[Published by MomClick Utah and The Daily Herald here.]
“A company without a vision cannot succeed. And a vision without a plan is the recipe for failure.”
— Kevin Harrington, ABC’s “Shark Tank” judge
Our lives are loaded with plans: business plans, retirement plans, health insurance plans, workout plans and vacation plans. But what about having a parenting plan? Parenting is just like any other undertaking in life. To increase our chances of a successful outcome, we usually need to know where we are going, and how we are going to get there.
I would like to suggest a three-part parenting plan that will hopefully provide you with some ideas to implement in your family. For best results, the three parts of the plan need to work together. Picture in your mind a three-legged stool. Each of the three legs are essential to make it stable. If one of the legs is broken or missing, the stool can’t serve its purpose.
The Parenting Plan
Part One — Where are you going?
The goal is to identify the life skills you believe your children will need to succeed in life. Take time to really think this through. What life skills will they absolutely need to have? Write them down and keep them in a place that you can refer to often.
As you interact with your children, they’ll continue to grow up and find their own interests. Their own experiences will help you teach them those life skills you want them to master for the rest of their lives. Refer to this list often, especially on rough days.
Part Two — How are you going to get there?
Every family has a Family Culture. Are you aware of yours? Are you pleased with it? Most importantly — does your family culture reinforce the life skills that you identified in Part One? Do you need to make adjustments so it does? Here is an idea:
It’s time now to put on your farmer’s hat! Pretend you are a farmer and try to think and act like one. The goal of every farmer (parent) is to produce good fruit. These could be your “farming” steps:
1. Plant the seeds of the life skills inside your child’s fertile mind (good ground).
2. Nourish the seeds (water/sunshine) through repetition, experiences, your personal example and role models.
3. With time, and regular fertilization, the seeds begin to grow and take root within your child.
4. Over an extended period of time, and with consistent nourishment, a strong tree (your child) is created, with branches of the desired life skills.
5. Good fruit (happy, confident, resilient, etc.) is produced by your tree for years to come. Your vision for your child has become reality. Enjoy the harvest!
Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant!” I would add: and how you nourish that seed each day.
Often parents judge themselves too harshly. They forget they need to focus on their effort and what is within their control — planting and nourishing the “right” seeds. We all have at least 18 years to complete that farming cycle!
Part three — Enjoy the journey
Parents need to focus on progress, not perfection. That is — your progress as well as your child’s progress. Remember that parenting is an acquired skill; it takes time and experience. It’s true, we don’t know for certain what will happen in the future and that there are no guarantees. One thing we know for sure is that we will make mistakes along the way, but we can always put forth our best effort.
There is no “one size fits all” parenting strategy. Each of our children will come wired differently. Let’s treat them accordingly.
Let’s maintain a long-term vision for our parenting journey. It really is a marathon, not a sprint.
Sense of humor
Keeping a healthy sense of humor is essential. Look for opportunities to laugh with your children every day. Laugh at your mistakes and apologize when needed. Laugh at all the funny things that happen in life. Some experiences are funnier years later. Keep a “funny journal.” You and your children will someday read it and have fun with the memories.
Do not play the compare game
As you well know, comparing ourselves with other parents is simply not helpful. Likewise, it’s not a good idea to compare our children with other children. Let’s not compare our children with each other.
How could this plan benefit you as a parent?
• You can see the finish line from the starting line.
• You can focus on the big picture for your children.
• You will keep what’s most important exactly that — most important.
• You will have a roadmap with clear long-term goals.
• The plan will affect the way you view and teach your children.
• You will be a proactive parent vs. a reactive parent.
Most importantly, you will parent with vision, confidence and purpose.