Couple hopes to change the world, one family at a time
by Lajean Rau-Keene
Special to The Leaven
OVERLAND PARK — Bo and Stacy Govea, parents of six, are blessed. So blessed that they feel called to share and reach out to other families.
They’ve developed a faithbased parenting system called 10- 20-30Go! Families Functioning Faithfully.
It’s been a labor of love — part of a very personal journey for their family that included having twins with health complications almost three years ago, and then another baby a year later when their oldest child was 15.
Stacy calls the system — which is based on 10 minutes of prayer, 20 minutes of reading and 30 minutes of chores each day — “a blessing.”
“It’s worked for us,” she said. “The fruits from this system have been unbelievable for our family. So if somebody else gets to share that, that’s great.”
Their pastor at Overland Park’s Church of the Ascension, Msgr. Tom Tank, has seen it work for other families in the parish, too.
“Those using it consistently are noticing a change in the spirit of their family life — less hassles and more personal responsibility,” he said. “I think it is a very creative approach to parents helping young people grow as responsible people.”
Beating the Odds
In a few weeks, the Goveas will be celebrating the third birthday of their twin girls, Mary Ellen and Mary Elizabeth. That these happy, busy toddlers will be blowing out candles again is somewhat of a miracle. When Stacy was pregnant, doctors weren’t sure the babies would make it.
The girls had a potentially deadly condition called Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). Stacy was flown to Salt Lake City for emergency surgery. It was successful, but her water broke, too early for the babies to be born. After several very scary weeks, “the Marys” were born via emergency Csection at 25 weeks.
Against all odds, both made it. But they were very premature. On their third night, the doctors woke Bo and Stacy to say they didn’t think Elizabeth was going to survive. The Goveas flew their three other kids to Utah to meet their sisters.
As hundreds back home prayed for them, Elizabeth’s condition began to improve.
Eventually, Stacy moved into a Ronald McDonald House and Bo went home to their older children and his job as an insurance executive. But the family struggled with Mom gone and the girls so fragile. Bo took more time off work. He visited Stacy and the twins often.
When the girls could finally travel, Elizabeth was transported directly to Children’s Mercy Hospital, where she stayed for another month. Ellen got to come home but was on oxygen and a feeding tube. Between caring for the twins and keeping up with the three older kids, life was chaotic.
Bo met with his boss, who asked if he was ready to come back to work 100 percent. Bo said no and resigned. His wife and children needed him.
He decided he would open his own insurance agency, something that would take some time. Then he and Stacy found out they were expecting again. Ryan was born a little over a year after the girls. (They now group the kids into “G1” and “G2” for “Generation 1” — Megan, 17; Michael, 13; and Nicky, 11 — and “Generation 2” — Ellen and Elizabeth, 2; and Ryan, 1.)
“When we went from three to six overnight,” Bo said, “you can imagine, there’s just a lot going on. We’ve always done chores and stuff like that, but we knew we needed a system. And that’s when we came up with this.
“You have to be the change you want to see in your family,” he said. “We really believe that we have to be pursuing God such that we’re modeling that for our children. Because we learned that ‘do as I say, not as I do’ doesn’t work, that’s point No. 1.
“And point No. 2 is that you have to provide structure and tools for the kids. This is not perfection. It’s really an opportunity for them and for us.”
The Power of Prayer
The idea for 10-20-30Go! originated with Bo. The idea came to him in his quiet time. He realized the family needed something that was rooted in Scripture, with spirituality at its center.
He and Stacy had seen the power of prayer. They believed it had saved Elizabeth. Two years earlier, they had experienced a “personal conversion” at a Christ Renews His Parish retreat at Ascension. It had affected them deeply and they had made changes in their lives.
And they were affected by a couple of e-mails they received when they were in the hospital in Salt Lake City.
“They were almost identical, and they were sent about an hour apart,” Bo said. “It was basically, ‘I wish I could crawl in bed with you and make the pain go away.’ They felt helpless. We realized there is going to be a time when our kids are going to be in a situation when they’re grown up and out of the house and we can’t ‘fix it’ — we can’t do anything for them. The only thing they’re going to have to rely on is their faith.”
Bo hadn’t pursued a personal relationship with God until the retreat at Ascension.
“I knew I didn’t want my children to wait until they were 33 to have one,” he said.
The system starts with “accountability cards,” one per week for each child. The front is a place to keep track of the prayer, reading and chore requirements. On the back is a word of the week and a Scripture passage. Sometimes there is a “Go!” challenge — a way to put the Scripture passage into action.
