It has been my experience with most parents that they would never attend a meeting without an agenda or go grocery shopping without a list; but, they continue to parent each day without a plan.
Often, as parents, we fail to plan the journey. We are excited about the birth of our children, delighted to have the frenzy of the labor behind us. But, we leave the hospital with our precious child only to realize that we have no specific plans for the road ahead. We decide we will take it one day at a time.
Just as we would plan a vacation, though, we must have a plan for parenting. We need to know the destination, the route, and the resources necessary to arrive there.
So, what is your vision? Do you have one? Who do you want walking out the door when they reach 18? What is your plan to get there? What tools will you need?
My vision includes raising children who become the leaders of tomorrow so that someone will be there to take care of me when I am old! I am raising citizens who will be self-confident, well-rounded, thinkers, self-taught, self-disciplined, and successful. If I evaluate life’s scenarios along the way in terms of ‘will it help me to enforce my vision for my children’, then I can capture those teachable moments to train for these goals.
For instance, when my oldest daughter was nine, she played soccer. She was trying to get to a soccer game, and I said, “Well, you’re going to need to call and get a ride, because I can’t be in two places at once, and I have to get your sister somewhere else.” Through a series of back-and-forth prompting and scripting, I taught her how to arrange a car pool. My husband said to me, “Deb, come on, she’s only nine.” I replied, “But Keith, I already know how to arrange a car pool. I already have that skill. Now it’s her turn. She needs to learn these skills.”
Taking this opportunity to teach her a new skill was an opportunity that I did not want to miss. The next time something came along like this, she had the confidence to try this problem-solving skill again. She was a little hesitant, but the more that she took on this self-directed behavior, the easier it became for her.
The concept of self-confidence has been widely misused in our society today. Self-confidence and self-esteem have been presented as measures of what others think of us. I believe this is wrong. True self-confidence comes from those actions that we accomplish, those things in which we are successful by our own standards.
Another trait of the leaders of tomorrow is that they are well-rounded. By well-rounded, I mean children who are learning the habits of being empathetic and appreciative. These are not natural skills. They must be taught. Why would we think that a child would naturally know how to be appreciative? Many parents tend to use sarcasm here to teach this point, but that usually doesn’t work. For instance, have you ever heard a parent sarcastically say, “You’re welcome!” when the goal is to have the child say, “Thank you?” As parents, we should view those moments as opportunities to teach children, “This is the time to say ‘Thank you’,” when you drop them at their weekly piano lesson or have a moment to teach that trait.
Children need to be trained to think and use their minds. Learning is a life-long process and we must teach them how to engage their brains, to consider information carefully, weigh its merits, compare and contrast it to other information, to look for relevance, and screen for validity. Since children are naturally curious, use these moments to help them begin to evaluate information, not to just repeat it back to you. My goal is to have children that will be able to think and speak for themselves, because after they leave my home, I will not be able to do that for them.
This leads very naturally to the fact that I want my children to be self-taught. They must take ownership of their own learning along the way. A two-year old may not be ready for all of this, but even they need to be able to understand and learn simple things.
Another trait that this will require is teaching self-discipline. They must learn to manage their time. They will need to know that there will be things in life that are hard to do, and that is okay. We all have hard things to do. Without self-discipline, we push those tasks away until it is too late or there is too little time to manage the responsibilities before us. However, by being self-disciplined, we manage the skills necessary to do the work.
Now, let’s use some of that self-discipline today to formulate your parenting plan.