Devon Still grew up in a tough neighborhood in Wilmington, Del. There were temptations and dangers all around him. Unfortunately, a number of his friends and acquaintances didn’t make it out. They either had trouble with the law or, worse, ended up dead. Surviving that environment took several acts of grace, but it also required an inner strength. It was a fortitude his parents passed down to him—parents who protected him and equipped him for life. The resolve they imparted led him to avoid trouble, get a college scholarship, and have a successful football career that allowed him to make it all the way to the NFL. He needed that same inner strength when he faced one of the hardest challenges a parent can endure. He shares in his book, Still in the Game, that when his daughter Leah was just 4 years old, she was diagnosed with stage four cancer.
After surgery and a difficult stretch of chemo, she is doing well today. But in order to be a source of support for a daughter fighting for her life, let alone persevering through a heart-wrenching experience as a parent, Devon drew on that inner strength his parents gave to him. I identified 5 things they did that helped to instill that power. If you apply these 5 things, you will create an inner strength in your kids.Kids need a source of stability in their lives, and most of that depends on their parents.
1. Be there for them.
One of the most painful things in Devon Still’s life was his parents’ divorce. However, one of the things that saved him from the pitfalls of growing up in a rough place with parents that split was that his parents were a constant presence. His mom and dad invested in him with their time and their money. Be there for your kids. Carve out time to play and have fun, but it is especially important to be there when times are hard. Kids need a source of stability in their lives, and most of that depends on their parents. The best way to do that is to be a consistent and powerful presence, physically and mentally.
2. Discipline them.
When Devon and his siblings stepped out of line, they were disciplined, especially by their father. Having clear boundaries and holding them when they are violated gives kids greater confidence. Again, it makes their world seem more secure. Being disciplined, when done with love, will give your kids greater self-discipline in the future. Being inconsistent or lacking borders will make a child feel like a helium balloon blowing the breeze.
3. Give them responsibility.
If you don’t give kids any responsibility, they’ll never learn how to be responsible. Those muscles have to be formed and shaped in order for them to be dependable. Give your kids age-appropriate chores, and increase their responsibilities over time so they can handle more weight.
4. Shield them.
Having grown up in a tough neighborhood, Devon’s parents knew there were things happening all around him that he wasn’t prepared to deal with, physically and emotionally. So they made him stay inside the house immediately after school. Protect your kids’ hearts and minds from subjects they aren’t ready for. Experiencing adult content before they have the maturity to make sense of it can cause confusion, instability, and, in some cases, shame. All of that can lead to a lack of confidence and a weakened sense of self.
5. Let them experience consequences.
When Devon was a child, he stole a bike. The school ended up calling the police. Devon’s father took him to the police station, where he spent the entire day in a jail cell. That day changed him forever. He never stole anything again. When our kids are young, allowing them to feel the consequences and pain of their actions enables them to make better decisions for the future.
Bonus: Nurture their faith.
This is one that Devon’s grandmother passed onto him. She used to bring him to church, which, at the time, didn’t seem to make much of an impact. However, when Devon started to face situations far greater than himself, he turned to God in prayer. Sooner or later, we all face struggles—a sick child, an aging parent, financial difficulty. We will be desperate for help. Why wait for the big things? Why not invite the God who created life into the daily life you and your kids are living? If He has the power and wisdom to influence our desperate moments, don’t you think He has answers and a perspective to add to your daily life as well? Wouldn’t that make all of us stronger?
Sound off: What has made you strong in your life?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think is the worst possible thing that could happen to you?”