by Janet Kellogg
Of all the activities you could focus on as a parent, which one affects your child’s future the most?
Each of our kids could not be more different in the way they think, feel and act in any given situation. So, we know that no “cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all” approach to shaping a child’s future to be hopeful and healthy is appropriate, or even reasonable. The answer starts with understanding the inner design that is urging your child forward and ends with thoughtful, practical guidance on how to follow this design to discover a life of purpose and fulfillment.
Colorado just had one of those springtime snow showers where freezing temperatures and heavy snow blankets the trees and baby plants – testing their strength and resiliency. As a family who spends most of our time outside, there’s only one way we can celebrate cold weather: snowmen and homemade cookies! Standing over a counter covered in dough and all kinds of cookie cutters, it got me to thinking . . . this moment is one I cannot take for granted! Next season, my kids might not feel compelled to leave the comfort of a warm house to play in the snow. When it becomes an option, they won’t always choose time with our family over other friends and entertainment. They might even stop preferring my cookies over someone else’s! (what?!)
. . . How can I shape their ability to make healthy choices when their options grow from 2 or 3, to a mind-numbing magnitude that attempts to cater to anyone who doesn’t really know what they prefer?
. . . What am I doing to create a fulfilling relationship with each of them and to secure my role as a parent and wise counselor who loves and accepts them unconditionally?
. . . How do I transcend the noise of the world around them with a steady, sure voice that reminds them of who they really are and what they are capable of accomplishing . . . even while disagreeing with their decisions or fearing the outcome of their actions?
Parenting by Design vs. Picking a Method
There are many methods used in raising children. Most of them are helpful and work under certain circumstances, but they work for only some of the children and some of the parents. Some of them are only disciplinary methods. Methods have always existed because people who have had success in raising their children tell their friends, “This is what you should do, too.” Even though it works for them and their children, it may actually be harmful for you and your child. All children should not be parented in the same way.
Why would that be? . . .
Because each of us are designed with very different drives and preferences that motivate us, and affect our ways of thinking, feeling and acting.
Even the things that create a sense of accomplishment for each of us are vastly different.
Here’s an example:
One of my daughters loves to use her grades, trophies and other forms of public recognition as proof that she’s doing the right things. Any opportunity to compete is another chance to stand out or demonstrate that she can be relied on for excellence. But don’t ask her to take big risks lightly. That could result in unplanned consequences, or worse . . . failure. She’ll need to use her logical mind and her inner strength of caution to determine whether this is a risk worth taking.
Contrast this child’s preferences and motivations with those of her sister who has no desire to compete with others. She prefers to compete with herself and any performance target that matters to her is one that she has set herself. Gold stars, chances to win first place, or status as teacher’s favorite helper hold no sway. But, give her a scary height to plunge from, or a chance to travel to far away lands to save an endangered species or help some people in trouble and now, you’ve got her complete imagination and attention.
I’ve just described two very different cutters, shaping two very different cookies!
Can I honestly expect that both of these young ladies will use the same motivations and drives necessary to become all they can be? No way!
Not only do each of us think, feel and act differently, but we each have different directions and goals in life. This means that each of our kids needs to be parented differently if their potential is to be encouraged. To quote from a very valuable parenting resource:
“The discovery of our strengths makes our purpose in life discernible. All people must find their true purpose, or they break down and malfunction. If we know our children’s makeup, we will also know where their long-term fulfillment lies. We can lead them to it. Most of the time, we pray, worry, and sweat over what we should be and do, but right there in the pattern of how we are made, our answer is waiting. Unfortunately, instead of finding it, we often keep searching in all the wrong places.
Many of our children are growing up disturbed (and disturbing others) simply because they have not found their purpose in life and are not using their strengths. They wander aimlessly, unsatisfied, and forever looking for satisfaction in all the wrong places. For them (and for all who don’t know where they should be going), anything, anywhere, will do. It won’t!”
~ excerpt from I’m a Keeper, by Dr. Ray W. Lincoln.
Your Child’s Healthy Future Depends on How Well You Understand Them
And so, I come back to the question I first asked: Of all the activities you could focus on as a parent, which one affects your child’s future the most? I hope you will decide the answer is to seek understanding at all costs. Understanding may seem expensive at times, as it demands that right alongside disagreeing with your child’s behavior, you also understand the underlying motivations for the behavior. But it’s the only way to see past current circumstances, truly appreciate the amazing little person in front of you, and determine how to access your child’s “inner gold” that’s just waiting for you to discover.
Understanding your child’s inner design results in parenting that:
- Creates a stronger relationship with your children based on true appreciation for the differences between you
- Builds up a healthy, depression-resistant self-image in your child
- Models to your child the ability to make good choices and avoid the sometimes painful costs of making the absolute wrong ones.
. . . and the list goes on.
Throw Out the Cookie Cutter and Parent with Understanding
If you want to learn more about parenting with understanding and according to your child’s design,
check out our new Understanding Your Child webinar. Start the exciting adventure of understanding each of your very special children. After all each one is unique and wonderful!