President Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal is his take on how to negotiate a favorable business outcome. One of his key points is to “Aim High.” Here is what he said about that point:
“I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing to get what I’m after. Sometimes I settle for less than I sought, but in most cases, I still end up with what I want.”
Opinions about the President are often divisive, but I believe this is a point we can unite around when it comes to dealing with boys. Guys like to think of themselves as “the best,” and it is self-evident in so many arenas. What athletic team aims to be last, or third, or even second? Or how many boys prefer to be their sweetheart’s second choice? It’s this be-the-best-drive that enables coaches to push boys to lift more weight, run faster, jump higher, and try harder. Maybe you recall the slogan, “Be all that you can be, in the Army!” It was an effective recruiting slogan because it pulled at the hearts of young men looking to become or be a part of the best.
This is such a well-known marketing truth that seems almost impossible that so many families are ignorant of it. Even more unbelievable is how much less than the best many parents expect from their sons. Their own slogans reveal their low expectations. For example, “Boys will be boys,” is a slogan from Hell; “Teens will rebel,” is its brother; “A boy has to sow his wild oats,” is the father of them both! These statements just aren’t true. They only become reality when a parent aims too low or stops pushing for the best in a boy. For the many things I disagree with in Trump’s book, I embrace this one: “You’ve got to aim high.”
How high is high? By his twelfth birthday, Jesus had memorized the entire Torah! That’s like one of our kids memorizing all the New Testament books from Matthew to Hebrews. To become a Rabbi, the Apostle Paul had to have memorized Genesis through Deuteronomy by age twelve also. Many Jewish children still memorize the Torah by age twelve even today. How do you imagine those kids came to memorize that much? I’ll tell you, and it is simple. Someone expected them to do it, so they did it. What are the odds those same Jewish kids would have memorized all those verses if their parents had tossed them a play station and left them to do whatever they wanted to do? Kids will settle for less if they are expected to do less.
A parent’s high view of their children and their belief in their potential for integrity gives their children a powerful boost. I believe we could say that a parent’s expectations inform (and thus form) their child’s identity. Sadly, I hear such defaming expectations placed on kids, by their parents, all the time. Their words make me want to scream, “NO! Stop saying that around your kids! You’re ruining them!” My skin crawls when parents suggest and then reinforce such terribly low expectations in their kids. Their lowered standards cross a spectrum as broad as what they eat, “Oh, he won’t eat vegetables;” to their entertainment habits, “He plays videos all time. I think he’s addicted;” to their disgraceful attitudes, “He’s just a rebel. I can’t do anything with him.” Wow! How would you respond if your father said to your face, “You are a rebel. I can’t do anything with or for you to change that. You’re destined to be rebellious!” Kids hear AND BELIEVE what their parents say. “He won’t eat vegetables” is a statement of fact to a kid. A parent who doesn’t, or won’t, push for a higher standard is failing their child. We must expect more and think much more highly of our children’s potential, especially when it comes to moral matters.
In large part, I believe many boys have wandered into pornography and other sexual traps because no father or mentor ever invited them to a nobler standard. Most young men have never even heard it suggested that they should (or could) avoid pornography. Most Americans would even go so far as to consider it normal. When a father’s expectation is that his son will “figure it out for himself,” then he will – the hard way.
Rebellion, sexual activity, dishonesty, and emotional distance from parents don’t have to be a part of a boy’s experience. From the time they were small, I expected my sons to tell me the truth. As a result, they’ve been truthful with me, even when it hurt. As an example, once one of my sons came to me, “Dad, I need to tell you something.” I listened as he revealed he’d been on a porn site. It was a difficult discussion for us both, but he was repentant and I was supported his repentance. So after a long discussion about porn, and the dangers and fallout of it all, I said, “Son, I trust that you are a person of truth. We have always been honest with one another. That is very, very important. So, I’m asking you now, “If you ever view it again, will you tell me?’” He agreed he would. You might expect that he would NEVER tell me if he was again guilty, but the power of aiming high is powerful. By prefacing my statement with a high view of him as trustworthy, I safeguarded the integrity of our relationship, even if he failed at resisting porn. And you know what? A few years later he came to me in tears. “Dad, I did it again. I’m so sorry.” We worked through it again. I congratulated him on his integrity and honesty. “I know this was tough to confess son, but I’m so very proud of you for keeping your commitment and being honest.” He has never fallen again. Parents can empower their kids to achieve great things. Aiming low communicates a low opinion. I know mine are capable of failure, but I also believe they are capable of a very high degree of success, and I empower them to be successful by how I speak to and about them.
As another example, a lot of kids think virginity is a joke or odd. These days, many parents believe it is expecting too much of their kids to be sexually controlled. Aren’t “these days” just like days past – except for different EXPECTATIONS? Schools, government, and parents (even ‘Christian’ parents) buy their thirteen-year-old birth control pills and plead, “Don’t get pregnant.” That is so egregiously twisted and unfair to these kids. In fact, it is evil. We’re plainly telling our kids, “I think so lowly of you that I know you are not going to be able to control yourself, so take these to prevent a pregnancy.” Why not invite them to a higher plain? Call your sons and daughters to virginity until marriage. Even if you weren’t controlled in your youth, that doesn’t doom them to follow your steps. Help them avoid your pitfalls! I called each of my kids to a standard of purity and they ALL reached it. Aim high and empower your boys to reach high. This is the art of dealing with boys. It is how a parent or a mentor can help them successfully negotiate life adolescence and life.