“Caution: Some Assembly Required!” We’ve all seen the warnings on product packaging countless times. I vividly recall assembling a swing set and following the directions to a T. Afterwards, I noticed a few seemingly important parts left over—never a good sign. After rereading the directions, I realized the problem. The manufacturer forgot to include some needed steps in the instructions! Not only that, there were precious few images of what it was supposed to look like.
Through the years, I’ve built many things, some of which went smoothly and others not so well. The common denominator to the easy ones was having images of a proper assembly—the endgame. The goal. The prize!
In Stephen Covey vernacular, this is “beginning with the end in mind.” It means having clearly defined objectives for our projects and for our lives—parenting included! Here are some suggestions for how we can do just that—intentionally preparing our children to thrive in adulthood (and feeling good about ourselves in the meantime!):
1. Understand and accept the responsibility that comes with parenting.
Great parenting isn’t just about having fun or keeping our children happy. We are primarily responsible for loving, nurturing, training, affirming, supporting, and empowering our children to become independent and responsible adults. This means having the courage to show tough love when behavioral modification is needed, even if it means not being liked for a period of time.
2. Remember you’re not just raising children—you’re raising future adults.
In this age of busyness, it’s easy to get consumed with the day-to-day and forget to look ahead. What habits, behaviors, and attitudes are being formed today that will need correcting down the road? What praises and recognition can be given for demonstrating responsibility beyond their years? It pays to start early in the process, so fewer corrections will be required in the years when they’re exerting their independence.
3. Keep your eyes on the goal.
One key “destination” in parenting is the launch into adulthood and having the confidence that our children have been prepared well. This includes:
a) Covering the bases with the wisdom our children need for “real world” independence (i.e., what do they need to know?)
b) Instilling the principles and values for honorable living (i.e., how should they live?). A great way to do this is by going through book that can act as a third-party voice, such as What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead.
c) Helping our children discover the unique assets they bring to the world
4. Be ready and willing to move from driver to passenger.
Any successful parenting approach needs to evolve from “control” to “influence.” For many this can be a very difficult transition, but it must be made in order to prepare your children for independence and for your relationship to thrive.
Children enter this world pre-wired and pre-packaged with parts that will require some guided assembly by their caregivers. There’s much more at stake here than just assembling a swing set correctly! Having a well-defined game plan for your parenting will make all the difference in the world.
Have you identified your parenting goals or set up a parenting mission statement? What is important to you? To your spouse or co-parent? How are you working together intentionally to accomplish those goals?
Dennis Trittin is President and CEO of LifeSmart Publishing, author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead and co-author of Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. With world-class leadership experience, passionate advocacy for the next generation, and acclaimed resources and speaking engagements on the topics of leadership, life skills, and parenting, Dennis inspires and equips young people and those who guide them. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter!