Part of the fun of a vacation is in the planning. Our family is rather dangerous when it comes to vacations. We usually start out pretty calmly, targeting a particular city. Once the maps come out though, we tend to go a little crazy. We may notice we will be close to the state line of a state we haven’t checked off of our list or maybe we will read an article about a special place a few hours away from our main destination. Our final trip may not end up close to where we originally thought we would go, but because we developed a plan with some flexibility, we have always felt like we had the most amazing vacations we possibly could.
Parenting is a lot like that. You need to target some final destinations you want to make sure you reach with your child before he leaves home. Most likely your list will include some things about education and good habits. I pray your most important goal is to raise a child who is prepared to be an active Christian leader in the Church and in society.
If you are detail oriented, I encourage you to write a list of all of the things you want to teach or show your child before she graduates. I don’t know that we wrote everything down, but my husband and I included places we wanted our daughter to see and experiences we wanted her to have. We did have a nice long list of household chores and skills we wanted to teach her. (We may have to have a mommy bootcamp this summer to knock out the last few!) We definitely wanted her to be an active Christian who read her Bible, prayed, served God and displayed godly characteristics.
If you are not a list person, it is important to at least have a conversation with your spouse. If not, you may be pushing traveling while your spouse is all about teaching your child how to build a house from scratch. Sometimes the goals are not mutually exclusive, but often money and time play a part in how much you can accomplish. Travel was big in our family, but my husband’s limited vacation time, our bank account and some charity travel obligations limited how much of the world we could show her.
And that is just fine. You won’t totally accomplish everything on your list. If you have been a Christian for very long, you know you will only have laid the basic groundwork for the spiritual goals you have for your child. The point of having a plan is that it gives you several parenting advantages:
- Focus Having a plan allows you to focus on the areas that are the most important to you. It keeps you from being as distracted by more unimportant things. Those distractions can cause you to look up when your child is eighteen and realize you did not accomplish any of the things you wanted to teach and do with your child. If you are focused on your plan, you are more likely to accomplish the things you want to accomplish.
- Priorities Hopefully writing down your parenting plan will make it abundantly clear what your priorities are for your child. Examine them closely. Do you say your first priority is to raise a godly child, but then your list is nothing but sports skills and activities? Make sure your list matches your true priorities. If God isn’t first, it is time to seriously adjust your list.
- Reminders Looking back at your list periodically helps remind you of things daily business has prevented you from teaching your child. Since we are in our last summer before college, there are still a few things we just never got around to doing before now. They are still important to us, so this summer we will make a final push to teach those last things. Thankfully, our priorities mean these last items are really things she could learn later, but we will feel better if she already knows how to do them.
- Path If you don’t have a parenting plan, you will most likely meander through parenting. Just like on a trip, at times that can be fun. If you are trying to get from point A to point B in a certain amount of time though, you have to have a plan. You only have eighteen years with your child at home. For some of you, like us, it will be even a little less before college. I can promise you, those years will fly. There will be lazy, crazy and hazy days during those eighteen years and that is fine. Overall though, you need to have a plan and as they say in business “work the plan”. Make sure you stay on the path you and your spouse have laid for raising your child. When you realized you have wandered off the path, do what you need to do to get back on it.
Did I mention our vacation plans are flexible? Often while on the vacation, we will see or do something we didn’t realize existed until we arrived in the area. Your parenting plan needs to have flexibility too. We had no idea our daughter would go to college a year early until just a couple of years ago. It was the best decision for our daughter, so we adjusted our plans accordingly. Your plan will need to adjust as your child grows into the person God created him to be. Remember the ultimate goal of your plan is to dedicate your child to God. This will mean adjusting to meet the needs of your child as her God given gifts and talents, opportunities and challenges begin to surface. Adapting your plan doesn’t mean you had a bad plan, it just means you are wise enough to take advantage of the things God gives you as they come.
So talk with your spouse. Make a list. If your kids are older, you can even involve them in the planning. I would love you to share with us what is in your plan in a comment below.