Family values have taken a back seat in our culture, so I suggest that you begin with the end in mind. Based on where people spend their time and energy, it’s clear that we are indeed focused on ideals like immediate gratification, consumerism, achievement, and fame. The result: excessive amounts of stress, anxiety, and discontent.
Parents and their adolescent children wear stress as a badge of honor. Girls compete over who is the most stressed out. Their conversations go like this.
“Oh my God, I am so stressed out. I did four hours of homework last night.”
“That’s nothing. I was up until two working on a project.”
“Big deal. I’m lucky if I can get to bed by three, and then it takes me an hour to fall asleep.”
Teen girls admit to me that homework load and lack of sleep feels like a competition. Many girls tell me that they feel abnormal when they are not stressed out, so they fake it to fit in. Girls today are under an inordinate amount of pressure from parents, teachers, coaches, and colleges. But they have added on an extra, unnecessary layer of pressure due to cultural and peer influences.
Parents have a role in this as well. I have done an exercise all over the world using Stephen Covey’s idea of “beginning with the end in mind”. I have parents create a list of “end in mind” qualities they want their children to exhibit as adults. Typically, they list traits such as compassionate, happy, determined, creative, grit, and content. In the 18 countries I have done this, I have never had anyone say straight A’s, top college, or achieved a national championship in sports. Yet, where do most parents’ energies go these days? Running their kids around to practices for club sports teams and academic enrichment classes. Their badges of honor are about having a child on the honor role, achieving a scholarship to an elite university, or being on the best club soccer team in town. Just as teen girls compete over who’s the most stressed, parents seem to jockey over who is the most busy and anxious.
I encourage you to sit down with your spouse and create your own ‘end in mind’ for your children. What kind of people do you want them to become? What qualities are most important to you? It’s not our job to mold children into our vision for them, but it can be valuable to have guide posts for your parenting. Invite your children into the conversation and decide as a family what is important to you. Hopefully you all will value things like down time, balance, family time, and time in nature. When it comes time to make decisions, I’d use your end in mind and your values to guide choices vs. going along with the crowd.
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