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                                      (Part  3 of 4: Surviving the Journey!)

 
There they were—all nine of them—Grant and Grace and their seven goslings. My plan to make a quick exit from my office to get ahead of the evening traffic was altered when I saw my favorite geese family out for a late afternoon stroll. After putting my office gear into my car and grabbing my camera, I followed them as they meandered around the grassy perimeter in a search for sun and sustenance. At first I could locate only five goslings and became worried that two of the “kids” had been lost to some unwelcomed fate. But then the other two waddled out of a shadowy hiding place into the revealing sunlight. Keeping a respectful distance I watched for some time with keen interest as the parents instructed their children in the development of “let’s find dinner” skills.
 
 
My observations were accompanied by various ponderings about geese parenting and possible similarities and applications to human parenting. Essentially, Grant and Grace were teaching their goslings how to stay alive in an environment that is not always conducive to comfort or even cooperative for survival. They were providing basic survival skills deemed necessary for the journey toward adulthood. Likewise, human parents own the awesome responsibility of providing for their children so that their offspring can both survive today and can also reach adulthood safely and successfully. Our parenting travels are usually filled with a mixture of joy and stress as we equip our children to survive the journey.
 
 
While professional parenting is probably an unrealistic goal, most Dads and Moms aspire to be as “pro” (that is, professional) as they can become. So, even though we make our share of mistakes we continue to learn and to grow in our efforts toward becoming a “PRO-parent.” We’ve already explored two important “PRO-parent” roles, the Producer and the Protector roles. Now we’re ready for the third role which is “Provider.” Producing children begins the parenting journey, protecting children safeguards the parenting journey, and providing for children equips them for surviving the journey.
 
 
The provider role is not easily defined or described. Contemporary parents vary widely in their beliefs about the “what” and the “how much” components of the provider role. Both components merit much thought and attention.
 
What to provide . . .
 

Specifically, what should I provide for my children? What do they need—for now and for adulthood? Furthermore, who should decide what they need? These questions deal with tough but important issues to consider. Regarding that “who decides” issue, many parents feel overwhelmed by the pressure of external society and/or the problem of inner ignorance. If we feel inadequate to determine the needs of our children, we are obviously vulnerable to the voices of our culture that entice our children down certain highways toward uncertain destinations. When we feel overwhelmed by these pressures and problems, we could incur “provider paralysis” and, as a result, abdicate our responsibility to identify and fulfill the real needs that our children possess. The knowledge of “what a child needs” is a prerequisite to parenthood; until we have at least a basic understanding of that subject we are not ready to begin the parenting journey. Uninformed parents who have already begun the journey need to study hard and learn quickly so that they will able to provide for their children the preparation they need for adulthood. While doing so, these parents must assume personal responsibility for their children and therefore protect their kids from the negative influences of contemporary culture.
 
 
So, what do our children need for us to provide? Generally speaking, our children need several basic things. They need a physically and emotionally safe setting in which to live, learn, and grow. They need the daily necessities of life, such as food, water, shelter, and clothing. They need the education and training required to equip them for their own survival in life. They need to know that they are loved and valued by their parents. These four areas of need are basic to a child’s well-being. Other items that may come to mind are probably variations on one of these four themes. While a thorough exploration of a child’s needs is not possible in this brief article, we do need to consider two issues that are critically important to a child’s successful launch into adulthood:  survival skills and personal values.
 
 
Providing Survival Skills . . .
 

By definition basic survival skills are essential to surviving day-by-day in a difficult and uncertain world. If our children do not develop those skills by the time they reach chronological adulthood, they will probably try to delay the launch timetable or they will “crash and burn” following an ineffective launch experience. Without sufficient survival skills the young adult will soon conclude that the Adult Highway is a very frightening and extremely difficult road to travel. As a therapist I’ve worked with countless such young adults who feel overwhelmed with life simply because they were unprepared for adulthood. I’ve heard many comments like, “I wish I had learned those skills growing up.” The parents may have failed to provide the needed preparation, or the individual simply refused to learn the skills the parents had tried to provide. Either way, the struggling young adult is traveling a perilous highway and must learn survival skills quickly or else join the group of “crash and burn” travelers stuck in the nearest ditch.
 
 
Preferably, the concerned parents will identify and prioritize the skills that they believe are most crucial to their child’s survival. Then they will design an action plan through which those specific skills can be learned and applied. The plan will include both educational activities for learning and experiential opportunities for application. The preparatory learning process begins at birth and culminates in a successful launch into adulthood. At launch time the young adult probably only has a minimal level of skill development, but hopefully that level is enough for the initial launch. The survival skills will continue to be improved and fine-tuned as the new adult travels year-by-year along the Adult Highway toward his end-of-life destination. 
  
 
The development of survival skills is a very important issue to all conscientious and concerned parents. If you have found a good plan of action or if you have designed your own workable plan, you are miles ahead of most parents on the Parenting Highway. During the early 1980’s I became very interested in this subject and decided to construct a worksheet that parents could use to provide survival skills training for their children. The resulting checklist was a good start but admittedly less than what I preferred. I used the checklist in a number of “Project Prepare” parenting workshops and found that the parents were receptive to and appreciative of the material. In recent months I have revised the checklist to reflect changes in terminology and technology. The checklist is a useful resource or tool that I use in therapy to help families with young adults to resolve stressful launch problems. I’ve shared the checklist with other parents who want to initiate a multi-year training program through which they can teach basic survival skills to their pre-teen and teenage children.
 

