Want to raise a child with effective life skills? Start with a vision

Friday October 18 2019

Parenting, as is often said, is the most difficult, most fulfilling job. You don’t know the results of your work until much later, when you cannot change the foundations. PHOTO | FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP


Recent and not so recent stories involving young lovers, or would be lovers, killing each other have led to a debate about today’s children. Key themes include resilience, or lack thereof, love, self-respect and ambition.

I walked into a conversation where a group was upset about somebody’s child having been killed by a childhood friend. They referred to the alleged killer as a ‘psycho’.

Sadly, I reminded them, that ‘psycho’ was also someone’s child. Yet, I believe, no one goes out of their way to raise a psycho, a killer, or a user.

Parenting, as is often said, is the most difficult, most fulfilling job. You don’t know the results of your work until much later, when you cannot change the foundations.

While there are no guarantees, there are ways to reduce the chances of ending up with a child who is unable to function effectively in a world full of challenges.



So where does one begin?

As with many things in life, it begins with your personal vision for parenting. Do you have one? Do you have a picture of what the child you are raising, or the one you would like to raise will be like when they are 20, 24, 35?

We do this in business all the time. We set strategy, we have targets, we track performance, we review actions, and keep a learning log and use that to review strategy.

Okay, not always, but it is good practice. Guess what? This can be done for parenting too. I call this ‘parenting intentionally’. When you begin with the end in mind, you can work backwards to identify steps you need to take to end up there.

It helps you make choices because you have a yardstick against which to measure: will it move you towards your vision or not? It motivates you to learn – to get better at doing what will help you achieve your goal.

Let me tell you a story.

Charity is three years old. Her parents, like many others, work away from home, leaving every morning to return in the evening. Weekends are different because they don’t leave as early, and sometimes go out with Charity.

She loves this and cries no end if they go out without her. Because the parents hate to hear their daughter cry, they have devised a way to avoid it. When they want to leave without her, they send her off to look for her shoes then quickly escape.

When Charity returns to where she left her parents ‘waiting for her to put on her shoes’ she finds that they have disappeared.

Charity’s parents are protecting themselves from hearing Charity’s cries, and they are protecting Charity from having to hear No from them. Besides, they think she is too young to be affected by their deception.

What they may not realise is that they are also teaching their daughter not to trust, and when she grows up and gets into relationships, she may become clingy and distrustful, the kind of person who checks her partners phone messages and calls up his friends to see if indeed he is with them. The kind of person you really don’t want to be in a relationship with.

Now, this is just a story, and Charity could as well be John, but it is based on real happenings.

What are you doing with good intentions that is denying your child effective life skills?

Being intentional begins with having a clear sense of what you are doing, and what is driving it. A good place to start is interrogating your parenting stories.

What do you tell yourself about what parenting should be? ‘As a parent I am not my child’s friend, therefore there is nothing like discussing things. My house, my rules.’ ‘This is what my parents did to me, and I turned out ok, so I will replicate it for my child.’ ‘Parenting is hard, I really don’t know how to do it.’ ‘My children must never suffer like I did, so I will give them everything.’ ‘Too much love spoils a child.

How about telling yourself this story: I can learn how to use my best senses to be the best parent that I can be. I can read and learn about how to help my child develop effective life skills.

I can avoid repeating negative behaviours that I learned from the way I was parented. I can look inside myself and sort out the issues that cause me to lash out at my child.

I can stop being afraid of my shortcomings as a person and put in the work to become a parent who raises children who will take responsibility, overcome obstacles, communicate clearly, fear God, respect others, take care of me in my old age, and generally make positive contributions to this world.

It begins with your parenting vision. What is your parenting vision? Can you describe the kind of person you want to raise? What do you need to do in order to raise that child? Who do you need to become? And what are you going to do about it?


Jaki Waske-Sihanya is a Goal Achievement Coach. She holds an Associate Certified Credential (ACC) from the International Coach Federation.

After more than two decades in the corporate sector she has a strong multicultural awareness and a deep sense of what drives people to succeed in business, career, and personally, as well as what holds them back. She helps her clients achieve their life goals, including parenting, career, and academic goals. Do you have feedback on this article? Please email: [email protected]