influence your kids

5 Uncommon Ways to Influence Your Kids

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After what felt like a battle, our team ended the volleyball match with a sweaty but thrilling victory. The guys whooped on the bus ride home, but Alex, the team’s setter, cheered while cradling an icepack on a swollen finger. Equivalent to a football team’s quarterback, a setter calls the plays and puts balls into the hands of teammates who’ll score points. It’s an invaluable position, and a good setter knows he’s a leader on and off the court. That’s why he refused a ride home with his parents. As their coach, I admired his loyalty and grit. At the beginning of the season, I had no idea what I’d get for a team, but I ended up with not only a lot of talent but a group of young men who played selflessly, no one player trying to claim all the glory. It’s no wonder we never lost a match that year.

NFL Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy knows the value of team unity. “It’s everyone marching toward the very same goal,” he says. Going beyond what’s expected and approaching your role selflessly is part of a team’s success. Your family can do that too with you influencing their steps. Based on Uncommon Influence, the new book Coach Dungy wrote with his wife, Lauren, here are 5 uncommon ways to influence your kids and keep your family team united.

1. Surround them with good people.

As a kid, Tony Dungy had some good folks surrounding him, including his barber and an older boy who took him under his wing. Tony had mentors who believed in him. Even though he admits he might’ve been a head at times, these men “worked to point [Tony] in the right direction.”

Who do you allow in your kids’ lives? Are they men and women of honor? Of goodness? Choose wisely whom you’ll allow near your kids. The right sort of community will impact your kids and lead them down the right path.

2. Approach others nonjudgmentally.

At an amusement park with his family, Coach Dungy will often find himself sitting for a bit, watching people pass by. “I try not to focus on any external characteristics that might taint my perception of them,” he writes. “[H]ow they look, how they’re dressed, how they’re behaving, what they say.”

Teaching our kids to approach others “in a spirit of compassion and grace” starts with our example. Offering a seat on the bus to the pregnant woman or allowing the father with a squirming son to cut in line for the restroom will influence our kids and how they see the world.

We need to have integrity—to do what’s right even when no one is looking.

3. Live what you believe.

We need to have integrity—to do what’s right even when no one is looking. “Even when I’m not around,” I told my son, “use good language. Be honest. Treat others the way you’d want to be treated.” But if we really want our kids to learn these values, we have to live them ourselves. We need to walk the talk. “Living two different ways,” as Coach Dungy puts it, “is not living with integrity.”

Living with integrity isn’t always easy. But you can influence your child by walking the talk everywhere you go.

4. Pursue what’s right, not what’s popular.

I’ve gotten a lot of grief from friends for never getting a Facebook account. But it’s not something I think is right for me or my family. Coach Dungy used to lead an optional prayer time for his NFL players before and after practices. He had influence. And it might not have been easy for him, but Coach did it anyway.

If you think your kid shouldn’t be on social media or carry a phone everywhere he or she goes, set limits because it’s right for your family, even if it’s not popular with everyone else.

5. Clarify that it matters how you win.

Coach Dungy always played or coached a game to win. “Winning matters. It matters greatly,” he says. “What also matters is how you win.” Dungy received an accidental tip once before a game and wrestled with whether he should use it to help his team win. He finally decided not to use the information and ended up winning the game anyway. That night, he slept well, knowing he did the right thing.

We can influence our kids by teaching them that how they play the game matters more than the win. If a cashier undercharges us, for example, we let that person know. It’s harder sometimes, but it’s worth it to raise our kids with character so they too can have uncommon influence in the world.

Coach Dungy also writes about the importance of preparation and the value of relationships to have uncommon influence. Read more in his book here.

Sound off: What are some other important ways to influence your kids?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How do you think you are influencing the people around you? How would you like to influence them?”