People ask me, almost every time I do a parenting event: what are the top three things you’ve done for your kids as a parent? It’s always a great conversation. I don’t claim to be some sort of parenting guru, but here’s my response to the question.
1. I focused my messages the first five years and last five years they’re home.
I believe what parents communicate the first five years of their children’s life and the last five years they are home are paramount. By communication I don’t merely mean words. I mean the messages we send through our lives, conversations, time, associations and priorities. Their first five years, they must embrace the message:
• You are loved.
• You are supported.
• You are believed in.
I believe the last five years before they leave home, it must be different:
• It isn’t all about you.
• Life will be challenging, even hard.
• You are part of a much bigger picture.
2. I exposed them to people who helped them discover their strengths.
While our kids were growing up, my wife and I took time to introduce them to significant leaders who were in a career that matched the interests of our kids. Both Bethany and Jonathan met actors, business executives, moms, artists, writers, pastors and counselors who provided wisdom as they discovered their own gifts. This was immensely helpful for their own self-esteem as well as wise as they guarded themselves from venturing too long down the wrong path. Our kids went to lunch, traveled on trips and interviewed adults who modeled they way for them. Our daughter even took a “gap year” to do much of this before she left for college.
3. I provided a “Rite of Passage” experience for them.
Probably the greatest decision I made as a parent was to provide an experience for my kids when they turned thirteen years old. Bethany and Jonathan took a one-year journey, meeting with key mentors, learning life principles on-location that affirmed their identity and equipped them to move from child to adult. Bethany met with six marvelous women (that she helped choose) and got a “heartful” of wisdom as they accompanied them to their workplace, their home and places of community service. At the end of the year, each of my kids participated in an event where the mentors they met with for a day affirmed and admonished them and celebrated their entrance into manhood and womanhood. Huge payoff. (I outline this in detail in my book, Generation iY—Our Last Chance to Save Their Future.) I would love to hear your insights and ideas on this question: what are the top three things you’ve done for your kids?