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Family Life | Building strong families: What Makes Good Leaders? Part 3

The results are out! Many have expressed dismay at some of the winners, and saddened over the loss of those who should have won. There is not much we can do about the present crop of leaders, but there are things we could do to develop transformational leaders with the children and young people in our midst for a more hopeful future. How do we go about doing that?

Author Leighton Ford (1991), whose work is to develop young leaders, wrote a book on “Transforming Leadership”. He took the secular model of transformational leadership, subjected it to critical examination, and showed how different aspects of Jesus’ character and practices exemplified the perfect and authentic transformational leader the world is looking for. That ideal can serve as a blueprint or framework for us. With Jesus’ leadership, ordinary fishermen and tax collectors “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6); a persecutor of believers had become a prolific writer, church planter and teacher who had impacted “practically the whole province of Asia” (Acts 19:26) and Rome with the gospel. Since then, the story of transformation continues on to this day with people from all walks of life! Jesus transforms people in the true sense of the word as He infuses them with power and makes them transformers of others, their families, their communities, and their societies. Ford mentioned ten elements in Jesus’ life that contributes to building transformational leaders: the transformational leader as son, as strategist, as seeker, as seer, as strong one, as servant, as shepherd maker, as spokesperson, as struggler, and as sustainer. We will only highlight the first one now.

As a Son, the Father affirmed Jesus even before he started any public ministry; and it was this relationship that was at the core of Jesus’ mission and ministry. Ford wrote, “… the strongest leaders are those who have received a strong affirmation of their personhood, in a way which frees them not only to lead a cause but also to serve others” (p. 37). Ford noted: “Affirmation involves nothing but paying attention, caring, and expressing our care. Think of the multiplied dividends it would pay in raising up future leaders” (p. 41).

Parents, teachers, people working with children, play a key role in giving a child a strong sense of their personhood. It takes an involved and proactive parent or adult who accepts and loves each child accordingly and guides them to blossom in their uniqueness to be able to provide perspective and affirm the children. The purpose is for the children to get to know themselves well – their strengths, abilities, interests, passion, gifting, learning style, calling in life according to their design – not just for self-fulfillment but so they can give of themselves to others towards good.

To do this, Filipino parents today need to go against our shame-based culture that tends to magnify weaknesses or defects rather than affirming a child’s uniqueness. A study of high school students showed that parents used put-downs, unfair comparisons, fault exaggerating, blaming, regret and rejection in their repertoire of disciplinary practices (Loh, Calleja, and Restubog 2011, 2251–55). A significant number of the psychological and physical discipline practices seemed to be generally practiced in the country, as found in at least eight other empirical studies done from 2006-2015. The cultural values of respect for parental authority that demands children’s obedience, and the belief that good parenting involves disciplining the child to behave and internalize good values, are the reasons behind the Filipino discipline practices. Parental authority over children that includes imposing discipline and demanding respect and obedience are in the Family Code and in the Child and Youth Welfare Code of the Philippines.

However, empirical research, conceptual papers, and mass media have reported abusive discipline practices of many Filipino parents. Some anti-corporal punishment bills and bills promoting the positive discipline of children have been proposed in both the Congress (House Bills 516, 4455, 4907) and the Senate (Senate Bills 873, 1136, 1170, 1189, 1348, 1812), but not one to date has been made into law.

Empirical research shows that parents rarely distinguish between discipline and punishment in their practices, which often fall more into abusive punishment. Harsh physical discipline and use of verbal punishment is associated with more negative outcomes such as higher levels of youth self-reported aggression, externalizing behaviors, and low self-esteem. Maybe this is the reason for the prevalence of bullying and put-downs even in social media.

Parents today need to learn to give the 4:1 ratio of finding 4 specific qualities that are good in the child for every one weakness that needs to be improved, until we develop the habit of affirming others in our shame-based culture!

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