“I start my vacation tomorrow, Frank!”
“Great! Where are you going?”
“I don’t know.”
“When are you leaving?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, how are you going to get there?”
“I don’t know.”
Most people do not start their vacation without knowing the destination and mapping out a route to that destination. But, many people start the journey of parenthood without any thought as to the final destination or the route to get there. We have children, but no destination for them in mind. We parent with little to no idea of the route from here to the final destination.
An ancient proverb states, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained” (Proverbs 29:18–NASB). With no vision, there is no organizing goal or destination. If parents have no vision for their children’s future, how will they discipline? If they have no goal to define their parenting style, what behaviors will they nurture? If they have no destination of future character in mind, how will they instruct? With no vision, they find little reason to establish limits that go beyond keeping their children “out of their hair.”
Children in this situation become “unrestrained,” unbridled, loosed from any guiding conscience. Without the restraint of guiding principles, children determine their own direction before they have the wisdom and experience to do so. They become rebellious, unwilling to submit to any guiding principles, whether in the school, home, or community. Without a motivating destination, children become floaters. They float from one activity to another with no real commitment to anything–no staying power, no determination, no zeal. As a result, they become easy prey to the many sharks waiting to take advantage of children who aimlessly wander without the vision and guidance of a parent in their life. Soon, they may experience the shame of living at a standard below their potential, dependent on others, with no steady job, and perhaps even in trouble with the law.
Parents who have a vision of the character they want their child to develop will organize their parenting style to achieve that goal. They will establish limits with the intent of helping their child develop into a responsible adult. They will love and nurture with the intent of helping their child mature into a loving and caring adult. The clearer a parent can envision a final destination, the more successfully he can guide his child in that direction. So, take a moment to consider your parenting destination…your vision for your child. Where do you want your child to “end up”? What kind of adult do you want them to become? You might say “happy,” “a great athlete,” or “valedictorian;” but, think a little harder. Is that really the most important destination for your child? After all, what kind of character does a happy person possess? What kind of character traits will make your child a person you can admire? What does your child need to learn to move from today’s level of maturity to greater maturity tomorrow? Here are a few questions to help clarify a vision to guide your parenting:
1. Do you want your child to have fame and fortune…or the wisdom to make wise choices in life?
2. Is it more important that your child become a scholar and straight “A” student… or that your child be known as dependable and trustworthy?
3. Do you want your child to become fiercely independent… or kind, compassionate, and considerate?
4. Would you rather your child see themselves as a step above the crowd… or envision themselves as a person who serves others with a humble confidence?
5. Would you prefer your child be known as a great athlete… or a person who has a reputation of honesty and integrity?
6. Do you dream of your child enjoying great material wealth… or the riches of deep, loving relationships?
7. Do you want your child to constantly strive for the approval and acceptance that comes from performing well… or do you want them to grow increasingly thankful for the person they have become and the blessings they have received?
8. Would you rather your child grow into a great business person… or a great husband/wife, father/mother?
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with standing above the crowd or becoming famous, independent, a great athlete, materially wealthy, or a great businessman. But, is that the ultimate goal of your parenting efforts? After 20 years of untiring effort and sacrificial time, what destination do you really hope to enjoy? Whatever destination you choose will determine the route you take. Whichever answer you choose will guide your actions and your parenting.