4 Verbs for Parenting

Model. Assist. Watch. Leave.

Four words are written in a leadership manual I recently read. These four verbs instantly reminded me of my role as a parent. These steps, activated in countless scenarios from birth to graduation, supply a rudimentary template for parenting.

Throughout the journey of raising humans, we MODEL how to use a spoon, tie a shoe, make dinner, admit fault, treat people respectfully.

We ASSIST our kids by holding the bike seat, reading their spelling words to them, playing ball.

We WATCH them play with their friends, bake desserts, use a hammer, play their instrument.

Finally, we LEAVE them at school, at the theater, at their first job, at college.

Conviction settled in when I first applied these to my parentcraft. How many times have I omitted the last three directives for the sake of time? Indeed, TIME is the hinge on which this door of raising competent kids swings. No time, no hinge. No hinge? I daresay we have a door that’s not functioning correctly.

I model excellently.

How to make dinner: Sit quietly and watch how it’s done.

How to tie your shoe: Give me your foot so we can be on our way.

Cleaning: Hand me the broom and back away.

Occasionally, I find myself in the assist or watch phase. Much to my children’s detriment, I camp out here sparing them the essential education in potential failure.

If I don’t expand my process to include all four steps, in 10 years, I will not have competent, emotionally healthy, innovative adults who are constructively and creatively contributing to our world. Instead, what I will have are hesitant grownups who expect perfection on the first try, or may not even attempt at all due to fear of failure or want of approval.

How does a child admit guilt and ask forgiveness when he’s never heard Mom say I’m sorry when she’s blown it? How does a teen handle the cleaning list for closing the restaurant when he’s never driven a vacuum at home? How does a 19-year-old who has had their entire schedule orchestrated for them manage their time in University with a full load of credits and a part-time job? 

May I offer a challenge to all of us as parents?

We must look at our calendars and delete appointments that deflect our dearest hours away from our children. They need our time. Time to model. Time to assist. Time to (painfully) watch. Then, lastly, we need the strength to leave them to try on their own.

Speaking of that last step, the leaving step, I hear the last leave rapidly overtakes us. When we drive away from that final leave, I don’t think we will regret any of the thousands of times we acted out these verbs with our kids. On the contrary, I expect we will savor the memories of kissing scratched elbows, cleaning flour off the floor, the long nights navigating relationships with them.

So, let’s take the hours, and days, and years it will take to work through the four steps. After all, we are raising leaders, are we not?

about the author...Johanna Kennedy is a mom to four children, a wife to one man, a teacher, and a student. She loves adventure whether it be traveling, learning something new, or reading a great book. She is also the author of By the Waters (bythewaters.org) a lifestyle blog dedicated to encouraging women in the midst of a pressure-filled world. 

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s October 2018 issue.

Never miss an issue, check out SFM’s digital editions, here