3 Words from Fifth Grade Math That Can Change Your Parenting

Kara Powell | Feb 12, 2015

Photo by khoa vu.

Toward the top of the long list of things I love about being a faculty member at Fuller Seminary is what I learn from my amazing faculty colleagues. Recently, Dr. Scott Cormode, Fuller’s Hugh De Pree Professor of Leadership Development, and I were co-teaching at a Sticky Faith Cohort. When it was Scott’s turn to teach, he commented that parents can dramatically improve their parenting if they heed the wise advice of fifth grade math teachers.

I was intrigued. What was that advice?

Show your work.

In other words, parents can—and should—invite their kids into their parenting process. Not in an enmeshed, boundary-less, “Gilmore Girls” style of parenting. But in a warm, open, and conversational approach to parenting. As we’re showcasing in our new Family Guide Video Curriculum, having warm family relationships is related to kids’ long-term faith. It’s often easier to have warm family relationships when we welcome our kids into some of our processing, or at least help them understand some of the tensions we’re experiencing as parents.

So I’ve shown my work with our kids by helping my son understand why he needs to keep his phone in our bedroom overnight, even though he complaints he “might forget it” in the morning.

When my 8 year-old said she wished I had stayed at her school party for 2 hours even though I left after only one hour, I showed my work by explaining what the sign-up had said, and that I was so sorry that I misunderstood.

While we don’t need to share all of our parenting rationale and experiences with our kids, my hunch is that part of why we feel like our kids don’t understand us is because we do little to help them do so. Parenting doesn’t have to be a covert activity.

So how do you try to “show your work” to your kids?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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