Devon Still grew up in a tough neighborhood in Wilmington, DE. 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 type of environment took several acts of grace, but it also required an inner strength. It was a fortitude that was passed onto him by two parents who both protected and equipped him for life. The resolve they imparted lead 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. That same inner strength was especially needed when he faced the hardest challenge a parent can go through. He shares in his new book, Still in the Game that when his daughter Leah was just four years old she was diagnosed with stage four cancer.
After surgery and a difficult stretch of chemo, his daughter Leah is doing well today. But in order to be a source of support for a daughter fighting for her life, let alone persevering through the heart-wrenching experience as a parent, Devon drew on that inner strength given to him by his parents. 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.
1. Be There For ThemOne of the most painful things in Devon Still’s life was his parent’s 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 both 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 the parents. The best way to do that is to be a consistent and powerful presence, physically and mentally.
2. Discipline ThemWhen 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 ResponsibilityIf your kids aren’t given any responsibility they will never learn how to be responsible. Those muscles have to be formed and shaped in order for them to be dependable when they are needed. Give them age-appropriate chores and increase their responsibilities over time so they can handle more weight.
4. Shield ThemHaving 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 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 ConsequencesWhen 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 FaithThis 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, etc., and we will be desperate for help. My question is, 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?
What has made you strong in your life?