew stood up and followed him."Matthew 9v9 - In other words, I want to be where you are. I care enough about you to go to where you live, breathe and operate.

2. Jesus also connected with people through personal touch..."A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.' Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man." Matthew 8v2, 3 -He's communicating that he cares enough to touch someone considered untouchable. He's stating, you're worth something. You matter.

3. Jesus also let people fail... "Then Jesus told them, 'Before the night's over, you're going to fall to pieces because of what happens to me...' Peter broke in, 'Even if everyone else falls to pieces on account of you, I won't.' 'Don't be so sure,' Jesus said. 'This very night, before the rooster crows up the dawn, you will deny me three times.'" Matthew 26v31-34 - In other words, guys, you're going to fail. Not just a little. But a lot. Jesus could have stopped them from failing. But he didn't. He allowed them to experience failure. Not because he enjoyed watching them fail. No. I believe it's because he wanted to let them experience his love despite their failure.

4. Jesus also loved people through their failure... "After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?' 'Yes, Master, you know I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.' He then asked a second time, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me?' 'Yes, Master, you know I love you.' Jesus said, 'Shepherd my sheep.' Then he said it a third time: 'Simon, son of John, do you love me?' Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, so he answered, 'Master, you know everything there is to know. You've got to know that I love you...' Then Jesus commanded, 'Follow me.'" John 21v15-19 - Despite Peter outright denying any connection to Jesus, probably Peter's biggest failure, Jesus loved him through it. What a huge trust-building gesture - saying, even though you've failed, I still love you. I still see value in you. You still matter.

Un-believ-able. Jesus, who had all authority in heaven and on earth, inspired people to life-change through trust-building relationships with a personal touch rather than relying on his authority only. Why? Because it was out of love.

Now it's our turn.

What Every Student Needs

I've been thinking about this question a lot these days,

"What do you think students NEED from their parents (you could also insert leaders as well)?

It's really not a question that holds one answer. Each person you ask could quite possibly give you a completely different response.

But, it's one of the most important questions to keep at the top of our minds as parents or if you work with students.

And while I have a list of my own answers, this one is probably at the top...


I believe students need their parents and leaders to demonstrate a high level of consistency. Is this the trait that is at the top of the list? I don't know... but it's up there for sure.

* Be Consistent in holding them accountable.

* Be Consistent in our walk with Jesus.

* Be Consistent in our moods.

* Be Consistent in following through with our commitments.

* Be Consistent in our relationship with our spouse (if you're married).

Students and kids do a ton better when parents and leaders are consistent... there's a level of comfort from knowing what they can expect from their relationships.

What do you think?

10 Commandments for Parents from Students

I'm always interested in

what thoughts students have when it comes to what they need from parents. These are the top 10 “commandments” students in Mary Simmons’ English classes came up with for parents, based on her compilation of thousands of responses over five years. Mary Simmons teaches at Bothell High School in the state of Washington.

1. Discipline me right.

2. Provide for me well.

3. Allow me freedom.

4. Be a role model.

5. Be there.

6. Respect my individuality.

7. Respect my privacy.

8. Love me.

9. Don’t embarrass me.

10. Have reasonable expectations.

Super simple. What do you think?

The Law of the Seat Belt

I had this habit years ago,

Ok, I've got more than one habit that I'm sure Jami and the kids would be happy to tell you about... but this habit has to do with me taking my seat belt off as soon as I turn onto our block. It's something I haven't done in years. And, I'm not even sure how it started. I just know that when I was in the middle of this habit, it just automatically happened... I didn't even think about it.

At the time, there was another person who knew I took my seat belt off - Carter, my then three year old little boy. In fact, he began taking his seat belt off early and standing up in the back seat riding and singing as loud as he could. We've told him over and over that he couldn't do that because it's not safe for him. But, still, he did it "because daddy did it." His own words... throwing me under the bus. Turned out that I had become a stumbling block for my three year old in the area of his seat belt life!

That got me thinking - I know, it's dangerous whenever that happens - but it got me thinking. One, my kids' eyes are always on me. Two, a lot of people's eyes are on me. Three, I don't want my freedom to do what I want to do to cause my children to stumble - even when it comes to wearing a seat belt. Four, I don't want my freedom to do what I want to do to cause others to stumble. I just don't want that to be on me.

Check this out:

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 1 Corinthians 8v9

Even though it was perfectly ok for me to take off my seat belt (unless the PO-leece had seen me), we told little Carter he couldn't. But when he saw his daddy take his seat belt off, it became ok for him to disobey. It really has nothing to do with the actual seat belt (or insert something else), it has to do with my attitude of wanting the best for Carter and for others.

It's the Law of the Seat Belt. I've got a choice - to pick others up, or stick my foot out to trip others up. I choose to buckle my seat belt.

Comic Book Parenting & Superheroes

When I was growing up,

I pretended I was a number of different superheroes. From Batman to Spiderman... and even Wonder Woman (there's a story behind that one... really there is. But that's for a different time). And even though Zorro isn't really considered a true superhero, I loved to pretend I was him (I even made a mask out of black fabric and road a fake horse...). But the thing is, at the end of the day, I wasn't a superhero. No matter how hard I tried (and believe me, I tried), I wasn't going to get anywhere close to being Batman or Spiderman or even Zorro.

