Carrying Your Name

Family NameThere is a family that I have known for many years — the Gallaghers. I have always had a great deal of respect for them and for their parenting. I was able to watch their children grow up and mature into fine young adults.

When one of their boys was in high school, he told me that when he was going out with friends his dad often reminded him – “remember that you are a Gallagher and wherever you go you represent the Gallagher family.” I love that.

Now for a parent to say that and have it mean something, the child must have a clear understanding of the values of his family. This Gallagher son needed to know what decisions and actions would represent the family name well and what he needed to avoid. From what he was saying, I could tell his parents had done a great job in communicating what it meant to carry the Gallagher name.

The great thing is that almost all children want to make their parents proud. When the expectations are set, they will strive to live up to those expectations. The Gallagher boy in this story was not a perfect high school student, but he was respected by his peers, as well as adults.

When it comes to athletics and academics, parents are typically good at communicating high expectations. However, when it comes to moral behavior, parents are sometimes unsure of the expectations they should set for their children–especially in the high school years.

In fact, parents sometimes communicate very low behavioral expectations – they expect their child to rebel and get into trouble. When this happens, it is very likely that the children will also “live down” to the expectations of their parents.

The dangers of demanding perfection are well-known and have driven many children to rebel in many different ways. I am not talking about demanding perfection. However, I do believe that you should set the bar high for your children’s moral behavior.

I have begun talking to my children and reminding them that they are Buursmas and that they represent the Buursma family wherever they go. I’m not sure that even my oldest can really understand this yet, but they all will some day.

Setting this expectation for our children also reminds Kristin and I  of our obligation to live out the values we are telling our children are attached to our name. If my children don’t clearly see what it means to be a Buursma, then any speech I give will be meaningless.

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