This week at my Parents of Teens group, we talked about our own parents, and what words we could use to describe them.
The list was instructive. Faithful, loving, structured, caring, easy (as in pushovers!), distant, harsh, rigid, encouraging…. Eleven people – over twenty different words.
Patient didn’t come up even once! But it did when we shared what we would like to hear from our own children if they were asked a similar question. We already know most of the words they are currently using for us and, frankly, we didn’t want to hear them again!
Someone said they wanted their son to think of them as open minded. That’s not for me, I chimed in. My daughter already thinks I’m a pushover; if she ever believes I’m open minded too then there’s bound to be trouble!
How Youth Perceive
The general consensus, though, was that we want our children to perceive us as faithful, loving, wise parents who affirm and encourage them through their struggles to adulthood. We all acknowledged that it will be years before our offspring concede that we know anything at all, but we felt that wisdom was a worthy goal nonetheless.
What concerns me is the fact that while we are often quite clear about our goals, we still fail to take the deliberate short term steps that would help us actually get there.
Our parenting ambitions, just like any other set of objectives, require the serious application of an action plan designed to take us where we need to be. Parenting is like anything else in that it is not so much a special kind of magic that helps us succeed, but the studied and committed application of hard work.
If we focus on solutions, and the small steps that get us there, then the problems will seem less overwhelming. We have to know where we want to go, and we must be willing to develop a plan that makes practical sense.
We have repair schedules for our cars (oil changes, tire rotations and fifteen thousand mile checkups); and we are quite deliberate about preventative maintenance and upkeep. Why would we do anything less for our children?