Every day you have the opportunity to paint a picture of the future for your child, even when it seems like he or she has made a mess.
Visionary Parenting
By Les and Leslie Parrott
On my 13th birthday, my parents gave me a drafting table-complete with a big ribbon tied around it and all the drafting tools I could want. For the better part of a year I (Les) had talked about being an architect. I'm not sure where I got the idea, but it was my dream-that is, if I didn't play basketball for the Boston Celtics!

So my mom and dad caught the vision. But it didn't end with the table. The next week, Dad got permission from my teacher to take me out of class for the day and visit the University of Illinois School of Architecture with him. He'd made a couple of appointments so I could talk with some of the officials. Dad and I made a day of it.

That night at home over dinner, we filled Mom in on our adventure. I was animated with excitement. In the following weeks and months, Mom or Dad would put newspaper clippings on my desk that pertained to something architectural they thought I'd find interesting. On another weekend, Mom took me on a tour of architect Frank Lloyd Wright's famous homes near Chicago. My parents invested in my dream and helped me shape a vision for what I might do with my life.

I didn't become an architect. But that didn't matter. What matters is that Mom and Dad were visionary parents and helped me see what my future might entail.

How to Become a Visionary Parent

How do we go about seeing a vision for our child's future? And how can a parent do this without imposing his or her own vision on the child? It starts with you and your own vision.

Visionary Parents Have a Vision for Themselves

A law in physics says that water cannot rise above its source. The same is true, in a sense, foryour child. If you don't have a vision for yourself, your child will find it more difficult to rise to a vision you might help him capture. For a parent to truly be effective in seeing a picture for his or her children's future, that parent must have a picture for himself or herself. Why? Because being a visionary is not something that is only done for others. It must be modeled.

This may be a struggle for some. In the book, You Matter More Than You Think, I (Leslie) wrote a chapter called "Dream Venti." It's about dreaming a big dream for your life-and I receive more notes and E-mails from women on this chapter than anything I've ever written. So many moms tell me they have put their dreams on the back burner while raising their kids. I understand that. But your kids need to see that you have dreams, too.

We'll say it again. Visionary parents have a vision for themselves.

Visionary Parents Picture a Special Future

Seidel, a young Jewish mother, was proudly walking down the street pushing a stroller with her infant twins. As she rounded the corner, she saw her neighbor, Sarah. "My, what beautiful children," Sarah cooed. "What are their names?"

Pointing to each child, Seidel replied, "This is Bennie, the doctor, and Reuben, the lawyer."

Jewish homes have a long history of picturing a special future for their children. In the Old Testament, Isaac prophesized about his son Jacob being a strong leader. You don't have to be a prophet to picture a special future for your children. But you can encourage and help your children imagine their potential.

You picture a special future for your child when you say things like, "You have such a generous spirit, I wouldn't be surprised if you end up helping a lot of people when you grow older." Or, "You are so helpful around the house, I bet you are going to make a great husband (or wife) someday." Or, "You enjoy studying the ocean so much, I wonder if you might be a marine biologist some day."

These are ways of planting little seeds that may or may not take root. The point is that as a visionary parent you are considering your child's future. You aren't imparting your own egocentric vision of what you want your child to become. You are sensitive to your child's unique gifts and qualities and you point them out on occasion to highlight how these qualities could be maximized in the future.

Visionary Parents Impart Their Blessing

What a blessing to know that someone in the world loves and accepts you unconditionally. And that's what happens when you picture a special future for your child. This is key. Picturing a special future for your child is like building a campfire for that one on a dark night. It draws him or her toward the warmth of genuine concern and fulfilled potential.

Painter Benjamin West tells how his mother's blessing lit a pathway for his future. In his youth, he loved to paint. When his mother left, he would pull out the oils and try to paint. One day he made quite a mess. He hoped to get it all cleaned up before his mother came back, but he didn't. Her reaction completely surprised him. Instead of noticing the mess, she picked up his painting and said, "My, what a beautiful painting of your sister." She gave him a kiss on the cheek and walked away. With that kiss, West says, he became a painter.

Every day you have the opportunity to paint a picture of the future for your child, even when it seems like he or she has made a mess. And each time you apply a single stroke to this picture of that child's future you are giving an immeasurable blessing.

Helen Keller was once asked, "What would be worse than being born blind?" She answered: "To have sight without vision." Every visionary parent understands this sentiment. And every child who is blessed with a visionary parent sees glimpses of the future.

and Leslie Parrott are founders of RealRelationships.com and co-directors of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University. Their books include Love Talk, Your Time Starved Marriage and The Parent You Want to Be. Visit their web site at www.RealRelationships.com to find their seminar schedule.

Holiness Today, September/October 2008
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