Our Five Core Tools


We all go toward our focus. If we’re driving along a nice, pristine road, but then focus on big pothole near the shoulder, we inevitably start to veer toward that pothole. It is no different with children. When parents focus on their children’s mistakes and shortcomings, since we go toward our focus, their children will make more of those same mistakes and their shortcomings will be amplified. Thankfully, it works on the positive end as well. When our 1-year-old is learning to walk, do we chastise them when they fall and can’t walk perfectly three feet to where we’re squatting? Of course not. We animatedly celebrate the two steps they got right. Wise parents and grandparents celebrate their children’s good decisions and actions.


Our goal is to give our children and grandchildren love messages that help them learn and succeed versus hurt messages that diminish their confidence and momentum. We all miss the mark with this tool sometimes. Fortunately, we can change the hurt messages we send them simply by changing our words and tone and by asking genuine, wise questions to guide them to their own decisions. Our love messages remind them they are capable and trusted.


“If I’ve told them once, I’ve told them a thousand times.” Let’s be honest, does telling ever really work? No. After you tell them once, you have to tell them again and again and again. Smart parents and grandparents know that the best way to teach is to ask wise questions, such as “What do you think is the best way to handle things when we come back with muddy boots? How did you learn to do that so well?” We can’t possibly control the experiences our kids will come up against, but we can arm them in advance with the gift of learning to think for themselves and having confidence in their decision-making. 


Listening? It seems so insignificant and small. How can listening impact our children’s qualities, values, behaviors, and future? Is there any better way to communicate to our children, “I believe in you. I like your ideas. You’re clever and smart” than to just stop everything, get down on their level, and listen deeply to what they have to say? Listening without jumping in with our better ideas or mini-lectures gives our children priceless gifts like confidence, critical thinking, and communication skills. No wonder research shows that we have a greater positive impact on our children by how we listen than by anything we say.


“Do what I say, not what I do.” Does that command ever work with children? They can’t help but copy what we do, so watch out because their little brains are recording what you do and gleaning their blueprint for life from your example. Experts say that 80% of their qualities, values and behaviors are developed just from watching our lives. If we are a living text book for them, consider what kind of guide you have written for your children: are you proud of it, or would you like to rewrite a few parts?


10 Greatest Gifts Project