According to Webster priorities means “Precedence established by order of urgency or importance.” There is a saying that is popular today… “The tyranny of the urgent.” (Charles E. Hummel). I understand this saying and live it out every day. The urgent need for clean clothes, food to eat, school work help, and the list could go on. These are all important and very urgent requests. Have you ever heard a teenager ask for food? They sound as if they are on the brink of starvation! I even get texts throughout the day when I am only a few feet away doing school work with a sibling. “I am hungry!!!”
Yes, urgency and priorities seem to go hand-in-hand, but are we setting the right priorities despite the pressing urgency? My priorities today are different than they were when my children were young. Yes, food and clothes were important back then, but now the priorities shift from providing the fish to teaching them how to fish. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” (Chinese Proverb)
What are the overall priorities that need to be firmly established in a 12, 14, and 16 year old? In our house these are the main priorities:
1) Daily Bible Reading and Prayer. It is about loving God, not about fulfilling an obligation. It is about relationship, not religion.
2) Always do your best, no matter how little or how grand, nothing less than your best.
3) Daily, moment-by-moment live out the Golden rule, no matter who you are with, even your sister.
4) College, college, college-what are you doing at this moment to prepare yourself for college? In this house, college is a must.
5) Before play, comes work. Is all your work done? Work can be play, but are you getting the work done?
6) Have you hugged your parents and sisters today?
Each of my children has a list of things that must be done before they officially can begin their “free time.” These are Mom directed priorities, and as children/teenagers these are important so they know what their priorities should be. However, as they continue to grow up and gain independence they develop their own priorities that are molded and shaped through the direction of their parents. Just as I have seen urgent things die out in the importance realm, so they will see this happen too. This is a great time to teach the importance of realistic expectations and short tem goals.
It cannot all be taught, as much as we would like it to be. It cannot all be modeled, as much as we would like to be the perfect example. But proper priorities teach discipline and focus and with these great traits plus a few others, our children will accomplish great things, even if it is “only” what is important vs. what is urgent.