Parenting is leadership. As such, parenting is a forward-looking enterprise. Like every forward-looking enterprise there are day-to-day elements governed by long-term objectives. Most parents fail in seeing themselves as leaders who plan according to future goals, or their goals are reactive and fear driven. When you are driven by fear you make statements about the future governed by those fears: “I just want to my daughter through high school drug free and not pregnant.” Not the best strategy.
A good end for parents to have in mind for their children is giving them a commission. We had a ceremony that we held on the 18th birthday of each of our sons. We bought each of them a signet ring like my wedding ring as a reminder of their identity. We blessed them and celebrated their future. We prayed for them and pointed them to their future. This was our end: a send off. We did it with joy and confidence. It wasn’t relief to be rid of them, it was celebration of a job well done.
In order to do this effectively we had to be intentional in our parenting. We couldn’t afford to simply react and let the events of life guide our parenting, we had to carry out a process to reach our desired end. It is simpler than it sounds, but it does take initiative and planning. Here are the building block stages.
First: Healthy Individuals
A leader, by definition, will be someone who is healthy. When you travel by plane you have to endure the safety spiel which includes instructions on loss of pressure in the cabin and the need for oxygen. Oxygen masks will fall from the overhead area for each passenger. If you have small children, you put the mask on yourself first, then the child. This is a universal principle, not just a principle for oxygen masks.
A parent must take care to be healthy emotionally, relationally, physically and spiritually. If you are not healthy you will not be able to model health for my your children and they end up confused. They receive a mixed message which translates ultimately into: adults don’t have to abide by the laws/rules and when I grow up I can stop as well.
Second: a Cohesive Marriage.
Parenting is the product of the passing on of identity to children. Fragmentation in marriage makes parenting a difficult task. The old adage “the best thing you can do for your children is love their mother/father” is true. When a marriage is on track, children get to see what a healthy interaction looks like. In our case (4 sons) they were able to see how a man treats a woman and what a healthy woman looks like. When there is agreement in the values arena there is strength and longevity. Common values make for a strong marriage. This strength is the foundation in parenting.
Third: a Clear Plan Based on Common Values.
Parenting is the passing on of values to children. People often tell my wife and I that we are lucky. We bristle at that remark on two levels. It assumes parenting that gets good results is simply a matter of chance. Second it disregards all the work and sacrifice put into the parenting process. We had a plan and we worked diligently to carry out the plan. Our core values that we desired to plant in our sons were: Security and Confidence (corollaries and results of faith and trust); a clear sense of heritage and identity; a strong sense of purpose and direction.
Parenting is proactive and begins with the end in mind. Take care of yourself, your marriage, and work your plan.