Parenthood: 7 Lessons For Legacy

So, you have sex, have a kid, and you're magically a good parent, right?

Well, that's what I thought of parenthood, minus the guarantee on good. The idea that giving birth makes someone a good parent? To me, a cheap definition of the word.

Now, I'm a young parent with a one-year-old at home. There is still so much learning and adapting to do, but I've found that parenthood means abundantly more to me than what I thought as a kid. I want to be a good parent, and I know there are values I can continually practice and grow in so I can model and teach them to my children.

Here are some core values, responsibilities and lessons I have discovered as a parent that I want to pass on to them:

Teaching my kids resilience is crucial.

I believe this is the most important characteristic I can teach my kids: the ability to fail, again and again, but keep showing up until the goal is accomplished. I want to teach them that it takes what it takes to achieve their goals, that there is no effort too big or too small. Some goals may seem easier and others harder, but, regardless, they all take tenacity.

My job is not to bring my kids back to my childhood, but to help them adapt to their own.

Never in the history of mankind have we seen such rapid change from generation to generation. At times, it may seem like our advances are slow or that changes aren't happening at all, but that is not true.

Think about the cultural differences today from when you were a child. Would you let your children or grandchildren do the things that were normal when you were a kid? Our society has changed significantly since then. It's difficult to imagine growing up in today's world, and our job as parents is so different from how it was for our parents.

Back then, it was generally a parent's job to teach the same values they were taught. Not only that, but with technology growing at a slower pace then, the rate of change in society from generation to generation wasn't as drastic as it is now. Of course, it wasn't always easy to adapt to new things, but each new generation wasn't necessarily foreign.

Now, the faster pace of change doesn't work with the habits we grew up with when things were slower; the same method of parenting simply doesn't work. A parent's job today must not be to bring their kids into what they found comfortable, but to dive into the new, fast world and help their kids adapt well. This skill of teaching kids to adapt to a changing society will aid them as they grow.

My job is to help my kids figure out their talents.

Every person has their own innate talents, though everyone is not necessarily a master at those talents. There are only so many professional athletes, Fortune 500 companies, and top lawyers or doctors.

That being said, most people have multiple moderate talents. That may seem bad, but if you combine a few moderate talents, you could be the only person in that field with that particular combination of skills.

For example, maybe you won't be the number-one IT guy in the world, but you have a knack for communication. You could build a career as an IT guy with a special skill of breaking down the IT complexities for the layman.

In this way, as a parent, I should foster an environment for my kids to explore their own talents and build upon them.

Values are shown, not taught.

There are no characteristics I can teach my kids by word alone. Words are cheap, and everyone is talking these days. I would rather share little in the way of lecture moments with my kids, and invite them to witness my vulnerability as I struggle and grow through experiences.

How much more powerful is it when someone gives you advice, not from something they read, but from a daily habit you have seen them practice? It's easy to take fitness advice from a person who's fit, or business advice from a CEO. Those are the people to take that kind of advice from.

If I want to provide value to my kids, they need to see me sleep-deprived, exercising hard, pursuing my dreams, and working to grow and be better. I want my kids to see me make mistakes, and watch me adapt and overcome. I never want to tell my kids how they should live without first living it myself. If my kids need help in advanced topics that I am not qualified in, it'll be my job to find someone who is.

Patience today leads to greater rewards tomorrow.

The Marshmallow Test is a well-known experiment that was done with a group of children in 1972. Each child would be in a room, one on one, with an adult. The adult would ask if the child wanted one marshmallow now or two marshmallows in 15 minutes. As one might expect, most of the children chose to have one right then, and only a few chose to wait for two in 15 minutes. The idea was to determine if children were open to delayed gratification.

Fifteen years later, scientists decided to follow up with all the children in this experiment. The results were astounding. The children with the greatest ability to delay gratification had higher test scores and better athletic ability, and they graduated with a higher grade-point average. The results showed how patience can pay some of the greatest dividends.

This will probably be the hardest thing to teach my kids, as children are notoriously known for impatience. I will aim to continually reward my kids for patience with bigger rewards, rather than getting something instantly.

Effort is compounding.

Albert Einstein once said that compound interest is "the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it." However, interest is not the only thing that compounds. Life is a series of compounding events: effort, habits, and work.

Life compounds, but the direction in which it compounds is completely up to you. If you eat badly, the compounding effect in your life is becoming overweight, slower cognitive function (there is science behind this), and a higher risk of disease. The more you invest in your retirement, the more it compounds with interest. When you work out or build a business, the amount of effort and money you invest will allow compounding interest to build in your favor.

This will be incredibly rewarding as my kids start to understand this, and as their efforts continually show growth in whatever they do. I have already begun to see this somewhat in my son, and I seek to nourish this tremendously.

Rewards must be attached to the effort, not the goal.

In our culture, goals are everything. We sit and talk about goals. We fantasize them. Having goals is sexy. Some of the biggest hashtags trending now are things like #growthmindset, #chasingmydream, #entrepreneur, and #goals. Millions of dollars have been spent to help people achieve their goals.

The problem with goals, however, is this: What's next?

Most people assign all the rewards to finishing their goals. There is nothing wrong with rewarding yourself for meeting your goal, but the problem is that this encourages you to only chase achievement rather than the process. Most people don't realize that the process is the bread and butter. Falling in love with the process of achievement is what differentiates the great from the good.

Former UCLA Head Coach John Wooden said, "Essentially, I was a always more of a practice coach than a game coach. This is because of my conviction that a player who practices well, plays well."

Wooden was known for making sure that his players gave their all in practice, and the game allowed the players to do what had become natural for them.

I plan to reward my kids for their efforts in practice, as well as go over their tactics with them. This may sounds backward, and it should be. I want my kids to fall in love with the process of achieving greatness, not with winning momentary greatness. Every day can be improved and enjoyed.

I know parenthood will be rough, but I am determined to always teach my kids that life is worth chasing. Discomfort today can lead to comfort tomorrow. Comfort today leads to dissatisfaction tomorrow. Tenacity and resilience are some of the best characteristics my kids can have. They can (and should) always be curious, and the acquisition of skills is crucial.

I am still a young parent, and have so much to learn. Please let me know some of the greatest lessons you've learned as a parent or mentor to kids, or just your thoughts of lessons you think kids should learn to do well in life.

© 2020 by Russell Hebert

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