So step one of raising an adult by 18 is deciding what your goal is going to be.
What are you trying to achieve?
What does success look like?
And to be able to answer that question, we have to go back a step further, often, and remind ourselves what our values are. You see, the values that we hold are going to shape the goals that we have for our children.
Do you value community? Than you may have goals for your children that involve knowing how to engage healthily in community; knowing how to discern whether a community is healthy or not; knowing how to do basic tasks such as cooking and cleaning that help to make community work better.
Do you value diversity or inclusion? Than you may have goals for your children that involve how they value people who are different from them; you may practice including people into your family who are not biologically related; you may practice including younger siblings who might be feeling left out.
Do you value movement? Than you may have goals for your children that involve their knowledge of and a healthy relationship with their bodies; you may want them to have found forms of movement that bring them alive and help them to recharge and reset.
Do you value creativity? Than you may have goals for your children that involve how they approach problems; their comfort level with different forms of self-expression; their confidence in taking creative risks and their capacity to evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of their creative strategy for the circumstances in front of them.
Do you value solitude? Than it may be important for your children to become comfortable with solitude themselves – to have had experiences of solitude that were replenishing, that formed positive memories, that helped them to come alive.
Because in an ideal world, we would be leaning into our values, with so much love and compassion and excitement and joy that our children would gladly follow us forward into these places and spaces.
But here’s the really important thing that I wish I had known far sooner in our parenting journey:
If I want my children to understand and live out a concept towards someone else, then first they have to experience it for themselves.
If I want to teach my children the value of community, then I need to give them a community that loves them and cherishes them – first within our family home and then extending outward into extended family or chosen family who will do life together with us, allowing our children to practice and experience the grace and joy and camaraderie of a shared life.
If I want to teach my children the value of diversity and inclusion, then I need to include them, regardless of what they are wearing or how they are struggling, or how old they are or what their developmental limitations happen to be. When they learn that they can be included as a tutu-wearing dragon-fighting cat-bird when they are three, they learn that there is safety in inclusion – that they don’t need to be afraid of differences – and this deep grounding in being loved allows them to then offer love to another.
If I want to teach my children the value of movement, then I need to make time and space for them to move. I need to carve out time in my schedule to take them to the park and chase them around the playground; time to go for a bike ride; time to play ‘Twister’; time to do yoga before bed or first thing in the morning. To teach my children that movement matters, I will need to prioritize movement in ways that allow them to experience it and do it in a relaxed, unhurried way that allows them to take joy in it.
If I want to teach my children to be creative, then I need to make lots of creative materials available to them; I need to encourage them when they ask if they can buy more sequins and glitter and glue at the dollar store for a ‘project’; I need to see and value their creativity as they try to solve the problem of how to clean up spilt milk on the floor or how to get the cat fed or whatever problem they’ve tried to solve with their little hands and uncoordinated bodies – even when it’s made a huge mess that will make me late for work. I need to give them just enough support with their ideas for them to succeed often enough to want to keep trying, but not so much that they feel like they are unnecessary. I need to practice asking questions such as ‘how can I help?’ and ‘what job would you like me to do?’ and ‘can you tell me about what you’re doing?’
If I want to teach my children to value solitude and rest and times of stillness and silence, then I need to take them down to the water and let them lie on the sand and do nothing; I need to give them enough age-appropriate independence to go off on their own when they need time by themselves; I need to value their privacy and knock on their bedroom door before going straight in; and I need to approve of them just as much for being aware of when they need to rest as I do for their hard work.
Do you start to see where we’re getting at here?
The goals that we set are going to shape the conversations that we have and the ways in which we spend our time and energy and resources. They are going to help us when we get to tricky parenting decisions like ‘what age do we want our child to have a cell phone?’ and ‘how do we want our teenagers to spend their summer vacations?’ and ‘how do we respond when our kids paint expensive face cream all over our bedroom wall?’ and ‘what will determine my choices around how I will encourage my child in school?’
In other words, the goals really matter.
So this week I want to encourage you to think about your values – to think about how those might influence the goals that you have for your unique child(ren). And next week we’ll keep going and see how to use those goals to create a plan – however far along in this parenting journey you currently are.
If you’re still not sure what your values are and want a little help with the process, I’d invite you to send me a message – I love going through this discovery process with folks!