I grew up the oldest of four children (the youngest of which is now 22). Now that I am the mother of four children, I can’t help but compare the family I grew up in with the family I am now raising. I was extremely blessed with the best parents and siblings. My childhood was one of happiness and I like to think that we all turned out pretty well.
Each year my parents rent a cabin in beautiful Bear Lake and everyone returns home to spend three days swimming, playing at the lake, watching movies, and playing board games together. The grandkids love it and the adults do too! Our family Bear Lake trip was this past week. As I sat on the beach and nursed my twin babies (because that is 90% of my life right now), I watched my adult siblings interact with each other and with my children. I got thinking about month two of KinderKronicles. A large part of that issue is about picturing what your goals are for your children and what traits you hope they possess as adults.
Something parents don’t often think about while in the trenches of early parenthood is how they will typically know their children as adults for much longer than they will know them as children. I had my first son at age 24. I will be 42 when he reaches adulthood. If I live to be 100, that is 58 years of having a relationship with my adult child and only 18 years of having a relationship with him as an actual child. When viewed in this way, it becomes pretty important to consider your hopes for the kind of adult your child will be.
Now, agency and personality definitely come into play here-- but there is plenty of research teaching us how to increase the odds of raising a responsible, successful child (KinderKronicle wades through a lot of that research and presents it concisely in their articles each month). My husband and I have discussed many traits we hope to instill in our children. After one such conversation, we came up with a family mission statement to guide our parenting goals:
I am a Call.
I am grateful, honest, kind, helpful, determined, and true.
I like to do hard things.
I love to learn.
I help my family be the best they can be.
God and my family come first.
I know God loves me, no matter what, and I love Him.
So we know where we want to go, but how are we planning on getting there? Allow me to share with you some of our goals and plans that we have in place at our home in hopes that our family mission statement can be realized. Please note that these are our goals- we often fall short!
First of all, we decided early on that we want to be authoritative parents. As KinderKronicle Month 1 explains in the “Four Parenting Styles or Disciplines” article, “Studies show that children reared by Authoritative parents grow up to be the healthiest, happiest, and most successful.” Authoritative parenting requires mutual respect and love for our children. We must spend quality time together and build mutual relationships of love and trust. One way that we try to do this is spending one-on-one time with each child periodically. We are working on putting our phones down more often and making our time together more intentional. We hope that building these relationships with each other will help our children to develop the character traits in our mission statement.
We try to provide opportunities for our children to do hard things and we help them see those things through. We do hard things together: Big puzzles. Long hikes. Learning new skills. We try to let our children know when something is hard for us to accomplish. We try to show them the joy we feel when we accomplish something hard (and how it is okay to be frustrated in the midst of the “hard”). We praise effort over outcomes. We point out when a child overcomes fear and we celebrate with them as a family. When they tell us something is hard, we reply, “good thing we like to do hard things!”
When one of our children has a new-found interest, we try to run with it. We go to the library, take mini field trips, watch videos on the subject, and learn from others. We encourage questions and get excited about answers. We allow our children to see us enjoy learning new things (and failing along the way).
Our children know they are expected to support each other. They attend each other’s games and performances. They cheer each other on and find joy in each other’s successes.
These are just a few examples of ways we are trying to implement goals and plans in our family. We are constantly reassessing and adjusting, but having a starting point has been critical. What would be in your family mission statement?