Update on My Personal Legacy Dad Process

Rather than complaining about politics or the economy, which is easy to do this time of year, I deleted my previous post to focus on something more relevant.  This post is going to detail the exact process I am using with my own children to instill in them my legacy. Phase I - The Foundation - Ages 0-12

During the first 12 years of our children's lives, my wife and I focused on three areas:

1. Creating security in our home and in our children's hearts.

This was done by modeling a loving marriage and practicing Grace Based Parenting

2. Cultivating and developing positive biblical character traits.

This was done by exposing our children to biblical doctrine through the church but more by our own modeling and using real-world situations in our lives as teaching points.

3.  Teaching our children an outward (selfless) approach to life rather than in inward (selfish). 

I give my wife the majority of credit for this one.  We always taught our children to look at their own actions through the eyes of others thus promoting empathy and minimizing selfishness.  We didn't spoil our children nor did we solve all their problems for them.  The idea was to mold empathetic, resilient, problem solvers.  It was simple concepts - including everyone in their play, befriending those less fortunate, but most important was expressing to them that life was not all about them.

I honestly believe we succeeded in all these areas. It was not easy and certainly not the road most parents took, but ultimately we are satisfied with this approach.  Other concepts we introduced was patience/wisdom versus instant gratification, money management to include investing and giving to charity as well as open family discussions about all topics to include marriage, sex, finance, careers, etc.

Phase 2 - Direction - Ages 12-20

I am now currently in Phase 2 with both of my children.  The main focus areas of this phase include reinforcing all of Phase I traits while adding the following:

1. Aiming our children at Significance rather than success. - Defining self actualization versus societies version of success.

2. Teaching them essential life skills that are not taught in school. - Human Relations, History, Financial Intelligence, Leadership, Duty and Service to Others, Emotional Intelligence.

3. Developing strength for their futures -  slowly giving them more autonomy, decision making and allowing them to find their own personal paths while still staying grounded in our foundational mold.

Here's one way I am attempting to do this:

On each child's 12 birthday, I share with them a family secret (Hint:  I come from a line of Knights Templar's) and I take them and show them an old antique steamer trunk that belonged to my Grandfather.  The trunk is filled with antiques, family heirlooms, exotic pieces from foreign places, maps, etc.  Picture something out of National Treasure.  In the bottom of the trunk, in a hand carved wooden box is a small, cylinder shaped safe that can only be opened by arranging a series of letters in a specific, exact order.  Inside this safe, are instructions for both of my children to claim a significant sum of money that has been invested for them.  There's a back story to where the money came from that stems from my family's history but I'm not willing to share this information in public.  I have to keep some of the mystery and intrigue. :)  However, my children know the back story and are aware that if they complete their journeys, they will have receive this money.

Note: While this sum of money is significant, it is really only a motivator.  The true "riches" lay in the knowledge and the actual process of completing this journey.  The real Legacy is the person they become through this journey, although they probably won't realize this until years later.

I then lay out for each of them their journey, an individually tailored adventure in 2 year segments.  The segments include reading a variety of books on topics discussed above and journaling on these books and their own personal thoughts on each chapter.  For each book they complete, they are given a monetary sum as an extra incentive.  Each book is age and gender appropriate and focuses on reinforcing character traits while introducing new concepts.  At the end of each 2 year segment is a test of sorts to move to the next segment.  The tests are tailored to each child as well but focuses on a theme.  The first theme is overcoming fears by trusting in God, another theme focuses on service to others through 3rd world missionary work and so on.  After reading all the books and passing the test for each segment, each child earns a single letter.  Once all the segments are complete, all the letters will be used to unlock the safe in the steamer trunk.

There are also significant events and gifts associated with each segment of their journey.  The end of the first segment features a manhood/womanhood crossover type event.  The end of the second segment features a gift of a handmade compass featuring an inscription of the The Road Not Taken poem by Robert Frost and so on.  I've tailored the books, tests, gifts and events to each one of my children's unique traits and personalities.

The final two segments of their journey will not be told to them.  They will have to experience them and come into them, each at their own pace and timing.  Once they reach the segment, I will then let them know that they have reached that segment and given them their assignments for that segment.  I expect both my children to complete their journeys by their late 20's.

*Please understand this is only one approach to my parenting philosophy during this time and this is not all encompassing on it's own.*

Challenges:  

I've experienced some challenges with this approach and expect more as they grow.  First is the need to have them keep up with the reading.  It's only 12 books per segment over 2 years but they are mostly non-fiction books dealing with faith, finance, history and leadership - not exactly as exciting as the Hunger Games series.

The main challenge I foresee is that rather than taking a one year approach or a simple special weekend getaway, I'm trying to combine an all encompassing, long term philosophy over the entire course of their childhood and beyond.  It requires strategic planning and constant modification.  The other challenge I foresee is keeping the kids intrigued and engaged as they grow older and ultimately leave our home for college or other life event.

Ultimately, I believe the positives of this strategic, long term approach outweigh the challenges.  So far, the process and philosophy are working and having a lasting impact on our children.  The foundation is already solid and the values are firmly in place which,  according to studies and researchers, must be done before adolescence.   The bottom line is that I am a parent and how my kids turn out is ultimately my responsibility.  Schools, Church, Sports, Media - all of these play a minor factor in the development of our children, it is ultimately the parents job.

Where's the How-To?

While I've given you some clues, I purposely leave out my own personal How-To because each parent must develop this on their own.  It's critical to the process for the parent and the children.  We as parents change as we go through this process and each How-To must be tailored to your family and each individual child.  If there is one thing I've learned it's that there is no cookie cutter approach or 8 Simple Steps to parenting.  There is simply concepts and philosophies which must be adopted by a parent and tweaked for each child.

Wherever you are in your own process, I encourage you to take ownership of your parenting and develop a strategy.  This action alone will put you among the few.  Very few parents I meet have a strategic plan for parenting, most are just going with the flow and trying to survive amidst their careers, friends, hobbies and social lives.  Parenting is relegated to a virtual task on their checklist or agenda.  This is a poor approach to parenting.

Finally, I encourage you to pray.  God is amazing and his grace and love is all you need.  Single Parents, Broken Families, Mixed/Blended Families or Traditional Families.  God will be with you every step of the way, all you have to do is ask.