What are you doing as a dad to guide your children in the right direction?
That one word probably has a different definition or some variation of it for every person reading this article.
I think it’s pretty safe to say, though, that whatever your definition happens to be, if you were asked if you wanted your kids to grow up to be successful, your quick answer would be, “Of course!”
One of my favorite quotes is from beloved American baseball player Yogi Berra, who said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” Yogi had a knack for mangling his words and rendering some pretty funny quotes. But the profound thing about most of his sayings is that there’s usually a whole lot of truth in them if you look closely enough.
When it comes to being a dad, or anything else in life, if we don’t know where we’re going, we are most certainly going to end up someplace else.
In this whole idea of success and being intentional in our parenting, we have to know “where we’re going,” if we are ever going to know whether we’re getting any closer or perhaps heading in the opposite direction.
How Do You Define Success?
If you travel very often, you know that it’s pretty common today for most of us to pull out our smartphones, GPS, or head to the computer when it’s time to search for directions to our destination.
You probably have a favorite map program or app that is your “go to” place for routing your trip.
If you are like me, then you have more than once entered your starting location and your final destination, listened to the pleasant voice on the device giving you turn-by-turn directions, only to find out that the destination you finally arrived at is not where you intended to go.
You have a few choices at that point.
- You can try re-entering in the destination address and listening to the dulcet voice on the device saying, “Recalculating,”
- You can try a different map app and hope for a better outcome,
- You can stop and ask for directions, or
- Just give up and head back home.
After all, it probably wasn’t meant for you to have your teeth cleaned at the dentist that day.
Funny as all of that may sound, I bet you had to laugh a little (or groan) when you remembered yourself having the exact same experience.
But what if instead of the destination being somewhere you really didn’t want to go anyway, like the dentist’s office, your destination was to a banquet where you were the guest of honor?
The problem with the map program directions was still the same, but your motivation to get there, despite several rounds of “recalculating,” would be quite different. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take driving somewhere to receive an award any day over a trip to the dentist!
In this GPS example of our challenging experiences getting to a physical destination, we can learn some lessons about the destination of success in parenting.
It often works in similar ways.
When we begin to consider how we define success in parenting, we have to start with a clear picture of what the intended destination looks like and just how motivated we are to actually arrive there.
In parenting, once the destination has been programmed in, there are sure to be some points of “recalculating” along the way. But it’s how we think about those times and what we do about them that determines whether or not we actually reach our intended destination.
Many parents that I’ve spoken with over the years tend to define success for their kids in a variety of ways. Some common ways include getting good grades in school, being well behaved, making and having good friendships, or excelling in an extra-curricular activity such as sports, music, or the arts.
It’s often the tangibles that parents will point to as the outward proof that their kids are experiencing success. Things like sports trophies, honor roll certificates, medals, blue ribbons and scholarships are often the outward measure parents use to gauge the success levels of their children.
But are these things enough?
Awards and recognitions of this kind are certainly cause for celebration and are the outcome of hard work, to be sure … but is there something else?
What can we use to help us define success in ways that run deeper than these outward, tangible awards?
It’s a little more challenging to dig a little deeper and begin to focus on other ways parents can define success that are, perhaps, not so easy to see or hang on the wall. But I can assure you, it’s worth the effort to dig deeper.
I was a public school educator for 30 years, with 20 of those years as an administrator. I’ve spent many hours thinking and writing about that great wealth of experience and all that those experiences taught me.
I feel very privileged to have known and been able to work with literally hundreds of parents and families. I’ve seen kids enter kindergarten and come out the other end as high school graduates. I’ve seen and been a part of all the awards and ceremonies for many years.
I’ve been a part of numerous Homecoming ceremonies where kings and queens were crowned! I’ve handed out trophies, shaken hands and had my picture made with hundreds of students of all ages. These are all very exciting times, to be sure, and memories that will last these kids a lifetime.
But after is all said and done, after the pictures have faded and the crowns have tarnished, what will be left?
We all probably remember the classmate who was voted Most Likely to Succeed in high school. To make matters worse, their picture with that title was splashed all across the pages of the school yearbook.
Then comes the 20-year high school reunion party and everyone is wondering if the label stuck. Did “Gary” really live up to the expectation of his friends and classmates for a life of success?
The answer to that question will most likely be found in the qualities and thinking that he had when he left high school; qualities and thinking that actually shaped his future life beyond his high school accomplishments; qualities that his parents were intentional about sowing into his heart and mind. Because, you see, his level of life success had absolutely nothing to do with the popularity he enjoyed in high school that was reflected in the pages of the school yearbook.
Success was a result of something much deeper and much more intentional.
Important Questions That Must Be Asked
So, as a dad, what are your plans and actions for your kids that will take them beyond their outwardly visible childhood and adolescent successes?
What will you do to equip them to successfully handle the challenges that life throws their way?
What truths do you have for them, while they are still under your influence, that will last them long after the honor roll ribbons and trophies find their way to the attic?
How you answer these questions will ultimately determine whether you are giving your kids the best chance to find their true fulfillment, happiness and success throughout their life, or whether they will experience their own confusion and perpetual self-doubt.
It’s all about our own thinking, reflecting and intentionality about success that in turn will be the model for our kids to emulate.
You are a “Super Model” for success!
Photo: Getty Images