What sort of a family do you want to grow?
It’s a big questions isn’t it?
Probably quite a far reaching one really.
You might have a new born on your lap
Be in the throws of toddler land
Perhaps yours are well into primary school
Maybe you’re in the teen years
Where ever you are in your parenting, this is a great question to ponder. But we’re often so busy parenting that we haven’t really given ourselves the priviledge of looking so far ahead that we’re considering what sort of adults we’d like to put into the world.
So today I’m going to talk about vision and inspire some thoughts.
I love the books by Steven Covey. He wrote the 7 habits of highly effective people. A friend of mine sent me the seven habits of highly effective families about 15 years ago .It’s quite a tome!
His opening chapter is on thinking ahead. And as a young family it impacted us greatly because it was the first time anyone had ever suggested thinking ahead.
Yet, we think ahead when we’re planning so many things:
People have career plans, business plans, life plans - Find me a business coach who wouldn’t ask you where you’re trying to head. Even party planning is bigger than the actual party sometimes, Wedding planning – that’s one of the biggest growth businesses. Or it was before Covid times.
But how many people have suggested you think about planning the culture and feel of your families. Establishing your priorities, working out what values you’d like your children to leave home with?
I find that when I speak about this on a parenting course it unleashes a whole new lease of life. Hope, empowerment.
A friend of mine has often said, "you’ll be parenting adults for a lot longer than you’ll be parenting children."
I would also add, their adulthood comes around much quicker than we expect, too. So if we want to reap a good harvest, we need to plan what we sow.
In Stephen Covey’s own words
Sow a thought, reap an action
Sow an action reap a habit
Sow a habit reap a character
Sow a character, reap a destiny
So whether you’re knee deep in nappies
batting off tantrums
Reacting to all the needs around you
steal yourself away and ponder some great questions. It will move you from reactive to proactive.
It will restore your sense of hope and purpose in your busy world.
Some of you will be natural planners.
Some will be wingers - you’re more the in-the-moment type of person and you might be thinking 'Woah! I don’t know about all this thinking ahead.'
If that’s you
We’re not signing anything here.
We’re not deciding on our children’s careers or tailoring their personalities
We’re just looking ahead – dreaming a bit.
Many of our friends have built extensions, as have we and nobody has broken ground before putting a pencil to paper.
Our architect asked us –
How do you use your home.
How long are you hoping to live here
What will your spaces need to be both now and in ten years time
Thinking ahead was exciting, empowering, a little daunting, but so purposeful. It lead us to our priorities.
So, Grab a pen and paper, or the tech equivalent.
And I’m going to ask you some questions
Here’s the first one:
How would you like people to describe your family?
Your mind might go to characteristics
Such as 'helpful' or 'fun'
Or you might go to practicalities such as 'sporty' or 'philosophical'.
There are no rights or wrongs.
Your family is unique.
So jot down the first thing that comes to mind, you can always come back to it. Ponder it with your partner, if possible. You might surprise each other.
What sort of adults do you want your children to become?
Again you can answer that any way you wish. For us we put down values that we’d like them to have.
If you’ve managed that one, that’s great. If you’re struggling with it a bit, think about this instead.
What habits don’t you want your children to have?
One of the prevailing habits among young people at the moment is their disinclination to commit. If we planned a party for our eldest we knew who was coming. Fast forward a few years to our next two children having teen-parties and the responses were more vague and the actual turn up was sometimes different from the expected list.
We had decided long ago that we wanted our children to be dependable, to honour their commitments. So that was one of the things we put down.
For you it might be around communication, commitment, sibling relationships. Pop it all down.
What do you hope your children will contribute to the world around them?
Do you feel strongly about
Your own nighbours and community
I’m going to ask one more. I have a more comprehensive list. For those of you who have the book there’s an extensive list on pages 24 and 25. If you don’t, there’s a list below. Not as extensive, but some food for thought.
But here’s one more for you for now.
