There is a children’s song that has lines in the chorus:
“Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do to live with Him someday.” (I Am a Child of God)
Finding ways to lead and guide children is the goal of parents in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (known as the Mormons). When kids aren’t behaving in the way we’d like, sometimes we feel less like leading and guiding and more like pushing, pulling or forcing. But this is not the way shown to us by the Savior, Jesus Christ. The example of the Savior was one of mentoring leadership, I read a great book recently called Nudge; a book that discusses choice. The book shows that people need to make choices, but also understands that they can be influenced and led in positive directions to choose good things. The authors understand human nature and know that people can be fallible.
“Drawing on some well-established findings in social science, we show that in many cases, individuals make pretty bad decisions – decisions they would not have made if they had paid full attention and possessed complete information, unlimited cognitive abilities, and complete self-control.” (Nudge, Thaler and Sunstein, Yale University Press, 2008)
In the book, they talk about how those in leadership positions can create an architecture of choice around those they lead. Their followers can be nudged in the right direction. As parents, we are “choice architects” for our children. We can lead, guide and nudge using these principles, which are consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ. He respected people’s ability to choose, but still said with confidence, “Follow me.” (Matthew 4:19) Twelfth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Spencer W. Kimball, described the leadership principles exemplified by the Savior:
“Fixed Principles: Jesus knew who he was and why he was here on this planet. That meant he could lead from strength rather than from uncertainty or weakness. Jesus operated from a base of fixed principles or truths rather than making up the rules as he went along. Thus, his leadership style was not only correct, but also constant. Understanding Others Jesus was a listening leader. Because he loved others with a perfect love, he listened without being condescending. A great leader listens not only to others, but also to his conscience and to the promptings of God. Selfless Leadership The Savior’s leadership was selfless. He put himself and his own needs second and ministered to others beyond the call of duty, tirelessly, lovingly, effectively. So many of the problems in the world today spring from selfishness and self-centeredness in which too many make harsh demands of life and others in order to meet their demands. Jesus’ leadership emphasized the importance of being discerning with regard to others, without seeking to control them. Responsibility Jesus knew how to involve his disciples in the process of life. He gave them important and specific things to do for their development. Jesus trusts his followers enough to share his work with them so that they can grow. That is one of the greatest lessons of his leadership. Accountability Jesus knew how to involve his disciples in the process of life. He gave them important and specific things to do for their development. Jesus trusts his followers enough to share his work with them so that they can grow. That is one of the greatest lessons of his leadership.” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Jesus: The Perfect Leader,” Tambuli, Aug 1983, 7)
Jesus Christ is the leader we should follow as we work to lead our children back to our Father in Heaven. We can follow His great example of a willingness to serve (Matthew 20:28 and Matthew 23:11). We can know that we have a great stewardship to teach our children, but still be humble in our teaching. (Matthew 23:12) Like the song says, we can lead, guide and walk beside our children as we show them by our example the way of our Savior, Jesus Christ.