by Dexter Culbreath
After a 12-minute commute from home, I turn into the lot to find a parking spot. I don’t find my favorite spot, but the one I find works. I open the door to my car, exit, then head to the door. The time is 3:23 p.m., so the bell will ring in two minutes. It is one of my favorite moments of the day. I get to pick up my daughter from school.
The bell rings, so I make my way to her classroom. As usual, the class erupts to announce, “Eden, your dad is here!” Then the rush of hugs approaches me. Patiently, Eden waits for her friends to get their hugs, then approaches for hers. What a moment. ’Tis a great moment, but it’s not the moment I have been waiting for. However, here it comes. I finally get to do it. I finally get to ask her teacher, “So, how was it today?” It is at this moment that I get the inside scoop. I get to hear what exactly happened in Eden’s life throughout the day. This helpful information allows me to parent better. I have learned that this partnership is crucial.
After 15 years of working with families, as a volunteer and elementary children’s director, there is nothing more valuable that I have learned than the importance of prioritizing parents. The kids and teenagers that I made the most impact with are the ones in which I made an investment in their parents. You see, for years I focused solely on the kids and teenagers. My innate sense of humor, exuberance and ability to engage made it easy to captivate and build strong relationships with them. Over time, lives were changed and hearts were touched.
Then something happened. I was introduced to the world of Orange, The reThink Group. Being exposed to their philosophy and strategy to partner with parents was a game-changer. Parents are with their kids every day and only with me for a couple hours a week, at the most. It should have been an obvious observation to prioritize the parents, but the thought never crossed my mind. I began to implement the strategy and saw a huge difference. Not only were lives being changed and hearts touched. Transformation occurred more rapidly. What would take months or even years to see progress was now taking weeks. Seeing these results is what prompted me to start asking those who cared for my daughter, “So, how was it today?” The answers to that question help to improve my parenting experience as well as the caretaker’s experience. Whether you are a teacher, minister, small group leader, camp counselor, or work with kids or teenagers in any capacity, these keys will help you to put parents first.
Five Keys To Prioritizing Parents:
We tend to look down to greet the kids upon arrival and simply wave goodbye to the parents. Instead, look up first. Greet the parents and ask their name (if you don’t already know it). Share your name as well and whatever naturally comes to mind about their child. You can even briefly share what your time with their child will consist of. Doing this develops a relationship with the parent and informs them that you actually know their child. It also makes for easier conversations at pick-up time, when addressing successes and challenges.
Get The Inside Scoop
Every kid and teenager is different. Asking parents what works and does not work helps to more effectively develop a relationship with their child. The opposite is also true. Sharing what works and does not work for you may help with their parenting.
Offer The Download
Often, what we teach may be forgotten by the time the child reaches their vehicle. At pick-up, briefly share with the parent what was taught and how they can reinforce it at home. There are several ways to do this. Providing resources to take or download at home can be helpful. Once we introduced tools and resources, parents were always blown away by how easy it was for them to take the message and reinforce it at home. I have learned that no parent wants to fail. Some of them simply need to be taught some best practices. Which leads me to my next key.
Provide A Shared Experience
The best thing I have ever done, to prioritize parents, is to bring families together. Fortifying the family is extremely important. Though kids and teenagers look at us as superheroes, our goal is to make sure they see their parents just as super, if not more so. One way to do this is to create an experience for parents to participate in or even observe. During this time, they can see what you do and learn how you do it. This is also a great time to share tips on how to create similar experiences at home.
The Personal Touch
I have been a volunteer and staff leader in churches with less than one hundred attendees and others with more than 17,000, and this key remains paramount: Treat families the way you want to be treated—The Golden Rule. One way to do that is to invest a little more into the opportunities that present themselves. There are some kids and parents that are yours. They are just for you. Whether a kid that is always on top of things or one that cannot seem to get it together, make specific ones yours. Call the parents to make a deeper investment. When I have done so, these parents are always impressed that I decided to make a personal investment into their family. You can’t do this for every family, but you can do it for a few. Providing hands-on parenting skills, going to the home, hospital, or sporting event, and making simple phone-calls make a world of difference.
There are many more keys and benefits to prioritizing parents, but those are a great start. Though I have impacted the lives of thousands of kids and teenagers over the years, here’s the deal. I wish I had prioritized parents sooner. I would have impacted more families. So, I encourage you as a leader of families to do more to concentrate on parents.
And if you are a parent, help your kid’s caretakers. At drop-off and pick-up, go to the classroom instead of waiting in the car. Ask questions more often. Don’t wait only for parent-teacher conferences. Go the extra mile.
To sum this up I will share the well-known words of Maimonides:
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Prioritizing kids feeds for a day; prioritizing parents feeds for a lifetime.
Dexter Culbreath has been a son and brother for 36 years, a husband for 10 and a father for 5. He is also a social entrepreneur focused on revealing human potential. He has 15 years of experience serving and leading family ministries in the metro Atlanta area. Follow Dexter on Twitter or Instagram.