But that desire to be a superhero still follows me today - especially in the area of parenting. I want to swoop in and be the perfect parent. Cause that's what superheroes are - perfect, right? I mean, superheroes have all the answers, all the resources, and all the abilities that make them... perfect. And that superhero complex follows me today. But the problem is, I'm not perfect. And I end up acting like the Joker instead of our favorite superhero we all think about.

Because I'm not perfect - I fail.

I see the same desire in a lot of parents I've worked with as well. They want to swoop in and be the perfect comic book parent. But the problem is, they can't. And that creates a ton of stress and frustration in their lives - because as parents - they fail.

I pretended I was a number of different superheroes. From Batman to Spiderman... and even Wonder Woman

We think, as parents, our children need us to be the perfect comic book parent - to be a superhero. But as I live day in and day out as a parent, I'm believing more and more that my children - our children - don't need us to be superheroes, they need us, as parents, to be responsible. To be faithful. To show up every day. It's in the ordinary day... each and every time we show up... in the faithfulness... that we actually become superheroes to our kids.

Some Things Parents Want Students to Know

Students! In case you haven't noticed, parents are an interesting group.

I recently wrote about, Some Things Students Secretly Want You to Know. Today, I want to present part of the parent side. Some of these things parents have communicated directly to me. Others are things that I've sensed as I've seen parents "deal" with their children. And still, others are things I've felt or thought over the last 15 years of being a parent myself. Again, this list is not complete by any means.

I am so proud of you, more than you will ever know

When you get in trouble, I feel like it's my fault

When I look at you, I see all of my hopes and dreams wrapped up in your life of possibility

I get so frustrated at myself when I let my anger take over and yell at you

I'm tired. I'm just plain tired

I really want you to like me

I pray for you and the choices you make every night

I really don't know how to talk to you

I'm scared for you

I feel bad when I can't give you everything you want

I'm doing the best I can

I regret the things I've said to you and how I said them

I really don't know what I'm doing as a parent

Again, this is not an exhaustive list by any means. I'm sure there are better thoughts out there. I'm sure there are a ton I missed and I would love to hear them.

Now it's your turn. What are other things that you as a parent or youth worker would like your child or students to know. Ready. Set. Comment.

Some Things Students Secretly Want You to Know

In case you haven't noticed, kids and students are an interesting group.

I've worked with students and their families for nearly 23 years. Students are particularly good at putting up a front - letting you see what they want you to see. As parents, youth workers, etc. it's our job to see past that front.

While there is a danger of stereotyping every student, or clumping every student together when making a list like this, as I've looked past the many fronts of many different students. These are some of the things that students secretly want you to know as you interact with them:

I am more than the style I represent

Even though I buck authority, I want your approval 

It means a lot when you encourage me

I have gifts and abilities now to make a difference in the world today

I have dreams and visions for what I want to do with my life

There are times where I am confused and really want your help even though I say I don't

I need you to set an exceptional example to follow

The words you say to me have the power to direct the direction of my life

Even though I pretend not to, I do notice the little things you do

I want someone to believe in

I want someone to believe in me

Even though I don't always like it, I do want you to hold me accountable

I want someone to challenge me to greatness

Even though I put up a front, I want you to work to get to know the real me

These are just a few. There are more. As I write and read these words, I'm picturing moments in my own kids lives where I know I forgot about the above. If you have kids, or work with kids, let this be a reminder as you walk with them each day.

Now it's your turn. What are other things that students secretly want us to know about them. Ready. Set. Comment.

If the Shoe Fits

I remember when Morgan would walk around in her mommy’s shoes like this. She’d go to our closet. Dig in our shoes. And pull out the tallest high heels to put on. She’d sit there on the floor, with the high heels on and then crawl to the bed to pull herself up.

She could walk in them ok… especially for a two year old. But she would still stumble and fall because they just didn’t fit.

But, when she would put her own shoes on, she was on. She would run. Jump. DANCE. Cause she found her fit. She found shoes that fit her. Sure, she would stumble and fall here and there, but not in the same way.

Prior to starting Savvy, I’ve worked with students and families for 23 years and continue with my own teenagers (did I just say that? I have teenager(s)… not just one, but two!?) Anyway… during those 23 years it was always my goal to help them find what fits when it came to their life, their relationships, their interests, etc. To help them find what they’re gifted in and run with it. It’s what makes my heart beat fast. It’s one of the things I still love to do.

It’s actually a challenge that all of us face… to find what fits. To discover what we’re gifted at and run with it. It’s a lifelong journey and it’s one of the most exciting adventures we could go on.

I’ve decided to keep adventuring and journaling about students and parenting. This will be one of the spaces that I’ll share my thoughts, tips and what I’ve been learning in my own life as it relates to the above. Hope you’ll follow along.

Can’t wait to get started!

P.S. Now, Morgan is 13 now… her feet… well… they now fit in her mom’s shoes.