Putting Scripture passages on the cards is something Bo did with Megan in mind, with the intention of spurring conversations with the teenager who initially told her dad her prayers were personal. He took a cue from devotional books to create an opportunity for contemplation and, he hoped, sharing.
Posted in the home are a chore chart — assigned chores rotate from week to week — and a prayer chart, a place for everyone to acknowledge people they should be praying for.
Prayers had helped the family so much, they wanted to return the favor and teach their children to think about others’ struggles.
“When we were in Utah, it was unbelievable the response in our community,” Stacy said. “People would talk about how kids would come home from school and they would say, ‘How are the twins?’ and they would stop and they’d all pray for us and look at our blog. It was awesome, because there are a lot of people in your community that need prayers, and it brought those families together.”
Underpinning 10-20-30Go! is a performance-based behavior management strategy Bo learned in business. It’s called PICNIC (positive immediate and certain/negative immediate and certain). Parents can use positive or negative reinforcements.
The Goveas call this a “children’s accountability system,” and it’s designed to put the responsibility in the hands of the kids in the family.
As they complete their 10-20-30 each day, they bring their cards to their parents to sign, which presents an opportunity to talk about the word of the day, the Scripture passage, and anything else on the child’s mind.
“The purpose of the card,” Bo said, “is to communicate, educate and hold the children accountable.”
At the end of the week, there’s positive reinforcement (allowance) or negative reinforcement (not being allowed to go out with friends).
“The card became the bad guy,” Bo said. “It wasn’t Mom or Dad saying, ‘Well, we think you did this or you didn’t do that. They’re responsible to bring it to us, and it’s our signature on it. In the past when chores were forgotten, it all fell back on me or, more often, on Stacy. She ended up picking up the slack. We need this to drive behavior.”
Msgr. Tank agreed.
“Parenting today is very difficult, given the challenges of the culture and the expectations that are created for our young people,” he said. “Helping our children to feel affirmed and worthwhile is crucially important, but equally important is challenging them to be responsible for their lives, their actions and each other.”
Megan said she likes how the family works together more now.
“We all hold each other accountable,” she said. “We all just make sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do. . . . Obviously, I don’t do it perfect every day, but I still keep it in my head. Because I know it’s there and that everyone else is doing it.”
The system is just a structure, Stacy emphasized. Nobody is asking for perfection, and parents can change it to make it work for them. She said she loves hearing about what other families do — for example, giving television or game time each day for complete cards.
The Goveas give their children a weekly allowance based on their age. What percentage of that allowance they get depends on what their card looks like.
Chris and Rose Kopecky of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood have been using 10-20-30Go! with their children — Samantha, 8, and Sabrina, 7 — for about nine months.
“Our goal was to not have to remind them about every chore, every day,” Rose said. “We liked the fact that it drives accountability, without ‘nagging’ them to do specific things. We’ve found the times when it hasn’t worked as well is when we, the parents, haven’t been consistent with it.”
“We love the Scripture and the key word on the back of every card,” she said. “It leads to great conversation over Sunday night dinner as we talk about that week’s verse. Often there is a direct correlation to something happening in our lives.”
Taking the lead
The Goveas first shared the system with families they knew, then made plans to produce 10-20-30Go! on a larger scale.
Friends helped with the design and the Web site. Some invested money to help them produce the first kits. These partners are sharing in the profits today.
What started with handwritten index cards and clunky dry-erase boards has become a ready-to-use kit. The Goveas have sold more than 300 of them in 35 states.
“We really think you can change the world one family at a time,” Bo said.
On the back of his business card appears this quote from Pope John Paul II: “As the family goes, so goes the whole nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
Stacy thinks it’s no coincidence that the idea came from a father — not a mother, as many have assumed — and that it came to him in prayer.
“I think that God is calling men to step up and be the leaders,” she said. Bo said he feels called to share what God has done in his life.
“I really feel that God has encouraged me to push this thing forward,” he said. “I think everybody has something special that they’re supposed to do, but we allow fear to say, ‘I can’t do this.’
“Stacy and I ask ourselves all the time, ‘Are we fit to do this? Are we qualified to do this? Why us?’
“And the answer is, ‘Why not us?’”
• Cards for preschoolers, not just school-age children
• New themes, beyond the “virtues and values” set (the sacraments, the Ten Commandments, Lent, etc.)
• An online version that will work with cell phones.
An update on the twins
The girls are healthy and doing very well. (Read more in the Leaven’s Oct. 24, 2008, issue at: www.theleaven.com.)
Neither girl has a severe disability. Elizabeth is still on a feeding tube, but therapists are working with her in the hopes of her being able to eat on her own. She has mild cerebral palsy