Who will be the leaders of tomorrow? Will one or more of your own children be leaders in their sphere of influence? When our children eventually leave home, we want them to be equipped to succeed in life and to have the confidence and skills to live in the adult world. There are no guarantees in life — only the certain belief that if we raise our children with intentionality, giving them the tools they need to be functioning adults, then maybe they will rise to be tomorrow’s leaders as well.
Talk to parents who intentionally parented their children with the goal of raising self-confident and equipped adults, and you will hear some common themes. My wife and I knew we had limited time to teach the skills and values necessary to develop functioning adults, and so we intentionally and progressively exposed our kids to the following six life-lessons that we learned from many other — and far better — parents. And as each child approached their teen years and age 18, our intentionality increased. It was our goal to raise kids who knew how to work hard, how to make good decisions, how to manage money, how to be responsible, how to say “thank you,” and who knew who they were.
Raising kids who know how to work hard. Children of all ages need to learn how to work. They need to learn that chores and doing their part of the work of a functioning household (and a functioning business) are a normal part of life. In today’s urban life, teaching the value of hard work may be a challenge in some households, but appropriate opportunities can be found both in the home and community. Raising kids who know how to make good decisions. The home is designed to be a training ground for learning how to make good decisions. It is a place where children are taught what makes a good decision, the consequences of decisions, and how to learn from bad decisions — sometimes, lots of bad decisions. But where else can a child be given the patience and the grace to learn a skill that is not intuitive and must be learned? Talk to your kids about what makes a good decision, illustrated with examples from your own life, and then progressively let them make decisions. And when they make a bad decision, use it as an opportunity to evaluate what went wrong and how to improve the next decision they will make.
Raising kids who know how to manage money. There is no reason why an 18-year old cannot have learned how to manage money responsibly. That is why my wife and I progressively exposed our children to sensible money-management to achieve specific and personal goals. When age appropriate, they were taught how money is earned (commerce), how to save (future planning), how to balance a checkbook (accounting), and the responsibility and discipline of taking out a loan and paying it back (investment). They bought their own cars, kept their own bank accounts, set their own financial goals, and planned their own college budgets — all before the age of 18.
Raising kids who know how to be responsible. Responsibility is one of those virtues that has multiple aspects and affects almost every sphere of life. Being responsible means being willing to accept accountability for a task or assignment (e.g. chores). Being responsible means having control or authority over something (e.g. the care of pets). Being responsible means acting on one’s own without additional guidance or superior authority (Raising kids who know how to say “thank you.” Thankfulness is a sign that I need and respect others and am appreciative of the contribution others make to my life. Thankfulness recognizes, “I can’t do it all by myself” and “I need others.” It is as invaluable a skill in business as it is in relationships. When we as parents are able to finally move beyond “Don’t forget to say ‘thank you’” to honest and self-initiated acts of thankfulness on the part of our children, we know their character is being grounded in a critical human skill.
Raising kids who know who they are. I believe that a version of the American dream is being sold to our kids that produces greater harm than good. It is the myth that says “You can be anything you want to be.” Simply because a welfare child has become President does not mean that anyone can do anything or be anything they want. We all bear natural boundaries or “bents” defined by our personality and talents that seem more resilient than our outward circumstances. One of the greatest virtues of leaders is self-awareness. They know who they are and lead out of their strengths. So, we exposed our children early on to personality assessments and lively conversations about who they were, how they were “wired,” and how that understanding could help them excel at their strengths and God-given design. With luck and commitment, they will be the best at what they were put on this earth to do. That is the making of future leaders.
Kent Wilson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.