Is Your Focus on Raising Kids or Shaping Future Adults?
There is a story of Michelangelo preparing to carve a work of art from a huge, shapeless block of marble. As he began, he said that 'his aim was to release the angel imprisoned in the stone'. Michelangelo saw what could be rather than what was. As parents and step-parents we would do well to follow his example.
Every day, our children/step-children are taking another step toward their adulthood. As parents and step-parents we're often stuck in the moment seeing them only for the children they are today. But the truth is, they will only be kids for so long. Just as Michelangelo transformed blocks of marble into beautiful works of art, we are chiseling our children's character a little more every day. We must envision who our kids could be as we guide them forward.
We aren't "raising kids"…we're shaping future adults.
Every parent and step-parent can guide their children toward a healthy adulthood by focusing on three critical factors: Where, Who & How.
Where - Desired Destinations
When Kim & I work with step-couples, we start by asking them to focus on their "Desired Destinations". They begin by painting a word picture of what their future as a couple and as a family will look like.
This can be challenging and is not always intuitive. The demands of busy family life often keep step-couples stuck in the daily grind. That keeps their focus on today, leaving little time to think about tomorrow. Chances are you can relate.
But, if you're shaping future adults, then you need to envision what the final outcome will be in the same way Michelangelo envisioned the angel he was aiming to release from the stone. To define the "Desired Destinations" you have for shaping your future adults, ask yourself a few questions:
- What kind of character traits do I want my kids' future family, friends and colleagues to see in them when they become adults?
- What kind of relationships do I want my children to experience in their future?
- What kind(s) of success(es) do I want my children to achieve on their journey?
As you answer these questions, choose Value words. Some of our "Desired Destination" value words are: Authentic, Respectful, Perseverant & Generous. We have a few others, but these four words quickly sum up the kind of adults we want our children to be.
The first step in shaping your future adults is defining your "Desired Destinations" so that you can be clear on where they're headed.
Want more practical tools for stepfamily life? Download your free copy of our ebook today!
Who - You Can't Change Everything
Michelangelo was an artist that worked in multiple mediums, from painting to sculpting. He understood the realities of working with each different medium and had to choose his tools and techniques based on those realities. A chisel doesn't work well on a canvas and a paint brush won't help to chip away at marble. He had to adjust his techniques according to the basic attributes of the medium he was working with.
Kids are like those different mediums. They are each unique and will likely require different techniques and tools according to their basic attributes.
Two attributes that are "hard wired" into our kids (and into us too!) are Personality Type and Love Languages.
Personality Type - You may have taken a test back in college or at your work place aimed to uncover specific strengths and challenges about your personality type. The value of these tests is not only to understand yourself, but also to help you relate to others more effectively.
Your kids each have a unique personality type too. You'll be more effective in guiding them toward that "Desired Destination" if you discover how they're wired and lead them in a way that they can connect with based on their personality. Here's an article that can help get you started.
Love Languages - It is always easier to parent when kids feel secure and loved. The problem is, you might perceive and receive love differently than your kids do. Most of us try to express love in the same way we perceive love, so we inadvertently miss the mark when our love language is different than our kids'. Find out what speaks love to your kids, knowing they might be different than you.
When you can't change the basic attributes, you'll need to choose the right tools and techniques to move closer to your "Desired Destinations". To do that, you'll need to know Who your kids already are and accept that you can't change it.
How - Choose Your Roles Wisely
Being effective parents and step-parents requires you to understand your roles. Parenting is different in stepfamilies than it is in first families. To choose your roles wisely, you'll need to recognize the realities of Authority in a stepfamily.
Authority starts with relationship. True and healthy authority is not something to be claimed or demanded. It emerges from a trusting relationship. Once trust is established, then a child can willingly submit to healthy authority.
Stepfamily research shows that one of the most common mistakes step-couples make is when a step-parent begins disciplining a child before they have established a trusting bond. Trying to take authority before building a relationship will hold you back from reaching your "Desired Destinations".
The step-couple who chooses their roles wisely accepts that the parent will be the primary authority figure — the step-parent will build a relationship that allows them to influence. Authority and influence are two different things. Click here to learn more about the difference and be wise in choosing your roles.
Remember, you're not raising kids…you're shaping future adults. Like Michelangelo you are shaping a work of art. Lead your kids toward what could be by defining your "Desired Destinations", accepting that you can't change everything about them and choosing your roles as parent and step-parent wisely.
QUESTION: What are a few Value words you use to define your "Desired Destinations"? Leave a comment below…