We’re tracking the wrong metrics

We’re tracking the wrong metrics

We raise our kids hoping they become good people. We want them to have fulfilling careers, be healthy, happy, and prosperous. But how can we measure our children’s progress and be confident they are on the right path? Corporate America will tell you that if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it. The problem is that so often parents use the wrong metrics, giving them a false confidence in the development of good and godly character.

My first engineering job out of college involved working with ineffective filters that were hand-made in Japan. They were very expensive and laborious to manufacture. I eventually visited the factory in what seemed like a jungle outside Nagoya, Japan. There was no air-conditioning and the humidity was oppressive. The filters were ineffective no matter how much more cost was added to the filter’s construction and I set about discovering why. The mathematics I used to figure it out involved something called Bessel functions and I’ll spare you the details, but I found that we had been specifying the filter incorrectly – we were tracking the wrong metric. Our determination of a ‘good’ filter was based on the wrong metrics! I overhauled our specification and reduced the cost by 75% while simultaneously improving the performance of the filter. It felt great to accomplish that for my company, having just graduated, and I’ll never forget that experience because I learned how important it is to track the right metric.

I believe that we parents are tracking the wrong metrics with our kids. We want our kids to love people and use things, not use people and love things. We want them to demonstrate humility and decency, and be generous toward others. The only thing standing in the way is a little thing called sin. Sin ruins everything – laziness instead of accomplishment; covetousness instead of hard work. We all know the consequences of sin and, in fact, the very reason we establish metrics with which to measure our children is because we know they are inclined to be lazy or selfish. The problem is that we measure the wrong things and invest time in the wrong areas!

Would you rather your child be selfless toward others or popular in school? Should they get good grades or be known for working hard? Cultivating godly character cannot be codified into a simple checklist that includes straight A’s, starting on a sports team or being popular in school. Jesus values brokenness, humility and selflessness; it’s about the inclination of the heart, not outcomes. The risk in following a checklist is that it doesn’t cultivate good character; it modifies behavior. If parents put too much importance on getting into Stanford, our children will think that anything goes so long as they bring home good grades. I’d rather my child be a C student but defend the boy being bullied. If I see my kids broken over sin, it’s more important to me than winning a starting spot on the soccer team. Sports are an ephemeral pursuit while eternal life is, well, eternal. How does one measure selflessness? Only by observing the little activities of family life. It’s the micro, not the macro. God is concerned with the little details of our life precisely because they aggregate to the whole person. What will that person be? Let’s dump the misleading metrics and focus on the hearts of our children.

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