How do you want to be remembered as a parent?
That’s an emotive one.
You might want to pause and ponder.
As you look through your answers they can form your vision for your family. And once you have a vision, you’ll find yourself being accountable to it in your smaller choices.
For example. If you want your children to honour their commitments. You might need to commit to going ahead with the first thing in the diary, even when something better comes along. They’re watching our choices and forming their values.
We have found over the years that when they’re frustrated with our boundaries, we have a value that we can share with them. They don’t have to own it, but it can help them understand why the boundary is there.
Now go back to your questions and answers and underneath each one, write the word
and ask yourself what habits you could put in place to support your vision.
For example, when I asked you how you want others to describe your family, for us, I wanted people to feel relaxed and welcome in our home. So we looked at the habits that would entail. And it produced some thougths around
What sort of a welcome we gave people
How we spoke to one another.
That space between you is the space where you host people. If we’re being lovely to our guests but there’s an uncomfortable atmosphere between family members, people sense that a mile off. It’s uncomfortable for them. So it lead us to think about how to keep a short account in our own relationships.
We so often expect sibling relationships to form themselves, but it caused us to think about what intentional things we put in place for the children.
I’m not suggesting for a minute that we’re the model family, but I’m just sharing some of the things that caused us to be intentional.
During the lockdown we had the immense priviledge of being home together again. So we revisited one of our old practices. We’d made it a priority to normalise deeper questions as one of our habits.
Most kids are good at banter and certainly harsh banter, and ours can throw it around too. And that’s fine (so long as it’s fun) and it’s all part of building relationship, but It’s not necessarily connection.
The harder stuff is listening to each other, talking through the highs and lows of the day or the challenges that are ahead.
So in lockdown we got together for 15 mintues a day aside of mealtimes and we read one chapter a day from a thought provoking book.
Yes, it was inconvenient and time consuming, but it was also really bonding.
Each chapter had some challenging thoughts and questions, so we chewed it over together. It was so significant.
If we hadn’t, I’d look back now and honestly say that there wouldn’t have been time – we were all working, doing home-ed. One is studying musical theatre and was doing stage school from home with a full 37-hour week. But we committed to it as a habit.
We made time.
That was just an ongoing habit from a decision we made many years ago when we decided we wanted our children to develop trust between each other and share their journeys.
Of course, you could say that might happen organically and in some families it will. But experience would tell me that many siblings don’t actually share their inner worlds. They haven’t been shown how to.
So making the habit of creating a safe space where they listen respectfully to each other and understand each other’s challenges at whatever depth they decide they want to share them, makes a bit difference to their relationships and empathy with each other.
The best leaders are good listeners. So it’s a great habit to sow in.
The culture in our homes doesn’t have to be something that we just hope will fall into place, it can be something
we contribute to
The day is full of challenges of it’s own. Knowing where you’re heading may well mean that you’re still off track much of the time, but at least you know where the track is, what you were aiming for.
And of course there will be some successes without planning. I’m not suggesting that everything will fall apart without it.
You can build an extension without any plans and have some great success. But a vision will avoid unnecessary disapoinment.
And you can still be spontaneous
Planning doesn’t mean we can't wing things.
In fact, once you’ve got your priorites in place, it’s much easier to wing it, because you’ll be confident the most important things are covered
There will be disruptions and distractions. We’ll go wrong and we’ll go right, we’re a work in progress. But knowing what we’re aiming for will help us to achieve it.
Ask any athlete, any pilot, any successful business-person, or a parent of a family you admire.
"Do you think you’d be where you are now if you hadn’t thought ahead and made some plans?"
I hope you've had some fun with that.
Below are some more questions.
I'd love to hear what you've come up with
do email me
See you next week.
How do you want your children to respond to challenges?
What kind of relationships do you hope you'll have with your adult children?
What sort of friendships do you hope they'll have with each other?
What do you feel is a good balance of work, rest and play?