If I were to summarize the best parenting strategy my husband and I committed to it would be this: keep the end in mind. One day — way sooner than you think, your children will grow up. They will move away, build their own careers and families.
When you break everything down to the most important qualities you want for your children when they become adults, what stands out as the most critical?
I wanted my kids to become independent, fulfilled, productive, thoughtful, kind, and loving members of a community.
Let’s be real; in the midst of daily life it’s easy to lose sight of the end goal. Some choices are influenced by other factors like lack of sleep, frustration, business, and plain old survival. That’s all normal parenting.
But, what if we could approach parenting more strategically with a clearer vision and focus?
Though not always easy, it’s possible to parent with a focus on the adult you want to raise while raising the child in front of you.
It starts with a commitment to a few fundamentals:
1) Value relationship over winning.
When it comes to choices, decisions, and parenting styles, the only thing that matters in the end is the quality of the relationship you have with your child. You can be right, but if your child doesn’t feel loved, you lose.
2) Choose collaboration instead of obedience.
It’s easy to get caught up in power struggles. After all, children eventually have to learn to go shopping without a tantrum and not to hit their siblings. However, when we focus on getting kids to do what we say solely for the sake of obedience, we win the battle but lose the war. If we want our children to be self-reliant critical thinkers, we must allow them to learn their own lessons with our guidance, but free of obligatory compulsion.
3) Choose love over perfection and impatience.
Unconditional love means free of conditions. Sometimes, even with our best intentions, we nag kids to do things that aren’t important in the long run. For example, when a child walks into the room it’s easy to start in with reminders like, “did you brush your teeth?” or “what took you so long?”. Imagine if you simply reduced the number of behavior prompts while increasing ways to show your love.
Now that I’m on the other side of parenting two adult children, I can say we made some right choices. We also have things we would do differently if we could. Although, it’s never too late to be a better parent.
The magic of parenting adult children often flies under the radar. It’s way easier to come alongside and support adult children without the pressure to solve anything for them. Now, I often find myself discussing politics, current events, as well as our joys and challenges with my children in ways that blow me away sometimes.
“Ensuring that children internalize our values isn’t the same thing as helping them to develop their own. And it’s diametrically opposed to the goal of having kids become independent thinkers.” Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting
Being on the other side parenting adult children isn’t too bad. I miss the snuggles and innocence of childhood. But, now I find myself reaping the rewards of raising confident kids.
Keep the end in mind. I promise it’s worth it.