What do you want your kids to be when they are 30 years old? More importantly, WHO do you want your kids to be when they are 30?
This was the question Dr. Knowles asked last week during the first session of our third-annual OCA Family Institute. (You should have seen various emails from Dr. Knowles inviting you to participate in this 5-week parenting series hosted on Wednesday evenings.) This is the question that she asked us to ponder.
Have you ever thought about it?
I wrote down four attributes that I want to see in my son. I stole these from a book called Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis, but they are attributes that I think every parent should be intentionally instilling in their sons.
- I want my son to Lead Courageously.
- I want my son to learn to Accept Responsibility.
- I want my son to Reject Passivity.
- I want my son to Expect a Greater Reward.
These four attributes may seem simple to some or bizarre to others, but I think they represent the characteristics of a godly man.
In September I took a group of OCA dad’s to Wheeler Peak in New Mexico and we summited two of the tallest mountains in New Mexico. On this trip I created cards for each dad with these attributes on them and handed them out one evening on the mountain. We discussed the value of each of these items and the challenges we face on a daily basis trying to impart these qualities. (If you want to go on a similar trip next year let me know. I plan on this being an annual trip, September 1-4.)
Since our trip, two of the fathers have taken their children on a summit of their own. One of the dad’s took his kids to a different mountain range in New Mexico and they went on a treasure hunt. There's an old legend of a plane crash on one of the New Mexico mountain ranges. They went with maps, treasure hunting tools, and clues to find the hidden treasure! I thought it was a great and creative way to take his elementary children on a trip they will always remember. The kids thought the trip was about a hidden treasure, but this dad had far greater intentions for the trip.
Surprising, I know, they did not find the treasure. But dad had something else in store. He brought his kids together and said, “I know you’re disappointed that we didn’t find the treasure, but I want you to know that we don’t need that treasure. Yes, it would have been cool to find it and fun to have, but we really don’t need it. There is a treasure that we do need though, and I brought it for you. The treasure that we need is found in God’s word and I want you to have this.” At this point he handed them each their first “big kid” leather-bound bible. “This is the most important treasure you will ever have.”
Wow! What an awesome way to create an experience for his kids that was meaningful and intentionally driven by the qualities he wants to see in his children. One of the many joys of my job is the opportunity I have to witness firsthand examples of fatherhood like this.
Many of you are beginning to start planning your summer. I want to encourage you to take time and reflect on how you can be intentional this summer with your family. What things do you need to begin or continue teaching, and how can you create opportunities to foster these things?
Here are four questions I have created to help me self-reflect on whether or not I’m doing my part instilling those four traits in my son:
- Am I setting an example to my son of what a courageous leader looks like?
- Am I letting my son fail, and do I view these failures as a necessary part of his development?
- Am I guiding him to do hard things?
- Am I a godly influence on my son and can he see that I believe in a higher power through my words and actions? Can he see that my trust is not in man but in God?
Parenting can often seem like a very long survival course, just making it through from one day to the next. But adding this kind of intentionality to your relationship with your child will bring a depth that they will notice, and it will help you recognize just how important your role is. We’re not just survival guides for life. We’re here to lead our children through a tough world. It’s a much less difficult job to do when you’ve chosen specific tools and mapped out your route.