The Process of Parenting: Preparing
As I shared in my previous post, there are six key steps in the process of solid parenting that must be repeated over and over through different seasons and in the face of different life issues:
While I have placed them in this order to see the logical sequence of this process, it is important to note that they are certainly not always separate and distinct stages, and there is often a great deal of overlap as we go about the critical business of leading our kids. Today, let us examine the essential step of preparing our children and teens for the challenges they will face in life.
As with every other step in the process of parenting, preparing our kids for the various elements of life is best accomplished through a loving, hopeful relationship. Our kids need us to be proactive and vigilant enough to know where our kids are in life, and what is and should be coming next for them. Put simply, we need to know what to be preparing them for next. This means we need to be connected enough with our kids and their experiences to know their current abilities, strengths, and limitations. Knowing our kids well allows us to see where they are in need of further lessons and experiences to prepare them for whatever is next. But simply knowing where our kids are and knowing them well is not enough to prepare them for life. We must be sure to keep looking ahead on the journey before them, drawing on our experience and wisdom, as well as our awareness of the changing world of our children and teens.
When we fail to proactively prepare our young people for what life will soon be bringing to them, we will almost certainly end up parenting from a reactive position. Of course, let’s be realistic. We cannot possibly prepare them perfectly for everything they will face in life. Surprises come and they will make unexpected mistakes, just as their parents will. But let’s be careful not to settle for damage control parenting. I know we can all do better than that, and don’t we want much better than that for the kids we love so much? When we take the time to offer lessons and experiences based on where our kids are and what we see is coming soon in their lives, we send them forward with confidence. We are building for them a foundation of readiness. We are setting them up for success, and not failure.
One of the often tricky elements of preparing our kids is being able to acknowledge and address their current weaknesses or limitations in a proactive and healthy way. It is so important that we communicate our belief that they can face the coming challenges and opportunities well. Our kids desperately need to know we believe in them! Constantly dwelling on their mistakes or problem areas can steal their joy and their hope, leaving them discouraged, frustrated, and headed for serious trouble. Catch them in the act of doing the right thing, and let them know how much they mean to us throughout our efforts at preparing them for more. As I once heard it stated, “Let’s be bucket fillers – not bucket spillers.” I like that! But even as we strive to encourage them, we must also remember we aren’t doing our kids any favors by pretending they have it all together and don’t have any shortcomings or blind spots. Be real about it. They will be far better prepared in any situation if they know where to be careful of making old mistakes.
My son and I recently went to the neighborhood park for some father/son baseball practice to prepare him for the upcoming season. We worked a bit on his pitching, as he has expressed both an interest and some natural talent in this area. But mostly we worked on his batting. I offered him a healthy dose of encouragement, in response to his solid hits, his moments of improvement that may not have resulted in solid hits, and simply his attitude and his efforts. I also noticed a problem area that will hold him back, if he does not improve it. He didn’t really want to hear it. But he needed to hear it. So I showed him the difference between doing it with and without this little hitch, and I periodically asked him to say whether or not he had done it in his most recent swing. Because I maintained a positive spirit of encouragement and believing in him, he stayed with me, and we had a good long practice. And because I was willing to be real with him about not only his strengths, but also his particular problem area, he is more prepared for a successful season. Yes, there are bigger issues in life than baseball. Like…middle school!!! Which is why my wife and I have been working hard to prepare him for that big upcoming season change for some time now. And if I am willing to approach his baseball season the right way, it can be an important part of preparing him for the bigger life issues, like good ole middle school.