When you ask parents of any background what they want, you will overwhelmingly get this response:
“I want to raise great kids.”
Curiously, that is not what most parents actually want. What they actually want is to raise great kids…who become great adults.
Think about it—how many great kids have you seen go totally crazy the second they leave home for college or adult life? It happens all the time. Why? Because their parents gave little thought to the people those great kids would become once they left the house.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day challenges of raising children that we often lose sight of the big picture of who those children are becoming.
However, a few months ago, I had a conversation with my son, Austin, who was 13 at the time, that made me realize just how straightforward helping a child transition into adulthood can be.
Parenting with the Results in Mind
“OK, buddy,” I said as I pulled out a sheet of paper, “what exactly do you want your life to look like at age 25? Let’s make a list.”
You can imagine the stare I got back. “What do you mean?” he said.
“Well,” I responded, “do you ever think about what you’re going to do when you’re older?”
“I do,” he said.
“Okay, then. Let’s write it down. Instead of just waiting and seeing what happens, let’s you and me write down exactly what it is that you want to happen.”
For the next 10 minutes, I heard things that amazed me—things that Austin had never told me before that I probably wouldn’t have found out without asking.
For example, the very first result we wrote was where he wanted to live.
“Do you want to live in the city, the country, the suburbs…?” I asked him.
The quickness with which he answered surprised me. “I want to live on the lagoon,” he said.
I had never heard this before. The lagoon is a body of salt water not too far from where we live in Orange Beach, Alabama. It’s a great fishing spot—shallow water with deep holes, and it feels tropical.
So we wrote down the lagoon. Next, we described the type of house in which he wanted to live, whether he wanted to have graduated from college, and what he wanted an average day to be like. As the list began to fill out, he started to get excited. After all, when you take the time to sit down and actually plan out your ideal life, it can look pretty great!
When we were done, I said, “Buddy, this is a great list. I would be excited for you to have this life at age 25.”
“Me too,” he replied.
I looked him in the eye and said, “Do you want me to help you get there?”
“I do,” he said.
With that agreement, I made a copy of the list for myself. Since then, we have referred back to it many times. Some of it, of course, has changed. The future a teenager wants for himself is never set in stone, after all. But one thing has not changed—the desired results remain great, and those results remain at the forefront of my son’s and my own thinking.
He understands that I want the best for him, and that I am there to coach him toward those results—not because I’m smarter, but because I’m older, have made mistakes he can avoid, and have simply been through more. Just as a coach and a quarterback sit down and list the results they want to achieve in an upcoming season, my son and I have listed out results we want to achieve as he becomes a man.
Knowing that the quality of our answers depends on the quality of our questions, let’s ask some good ones of ourselves right now:
Do you want the best for your children?
What specifically does “the best” look like?
What specific actions can you take to get your children from where they are right now to “the best”?
Though most of us will often avoid thinking about it, there will come a time when our influence over the paths of our children’s lives wanes. We will not see them every day. We probably will not talk to them every day. The amount of say we have in their decisions will reduce dramatically. They will reap the results of the seeds they have sown.
But what if those seeds could be planted right here, right now? What if you could be there to dig the dirt, till the soil, and nurture the early stages of growth?
You can. Welcome to parenting with the results in mind.
Andy Andrews is the New York Times best-selling author of The Noticer Returns, a story that illuminates the timeless wisdom of principled parenting. Visit TheNoticerReturns.com to read the first chapter now.