We worry about our kids: their well-being and happy future are our main concerns in life. We long for them to be content and successful at whatever they choose to do. We hope that we'll be able to provide them with the same kind of help that many of us have received from our own parents. But how can we ensure that we're doing everything in our power to make all of this come to pass?
We can, but there's a process. First, take a few steps back and consider what we truly want for our kids. For example, when I asked a client of mine recently to think carefully of the three things she wished for her children, who range from 16 to 9 years of age, she responded "I want them to be loving, compassionate and responsible adults." There was no mention of rich, famous or powerful. This mother really got to the root of what she knew to be the crucial characteristics necessary for her children to live happy and fulfilling lives.
Once we have this kind of clarity about the things we really want for our kids, we can then move forward towards instilling those traits in them. But first we must be completely clear. Here what to do:
1. Make a list of what you want for your kids. Be sure your list is unselfishly motivated! Financial security, love, happiness...even for them to be blessed with kids just like them! That's what my Mother wished for me and it came true.
Once you have come up with a list of perhaps ten items, start from the top and compare the first two items. Which is most important? Take that choice and compare it to the next item on the list. Again, which is most important? Continue doing this until you have gone through your list and the item that remains is your number one choice.
Repeat the process for your number two, three, four and five choices. This is a list of the five most important things that you want for your kids. Having prioritized, now you can do your best to assist in creating a wonderful future for your kids.
2. Important rule: You are not making decisions about your children's personal future. That's their responsibility and their right to determine. However, as a parent, you are certainly able to influence their future.
3. As an example, let's say that Financial Security is on your list. Do you know what it takes to create financial security? Think of people who have managed to achieve financial security on their own. What traits do they share? Perhaps you determine that responsibility is one of those traits.
How do you create responsibility? What do you know to be true about responsible adults? My own personal opinion is that these adults were taught early on about responsibility through actual experience. For instance, most of them probably had specific chores they did at home. Several probably worked in the summers. Many of them may have learned early on to take responsibility for their own lives and not place blame on others nor make excuses. At an appropriate age, the majority were undoubtedly taught to make decisions on their own and suffer the consequences. They learned not by being told what to do but in the actual doing.
Responsibility, coupled with other strong traits you might identify, will assist your kids in taking charge of their lives.
Be forewarned: It is so much easier to just let them do what they want versus being a watchdog. Teaching a child responsibility, or anything else for that matter, takes patience, determination and commitment.
4. Be a role model. Our kids model themselves after their childhood experiences and especially as they saw their parents. As much as we said we would never be like our own parents, how many of us can see our parents in ourselves? If you want your son or daughter to be responsible, be responsible. By being a true and consistent role model, you can have the most profound influence on your children.
5. Who is this child? I love the story a friend told me recently. Her son in New York City had a visitor, a young woman in her third year of college. After spending a week together, the student admitted that her major, biology, was not what she wanted to pursue but rather what her Mother suggested. She wanted to be a fashion stylist! How could her Mother have missed that?
Do you know what excites your kid? What moves them? What they love to do? Who they really are at their core? Honoring them for who and what they truly are is the greatest gift you can give your son or daughter. Take the time to connect with them and really listen. Listen on a level where you really are hearing them.
6. Praise the positive and attempt to minimize the negative. Of course you establish consequences for unacceptable behavior. But positive reinforcement is a much more powerful tool. It's Pavlovian conditioning and it works.
7. I love this quote: "Expectations are predetermined resentments." Don't set yourself up for disappointment. If you are looking for fulfillment, look to yourself, not to your children. Don't attempt to live vicariously through them. It will only end in unhappiness for everyone involved.
8. Try to remember what really ticked you off about your own parents when you were their age. Not that it was valid. Remember we were just kids and reacted in a childish manner much of the time. But it will help to empathize with how your own children are feeling, to understand their frustrations and to be able to communicate in a more effectual way.
Almost all of us find our way in life but it is so much easier if we have the necessary tools. You know now what you wish your parents had said or done back when. Break the chain! You are the most important person in your child's life; you can provide those tools. That is how we ensure that their future is bright.
You can live a life that truly works and you can achieve peak performance in all areas of your life. You can not only survive lifes unexpected changes and transitions but also thrive. Powerful change is possible. You are fully capable of creating a life that you choose.