While I was doing my 30 minutes on the elliptical one day last week, I tried to find something worth watching on TV and ended up watching an ancient episode of Lassie. I was blown away at the parenting techniques used by the dad of Lassie’s owner, Timmy, a young boy of about seven.
In the show, Timmy overheard two boys on his baseball team planning to deceive their coach so one of them could pitch the opening game of the season. One of the boys saw Timmy nearby and realized he had probably heard what they had discussed and threatened Timmy if he told anyone. Timmy struggled to sleep that night but finally got up to tell his father:
"Well, what is it son?"
"Well, I heard something today at practice. I wasn't spying or anything. It was sort of accidental like."
"Well, do you want to talk about it?"
"Well, Jim told Bob he'd give him his old bicycle if Bob would pretend he had a sore arm, so Jim could pitch the first game. Bob didn't see me but Jim did."
"Did Bob agree to this ... deal?"
"He said he would."
"Did you report this to Mr. Campanella?"
His father’s response to hearing the story was, “Well, this is a pretty sad situation. What do you intend to do about it?”
"Jim said if I told anybody I'd be a yellow-squealer. And besides nobody would believe me against him and Bob. And he said he'd be sure Lassie wouldn't get to be mascot."
"Timmy, you know that it's wrong to offer a bribe. And you know that it's just as wrong to accept a bribe. And if nothing is done about this, the whole team will suffer. And a team isn't just one man."
"Do you think I should tell Mr. Campanella?"
And this is his dad's amazing answer:
"It doesn't matter what I think. It's what you think. You know what honesty means. And loyalty."
"Then what should I do?"
"You should do what you feel is right. This is your team. And it's your problem. And it's your decision."
That was it…no advice, no prompting Timmy to work through a decision, just a simple, “I have faith in you. You will make a good decision.” Timmy went to his bed, still couldn’t sleep and got out of bed to pray. Then he went to sleep. Later in the episode the parents were getting in their truck to go watch the game and Timmy’s mom asked his dad, “I wonder what Timmy decided to do?” And his dad responded, “I guess we will find out soon.” And they got in the truck.
I was shocked. But impressed. They trusted their son to make the right decision to tell the coach what he had overheard but didn’t pressure him either way. Timmy had to make the decision on his own and would have had to reap the consequences of whatever decision he made. This is incredible parenting and highlights the trust the parents had in their son and their willingness to put the responsibility squarely on him. This is not how we tend to parent our children today. We gravitate to one of two extremes; either we micromanage and hover or we ignore until something really awful happens and then get angry. But Timmy’s dad shows us there is a better way, and it’s somewhere above the middle.
When we pull apart this parenting technique, we find five main principles:
And it starts with making wise decisions yourself, teaching right from wrong at an early age, loving deeply, and being available daily to communicate.
Anything else that comes to mind to help our children become responsible? Please post your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks!
Article by Ruth Grunstra
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Hi I'm Ruth
What is the biggest challenge you are facing with your child? My husband and I had the first of our 8 children in 1984 and our youngest in 2002. We've been married since 1980 and we are always learning new ways to engage our children. We would love to hear from you. Contact us and let us know what you have found that works and what doesn't, or ask me a question.
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