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Your Parenting Needs a Mission Statement

October 11, 2011

Today I want to share an article I read recently in the Kokomo Tribune.  It is by John Rosemond a family psychologist.  I felt it was worth sharing.

     “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between the way I and almost everyone else in my generation (I was born in 1947) were raised and the way today’s kids are being raised.  The two ways in question reflect two entirely different mindsets; specifically, two entirely different understandings of the responsibilities involved in being a parent.

     As I travel the country, speaking in front of various audiences, I conduct frequent parent polls.  One poll simply involves the question: “As a parent, what is your mission statement?”  The typical answer is a puzzeled expression.  That, in and of itself, says a lot.  It says for example, that many if not most parents have no coherent, long term plan.  They’re parenting by their boostraps, taking it a day at a time.  That’s no way to run a business, and it’s no way to raise a child either.

     In both cases, a clear sense of the meaning of the mission is essential to keeping people focused.  That focus prevents them from going off on tangents that are superflurous.  In that sense, a mission statement keeps people moving in a straight line and all but guarantees far more consistent behavior on their part.  Without a mission statement, people are likely to zig zag all over the playing field, wasting lots of energy and time on things that are ultimately unimportant if not counterproductive.  That, I sense is what a lot of parents are doing these days.  You want an example?  How about spending a disproportionate amount of family time taking children to and watching them in activities that will be completely irrelevant to anything they will be doing as adults?

     That zigging and zagging produces a lot of stress.  I think it’s safe to say that today’s parents, especially moms, are one stressed-out bunch.  Their great-grandparents were not.  They approached child rearing in a calm, casual, straightforward fashion.  And to those who at this point object that times have changed since GreatGrandma’s day, I will point out that times have always changed.  But there is no evidence that parenting has become increasingly stressful from one generation to the next, not until very recently, that is.  No, it is not so much that times have changed; again it’s that people’s thinking about children has changed.

     Back to the mission statement question: Some parents ask me what I mean, to which I respond, “I mean you are engaged in a project called child rearing or parenting.  The typical term of this project is 18 years or more.  What are you trying to accomplish?  What is your primary goal?”

     A few moments of reflection ensue, and then, this is the typical answer: “Well I want my child to be a happy and successful adult.”

     Bingo!  That’s the essential difference in the thinking of a typical pre-1970’s parent verses the thinking of a typical parent today.  My parents would not have said they were trying to produce someone who was happy and successful.  I ask people my age, “Do you think your parents would have said that?”

     The answer is no, always.

     The pre-1970’s parent would have said something along these lines: “I am trying to raise a responsible citizen.”  Back then, parents felt their obligation was to their neighbors and ultimatly culture.  Their obligation to the child was measured in those terms.  Today’s parents feel their almost exclusive obligation is to their child.  The former parents see the big, long term picture.  The latter have short term tunnel vision.  The outcomes of these two very different points of view will be very different as we have seen.

     Which point of view do you think is more functional?  What’s your parenting mission statement?” 

As you consider what your mission staement is, let me give you an additon to Mr. Rosemond’s list.  We should be raising our children to make a difference in the world and in the kingdom of God.  Remember to compare each activity that you engage in with that criteria.  See if it makes the cut.  But do take some time and together with your husband write a mission statement for your family and your child raising.

Don’t forget to comment on this post for a chance to win “Simplify.”

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 11, 2011 6:18 am

    WHOO HOO…excellent! I’ve said that same thing! I’d add that they need to be health conscious/aware in our hopes and mission…just my little thing though. LOL!

  2. Libby permalink
    October 11, 2011 2:23 pm

    I had never thought about a mission statement before. When I first read that I thought, I want my girls to become Godly women, love the Lord and show His love in everything they do. Thankfully I still have a few years (I hope) to continue to instill this in them as I have not been doing the best job of it. I am really going to think hard about a mission statement for myself as a parent.

  3. October 17, 2011 8:19 pm

    I sure think this is something every family should know and do. It is a very needed understanding today. Jody

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