Parenting with the End in Mind – Part 2
I have twin boys. At the time of this writing, my boys are 4 years old, and growing up more every day. It’s moving too fast! Many times I’ve heard the saying, “The days are long but the years are short,” and it’s true. There are days where we can’t get to nap time quickly enough just so mom and dad can have a break! It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day details. But I can’t believe how fast the years have gone by. If I’m not careful, I can get lost in the daily details, and lose sight of the end goal.
I want to parent with the end in mind. My mom has often said about her parenting, “I didn’t care about raising happy kids, but good adults.” I’ve always hoped the two could work together, but sometimes they are mutually exclusive. My kid’s current happiness is sometimes at odds with them becoming good people.
In this three part blog series, I want to share three things we need in order to parent with the end in mind. (Read part one here.)
2. ValidationOn a particularly hot day, the boys and I were outside in our hastily assembled above ground pool. The water is cold and comes up to the boy’s necks. Wyatt loves being in the water and has no problem getting right into the water. Levi, doesn’t like the cold and is a little afraid of the water. Both boys love riding their inflatable turtles and floating on an oversized cupcake.
And so we spent our afternoon floating, squirting water guns, and splashing in the cold pool on a hot day. Every so often, Wyatt would slide off of his turtle into the water and bob around for a while, or hold my hands and float while kicking, before getting a bit frigid and returning to the safety of his inflatable. As far as Levi is concerned, the water might as well be hot lava – he ain’t touching it!
But after a while, Levi decides he wants to give it a try. He slowly slides into the pool and goes rigid as the chilly water laps over his shoulders. When he discovers that he can stand up and walk, he shrieks. I wasn’t sure at first, if he was scared or elated. It was the latter. He giggled and shrieked for a sold 10 minutes as he ran around the pool gleefully. He then asked me to hold his hands while he practiced kicking, just like Wyatt had done earlier. He was so happy, and so proud of himself. I was proud too.
Mommy was inside preparing dinner, so I called her outside to come see what Levi was doing. He beamed with pride. Mommy encouraged him and cheered him on.
Levi stayed in the pool until his lips began to look blue and Daddy decided he needed to get out. He reluctantly complied.
That night, over dinner, I told Levi how incredibly proud I am of him. I told him that it took courage to get in the water, and raved about how brave he is. Wyatt quickly added, “I’m brave, too. I was brave, first.” I agreed and told the boys they were both so brave, and I am so proud of them. I told them I liked watching them try new things.
The boys beamed with pride. They appeared to grow a few inches in that moment. It was a great reminder of their need for validation. In my first post in this series, I said our kids need vision for who they can become. That vision requires validation of the positive traits they display as they grow up. I can keep the end in mind, but in order to steer them toward that vision, I have to validate when they do the right things. When I see traits like bravery, I need to lavish praise upon them. If taking away their toys when they disobey is the stick, praising them for trying new things and being brave is the carrot.
We had a special family movie night that evening, and I made popcorn. This is a special event in our house, and I played it up in honor of Levi’s big day in the pool. It’s true, it was just a dip in the pool. But I saw more than that. I saw my baby boy try something new, conquer his fear, summon bravery, and take a big step forward. The validation we gave that day will be called upon the next time he is faced with something new. The next time he’s afraid of the unknown, my hope is he’ll remember how proud I am of him for conquering his fear. If my vision for my boys is for them to boldly face their futures, to try new things, and to overcome fear then my validation, brick by brick, will lay the foundation for that future.
As they get older, the methods of validation will change, but their need for validation only increases. I can’t tell you how many students I’ve seen whose lives would be totally different if their mom, and especially their dad, validated them along the way. When a kid, and especially a teenager, has been consistently validated by their parents, they become confident young people who are FAR less likely to be influenced negatively by their peers. They don’t need validation from their peers nearly as much if they are getting it at home.