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Parenting Goals: Creating a Value-Based Environment for Your Child

Parenting Goals: Creating a Value-Based Environment for Your Child

Goal Setting for Parents

I strongly believe in the idea of setting goals. If you aim for nothing, you’ll get nothing every time. This concept is typically used to set personal goals, but I’m here to talk about goal setting for parents.

In my experience, a lot of parenting decisions are reaction-based. What if we decide on values we will instill in and model for our children? A standard to uphold. The type of environment we want to expose our child to. Would it help guide your decisions? Would it help you to catch yourself when you, as the parent, model a behavior you don’t want your child to replicate when they grow up and become parents one day? We are all going to pass problems down to our children. But what if we can pass good problems down to our children?

I am introducing an exercise assigned to my partner and me during a couples counseling session. We will walk through the pros and cons of what we were exposed to as children and use that to determine what we aim to expose our children to. This exercise is about breaking generational cycles and parenting with a purpose.

Images courtesy of Cody Dodd

Reflect on Your Childhood

Looking back at your own upbringing

It’s not always easy to look back on our childhood. We tend to look at our childhood through a lens. For example, you might say you had a bad childhood, while your partner might say they had a good childhood.

Chances are, your childhood wasn’t all bad. And your partner’s could have been better. I encourage you to look back at your childhood objectively. This is necessary for going about this process constructively.

Pros and cons from your childhood experiences

You will create a pros and cons list. For now, the format is not important. Grab a pen and paper, or open your notes app. Start a column for pros and a column for cons. Include whatever comes to your mind for each when thinking about your childhood experience.

You and your partner will create these lists separately. Try to squeeze in some time to do this before your partner wakes up, during naptime, or whenever you can find those pockets of down time.

When I did this, my cons list flowed easily. The pros, not so much. But as I looked at my habits today and what comes easy for me, the pros started to reveal themselves.

Here are some of the examples of the pros that came to mind after digging a little deeper.

  • Anything worth doing is worth doing right
  • Save, invest, and be frugal
  • Manners when speaking with adults. Firm handshake, solid eye contact, and body language
  • Entrepreneur Mindset. Don’t go with the status quo
  • The importance of books
Open and honest reflection with your partner

Creating and discussing these pros and cons with your partner might be an emotional process. It’s important not to judge yourself or your partner. This is about vulnerability.

Discussion with Your Partner

Significance of discussing these reflections with your partner

Carve some time out of your schedule with no distractions to sit down and discuss these things together. As you discuss, you might gain new ideas to add to your list and vice versa.

This is a process that aims to improve your sense of self, your partner’s understanding of themselves, and your ability to raise children as a united front. It is beneficial for all parties involved

Importance of mutual understanding and respect during these discussions

It is important to approach this process with an understanding heart. When your partner speaks, the goal should be to listen to understand. Not to react. Allow them the floor and show them that you are listening. Some of these things may be hard to discuss, so do your best not to interrupt. Make a conscious effort to encourage them as they share.

Creating Parenting Values

Creating your list of parenting values

Now that you have done the hard part of uncovering the good, bad, and ugly of your upbringing, we can move on to what I view as the fun part. Creating! This can be done by comparing and contrasting your partner’s pros and cons list with your list. You can start by identifying items that are similar and combining those into one bullet point for this new list.

The really cool thing about this is that you can turn a con into a positive. A negative experience becomes an example of what you don’t want to be a part of your parenting values. I could take something that I was exposed to, like domestic violence, and turn it into a key value of “be gentle with the ones you love.”

The process of identifying key values

This process turns occurrences, events, and happenings into a value. If you have something on the list, like being taught to iron your clothes, that translates into responsibility and taking care of your belongings. I will list some examples below.

  • How to care for animals – Love and compassion for all living things
  • Manners with adults – Treat people with respect. Regardless of status, race, age, or beliefs
  • Passive aggressive – Control your emotions
  • Intangible/inconsistent faith – Exemplify walking with God
  • Quitting is an option – Commitment. Persistence
  • I can get away with anything when dad is drinking – Be alert and of sober mind

Once you’ve got your new list of parenting values derived from your and your partner’s pros and cons list, you can leave it as is or use graphic design software to enhance the visual. I decided to do the ladder and was really happy with the result.

Implementation and Accountability

Framing in a high-traffic area

It’s one thing to create this project, and it is commendable to spend the time and effort to do so. But what is the point if you create it and never look at it again? Like setting personal goals, implementation and constant reminders are key to success.

The best strategy to prevent this from happening is to print and frame this document in a high-traffic area—somewhere visible that you and your partner see on a regular basis.

Ours is hanging right above my desk in our bedroom. We walk past that desk at least a dozen times a day. It’s in the corner of our bedroom. Plus, our daughter likes to play in my desk drawers. Whenever she walks into our bedroom and gets quiet, nine times out of ten, she is in the desk drawers, pulling anything out that she can get her hands on.

The point is that we hung our parenting values list in a spot that we see regularly, and I encourage you to do the same.

Importance of accountability and gentle reminders

The beautiful thing about raising a child with your partner is that you get a lover, a friend, and an accountability buddy all in one. It is vital to hold each other accountable when it’s clear that you are straying from these values.

Nobody’s perfect. I will repeat it in case you’re like me and set unrealistic expectations. Nobody is perfect. Could you imagine how boring life would be if perfection was attainable?

We value progress over perfection. Voice a gentle reminder when you see your partner falling short. On the flip side, be sure to give them credit when you notice them doing a great job of maintaining the family values that you have created.

Open communication and willingness to listen to feedback

Have you ever heard the saying, “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason”? It may seem trite or silly, but it is wise. We should be quick to listen and slow to speak. It is foolish not to listen to feedback and constructive criticism, especially from someone you love.

Final Thoughts

Importance of creating a value-based environment for your child

Our feelings are a great survival instinct, but not a great compass for living our lives. This was clear to me when I listened to a caller on the John Delony show. A man went on and on about how he doesn’t like his wife anymore, doesn’t know why he married her, etc. It was clear that this man was living by his emotions. He could not clearly articulate or explain what it was about his partner that he did not like. This is an example of living by feelings.

A better approach to living our lives is based on values and beliefs. Our feelings come and go, but a value remains the same. It is unchanging and applicable across the board. This is similar to the wisdom found in the Bible. You might not find advice for navigating dating apps, but you can find wisdom for how you should treat people and what love looks like.

Your child’s future quite literally depends on you.

Proactive steps to implement these values in your daily life

Rather than waiting for the opportunity for us to demonstrate these values in our parenting style, why not look for creative ways to proactively demonstrate our understanding of our parenting values?

If one of your values is emphasizing teamwork, why not ask your daughter for help when you’re cleaning?

If one of your values is reading, why not pull your child’s books off the shelf for story time randomly, instead of waiting for bedtime to arrive?

Living by your parenting values is a highly personal experience, from the creation to the implementation. Make it your own and have fun with it.

Live the life that you love, and love the life that you live.

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