Posted by Mary Beard on 3 November 2013 | Comments

Question: What specific goals should I set for the coming year that will make a difference in my children's lives once they are adults?

Answer: There is something invigorating about the start of each new year. Maybe it is the anticipation of what the new year holds for us, or the renewed sense of purpose that comes with the goals we have set for the year. Whatever goals you have set for you and your family this year, my best wishes to you in seeing them materialize.

A young mom asked me what specific goals she should set for the coming year that would make a difference in her children’s life once they are adults. The question is usually asked in reverse. Most of my peer group (empty nesters) ponder as parents on what they should have done while raising their children that would have better prepared them for their adult life. Wow! This mom has some wisdom to ask this now!

The wisest parents are the ones who realize they are raising their children only a short while to hopefully live many, many years as an adult. In other words, MOST OF YOUR LIFE IS LIVED AS AN ADULT. One of my favorite books is Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. A habit that he mentions not only in that book, but also in his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families is “to begin with the end in mind”. A proactive approach to raising 
your child to be an effective, useful adult is a gift that will have a long lasting benefit to your child. 

Educationally, there are several goals you should set for your child that will enhance their ability to be productive and useful for the biggest part of their life- adulthood. Here are a few suggestions:

First, set the standard for excellence. Having a determination to do all things well is a tremendous asset for any age group. Not all students are “A” students, but they are all able to do their best at whatever level that is for them. An apathetic approach to school will become an albatross to them once in the workforce. 

Second, do not allow the temptation of focusing too much on “extra-curricular” prioritize schoolwork done well. I know a bright, young man who is struggling to get through college. His parents, with well meaning intentions, pushed sports to the point of making that the focus of his childhood and teen years. Instilling study skills needed to pass courses in college that would in turn land him a decent job in a competitive job market, in hindsight, seems to have been the better option. 

Third, surround your child with those (both teachers and peers) who encourage him/her to be a better person. These are the people who are with you children during the best hours of their day. Their influence, whether positive or negative, will affect their attitudes and beliefs. Underachievement is, unfortunately, too common place in many of our schools. By placing them in an environment where they are not shamed if they do well or choose to do the right 
thing, is a great advantage. 

 Finally, talk positively about your child’s future. Talk often about their unique strengths that you see and how you see them using this in their future stations in life. This will help them get a glimpse into their future and hopefully, help them see how this stage in life is an important building block for their life as an adult. 

It is our nature to focus on the here and now. We desire that our children enjoy their childhood, and they should. But one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to provide for their future. Begin with the end in mind. What skills, traits, attributes do you want for your children as adults? What will it take for you to provide that for them? Most of us who have walked that road would advise you to do whatever it takes. Sacrifices made now for your children will be a precious gift rewarded in the future.