I have always firmly believed in beginning with the end in mind as Stephen Covey says in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It just makes so much sense. Surely, when you are travelling somewhere, you need to know where you are going? And then you map out the route accordingly. If you are adventurous, you need to leave some room for detours in that plan, but you are still moving towards a destination.
I can remember many years ago, I attended a training where the guy asked us to close our eyes and to imagine ourselves at our own funerals. He wanted us to listen to what the people were saying about us. That was the day when I decided I want to say things to people before they die to their faces and not talk about them at their funerals… but that is a story for another day. Back to our funerals, it sets one thinking, doesn’t it?
My first end in mind…
When our son was 2 months old, I realized that I needed to start with the end in mind when it came to sleeping. He slept the first two weeks of his life and then… well, let me say, it wasn’t pretty. He didn’t sleep for 12 – 15 hours during the day and screamed through most of the night. Many people tried to help us. I tried to follow all the sleep training materials that I could lay my hands on. But to no avail. So, I sat down and decided that by the time he was 2 years old, I wanted him to fall asleep on his own, without assistance. And I worked out a plan on how to get there. I stuck to that plan religiously and by his 2nd birthday he was able to fall asleep in his own bed. It was by no means the end of his sleep struggles but I had attained my goal.
Intentionally work on dreams
As he grew older I started to realize that it is not enough to have dreams for your children, you should actively and intentionally work on those dreams. My husband and I sat down and discussed this. We asked ourselves how should the picture of our son look by age 18 if we wanted him to succeed in life. As that picture emerged, we realized that this was not going to come from school. Sure, school could contribute to it, but the work had to come from us. It was also not going to just happen. Everybody who has ever achieved something great, if they are honest, will tell you that it took hard work to get there. It did not just happen.
Academics and qualifications
I started to realise that yes, academics are important, but it is not the beginning or the end. It is way more important that he knows the Lord and is able to hear and obey His voice than what it is to excel at STEM. I saw that character carries much more weight than qualifications and skills. I heard two very successful businessmen speaking the other day and both said that they would rather appoint a young person with character than one with the right qualifications. They said that you can always do something about the qualifications, but it is very difficult to do something about the character.
Do not misunderstand me. It is not that I say that academics and qualifications are not important. They are. I also believe that academics and extracurricular activities contribute to character building and have an important role to play. But if you’re goal is 8 or 9 distinctions for your child or a perfect SAT-score, I am afraid that you might wake up one day, and it won’t be roses that you are smelling.
Is enough ever enough?
Why are you running your children from one extra-curricular activity to another? Maybe you think that you are giving them all the opportunities that they need. But do they really need violin lessons, drama classes, tennis lessons, gymnastics, piano, chess and not to talk about all the extra Math classes thrown in between? What are you teaching them? That enough is never enough?
Do you take time to build memories? Of time running around in the garden or in the park with you? Charles Swindoll said, “eacy day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” Those can be positive or negative deposits. Remember that it is not money that creates memories; it is love.
“Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.”Susan B. Anthony
What made your youth wonderful? Or what made it terrible? Ask yourself, are you doing the same thing to your children? Maybe following another route but with the same results? Be brutally honest with yourself. Then take a step back, take a deep breath and take inventory. What do you really want for your child by age 18? Surely, if it is to be successful in life, you need to start working on the character and skills that is needed for that.
The importance of a relationship with the Lord
This character issue is exactly the reason why I believe it is so important for children to have their own relationship with the Lord by the time they are 13 and to really know God’s voice. If they are sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the rest will come. I am not saying that it will be easy. Life is not necessarily easy. There are good times and bad times. That is the way it is. But with God on their side, they will be much better equipped to handle whatever life brings their way.
What can parents do?
So, what can parents do?
- Realise that you need to take action. This is something that must be intentional.
- Begin with the end in mind. Where do you want your child to be at age 18? How do you want your child to look? (I chose age 18 because that is normally the time that children leave the home.)
- Have a good look at your own life. Remember that action speaks louder than words. Is your example helping your children on the way to their destination? Or is it hindering? This is so important. Even if you do nothing else, this you have to do. Children emulate their parents.
- Teach your children to hear God’s voice. This also means that they must know God’s Word – the Bible.
- Look at the other things in your picture and decide what is needed to get there.
- Then start working on it.
When our children are small, things are sometimes so hard that we forget where we are going. We just want to survive. But allow having the end in mind to influence the way you raise your children from a very young age. And if you did not do it, it is never too late to start. If you need to ask your older children for forgiveness for a poor example, then do so. Even when they are adults and we are old, our children keep on looking to us for an example. Live having the end in mind.
Funeral image by carolynabooth from Pixabay Dad and baby image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay Roses image by MichaelGaida from Pixabay Family playing image by Rudy Anderson from Pixabay Boy with Bible image by StockSnap from Pixabay