What Matters in Parenting and Leadership

Kara Powell

I wish there was a silver bullet for good parenting and/or good leadership.  I really do.  That would make life and ministry so much easier.

But one of the things we’ve found in our Sticky Faith research is that there are no silver bullets.  Sure, there are patterns and correlations, but there are no “if/then” formulas when it comes to impacting kids. 

I am grateful to Adam McLane for sending Brad and me a link to a Freakonomics podcast on parenting.  This analysis of parenting isn’t from the perspective of theologians or sociologists or psychologists—it’s from the perspective of economists.  What parenting practices seem to make the biggest difference in the long-term attitudes and behaviors of their kids?

I listened to this podcast while I was working out, so I’m sure I missed some of the fine nuances.  But one of the paragraphs that stuck out the most to me was that while parents try all sorts of activities (i.e., music lessons, sports) to try to instill character qualities in their kids, those matter far less than a few more important things:  who you are as a parent and how you relate to your kids.  Here’s a quote from one of the panelists:

“So the way that your kids feels about and remembers you. The quality of the relationship. This is where you really have an effect and where it is very long lasting, it really does last a lifetime.” 

While this was data on parents, I would hypothesize that the same thing is true with youth leaders.

The podcast suggested, and I have found this true in my own life, that sometimes we parents are so busy chauffeuring our kids to events that all of our family ends up riddled with stress, which hurts our relationships with our kids and keeps us (certainly me!) from being the parents we want to be.  So let me toss out a counter-cultural suggestion:  do less, smile, relax, and talk with your kids more. 

Now let me go get a mirror so I can repeat that last sentence to myself. 


Published Sep 08, 2011
Kara Powell

Kara Powell, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. As a youth ministry veteran of over 20 years, she serves as an Advisor to Youth Specialties. Named by Christianity Today as one of "50 Women You Should Know", Kara is the author or co-author of a number of books including Sticky Faith, Essential Leadership, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum.

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