One of the most important jobs we have as parents is to push our kids and help them begin to see just how much they‘re capable of. Sometimes, our children aren‘t always aware of how great they can be without a little encouragement. There’s not a whole lot more rewarding as a parent than helping your child unlock that “Aha!“ spark of self-confidence where they begin to fully realize that they can and should dream and pursue big, audacious goals – and that they‘re capable of them. Nowadays, kids really do seem to be bombarded by parents telling them, “You can do it!” Or, “You can do anything you set your mind to!” But I often wonder how often we as parents practice what we preach?
The majority of adults will tell their kids, “Of course you should pursue your dreams!” But, unfortunately, not nearly as many adults live out that philosophy. But our kids are watching us, aren’t they? So what does it suggest to a kid when their mom or dad says, “you can do whatever you set your mind to,” in one breath, but “I can’t get back in shape because I just don’t have the time,” in the next.
Getting in shape is just one of many examples. It’s really a lot bigger than that. It could be healthier eating. Or that trip you always wanted to take, or the rose garden you’ve always wanted to plant. That book you’ve always wanted to write, or that graduate degree you never had time to go back and finish. Or that marathon you’ve always wanted to run. I do wonder what our kids think when we encourage them to live their dreams but don’t do so in our own lives? Selling ourselves short is a poor example for our kids, and it undermines what we say. After all, actions speak an awful lot louder than words.
Perhaps one of the most powerful things a child can see in life is an adult who pursued their dream and achieved it. Whether it’s in business, art, literature, athletics, music… you name it. No matter how big or small the goal is, there’s an awful lot of inspiration for a kid who witnesses the sheer persistence it takes to achieve a goal. And kids today need to see a lot more of that, not less of it. Kids already hear too many adults say things like “if only I had.” Kids need to hear more adults say, “I’m so glad I did!” And that starts at home. With us.
The other important aspect of kids witnessing hard work and success at home is being able to see firsthand how hard it really can be to pursue a goal. Dreams don’t chase themselves, it’s takes an awful lot of hard work and dedication. Our kids need to see that dreams don’t come true all by themselves. There are failures along the way. There are struggles and hardships. Our children need to see from their parents how to keep fighting for a goal when the going gets tough. It’s one thing to tell them; it’s quite another to show them.
So whatever that goal is for you that you may have let slip away – and we all have one – go for it. Stop selling yourself short and feeding your regret. Slowly, surely, persistently, start living a life that backs up the words of encouragement you offer your own kids. Practice what you preach.
Ben Murphy, founder of The Father Life, is an Adventure Athlete, Writer, and Wellness Advocate who used to be obese. You can ask him your questions at www.BenMurphyOnline.com. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and three daughters.