Shepherd or Sheep Herder?
Are you a sheep herder or a Shepherd?
I was speaking with a friend the other day regarding his family. He expressed great frustration concerning his kids and their lack of respect for him. He felt compelled to teach them personal responsibility, yet for all his rules and punishments things didn’t seem to be getting better. In fact, they seemed to be getting worse. After listening to him, I asked a simple question, “Are you a sheep herder or a shepherd?”
We all have moments that make us question our qualifications as a parent, but watching our family spiral out of control and not knowing what to do is traumatic. For many of us, when a problem arises, the natural reaction is to either fix the problem or let the problem fix itself. Both approaches have their shortcomings. With time and experience I have discovered a slightly different method that has less to do with the problem and more to do with myself. When things aren’t going well at our house, I ask myself the same simple question I asked my friend, am I being a sheep herder or a shepherd?
What is the difference between a sheep herder and a shepherd? Simply stated, a sheep herder pushes the flock from behind in the direction he or she wants them to go, where as a shepherd leads the flock.
As a parent it is easy to fall into the role of a sheep herder. We assume that unless we constantly herd the flock from behind they will scatter and we will lose control of them. But as you can probably guess, being a sheep herder takes a lot of energy and it has few rewards. When we act as a shepherd for our family, we lead our flock. By establishing a standard of love and communication that can be found nowhere else, our flock is connected to us and they want to follow. The flock recognizes that we are wholly committed to their well being, but more importantly they see that they have been given the opportunity to participate in the family experience and not just be herded. It is the ultimate expression of trust and love from one person to another and it is the position from which all good and satisfying parenting is done. So, how can we become a better shepherd?
Essentially your family needs to know that they are getting the highest quality of love from you they can get. This means that you need to continually expand your capacity to love and be willing to express that love verbally, emotionally and physically. As the depth and breadth of your love grows for your family so will the opportunities to offer guidance and wisdom to them that they will value. Also, spending time with your family is critical. Remember to create moments where you can just be with each other, where you don’t always feel the need to direct them or be in charge. By balancing out your interactions with your family and expanding your capacity to love, you will find that your opportunities to become a better shepherd will increase.