In summary, the Survival Skills Checklist (SSC) has been developed to assist individuals as they prepare for their “launch” into full adulthood. The process of “becoming an adult” involves much more than passing a certain chronological age. Many skills are necessary for survival, and they need to be included in an individual’s personal “roadmap” that is essential for a safe and successful journey through life. These survival skills need to be developed while the individuals are still in school, at least by the completion of their high school or college years. Young adults who try to launch (or move out from the family home) prematurely (that is, without these survival skills) are likely to experience a very bumpy journey with multiple “breakdowns and collisions” along the Highway of Life. The checklist is designed to allow parents (or other adults) to be involved in the Assessment and Plan of Action processes. The parents (or other adults) can complete the SSC on the young person and their perspectives can be added to the information gained by the individual’s own self-assessment. This teamwork approach is highly recommended when a young person is very serious about “launching” and wants to be as prepared as possible for the experience.
 
 
Part One, the Survival Skills Assessment, contains a listing of personal skills grouped in ten specific areas of concern. The lists are not intended to be exhaustive but rather representative of the types of survival skills needed for adulthood. Each area contains two blank spaces in which additional items can be included. In Part One the young person circles the number that reflects the skill level he thinks he currently has for that item. Personal notes can be written in the margins to help explain why a particular item was assessed the way it was. Obviously, when the parents (or other adults) complete the SSC, they do the assessment based on how they perceive the child’s level of skill for each item.  The same scoring system is used for all items, even though some items admittedly may seem more important than others. The scoring is designed to reveal a person’s growth as skills are strengthened and reassessed at a later time. Increased scores obviously reflect positive growth. Part One ends with a summary of scores for the Survival Skills areas.
 
Part Two, the Planning Worksheet for Survival Skills Development, provides the individual and the parents a process for identifying specific skills for which growth is desired. The person then develops a Plan of Action (priorities and strategies) for achieving that improvement.
 
 
Although this SSC can be used by young adults for launch preparation purposes, I recommend that parents start using the checklist when their child is about age twelve. That kind of start allows several years for periodic assessment, planning, and skills development. Parents who use this approach know that they are working diligently in specific ways to equip their children and to enable them to experience a positive launch into full adulthood.
 
 
(Note: This Survival Skills Checklist is available for you to examine for potential usage with your children. To see the SSC please click on the link provided at the end of this article.)
 
 
Providing Personal Values . . .
 
In addition to needing basic survival skills a young adult also needs certain personal values that are important for individual health and for relationship success. Without appropriate values the young adult could use his survival skills for harmful and detrimental purposes. Essentially, personal values guide and direct the usage of survival skills toward the accomplishment of positive, appropriate goals. As with survival skills, the parents of the child need to determine the values needed by their children. If the parents fail to identify and provide those values, the contemporary culture will be eager to offer its own value system to the child. Wise parents might consider cultural influences but hopefully will make the final decisions themselves in regard to the development of personal values.
 
 
Specifically, what personal values do you want your children to possess by the time they move into full adulthood? Have you identified those values? And, are you implementing a plan of action designed to nurture the development of those chosen values? If not, you may be doing what many parents tend to do—“just winging it and hoping for the best.” This “hit-or-miss” approach will probably not achieve the results you want. A better approach involves the identification of the values you want for your child and a plan of action designed to provide for the development of those values.
 
 
Most parents would identify values like responsibility, resourcefulness, autonomy, assertiveness, self-confidence, and respectfulness. Potential values could relate to work ethics, social effectiveness, and spiritual growth.  After the key values are selected, the parents need to consider the best way to nurture the growth of those values. Hopefully, through their own lifestyle the two parents are providing a good example to the children for the values they want the children to possess. Otherwise, the parental hypocrisy will undermine and thwart the development of those values within the children.
 
 
In addition to providing a good example the parents need to consider three types or avenues of values development: education, training, and experience. Sometimes all three types can be used in the same activity. Daily chores can nurture the value of responsibility. The completion of homework without constant parental involvement can nurture the value of autonomy. Resourcefulness is nurtured when we train children how to solve problems or where to find relevant information.
 
 
In regard to the development of personal values I was thinking recently about the efforts of my two daughters with their children. For example, Katherine, my older daughter, and her husband wanted to encourage the value of compassion within their two teenagers (my grandchildren) so they took them on several occasions to work in a community food bank. Their son recently participated in a church-sponsored mission trip to Honduras, and their daughter recently worked in a church-led benevolent effort with the homeless people in an inner-city setting. Likewise, Elizabeth, my younger daughter, and her husband wanted to encourage similar values in their children, and so they have included the three children (my grandchildren) in their efforts to help “street people” in an inner-city area as well as providing “foster care” in their home for a number of underprivileged children. The provision of those activities allowed for “up close and personal” experiences that hopefully nurtured the development of the value of compassion. This “teach and do” approach is a good model for other parents to imitate.
 
How Much to Provide . . .
 

As stated earlier, many parents struggle with the provider role in regard to the “how much” issue. “How much should I provide for my children?” The question challenges us because in some areas of life there cannot be “too much” or “too little.” At the same time, in most areas there is a clear danger in providing “too much” or “too little.”
 
 
In terms of “material stuff” parents often provide “too much” and thereby overindulge and spoil their children. For some parents, however, the “spoiling” of children is used as a gauge or measure of their financial fitness or social status and is viewed as a positive practice. Other parents tend to overindulge because they want their kids to enjoy a “better lifestyle” than they had, and so they try to provide a standard of living that far exceeds their ability to afford or support. As a result, they incur a heavy indebtedness that threatens the financial security of the family. Some parents overindulge simply because they are not willing to refuse the continual demands of their selfish, never-satisfied children. The long-term results of this overindulgent pattern are usually disastrous. In providing “too much” materially parents fail to provide the development of necessary survival skills, and they actually hinder the development of important personal values, such as gratitude, contentment, and stewardship.
 
 
On the other hand, many parents provide “too little” and thereby neglect their children. Unfortunate circumstances such as unexpected job losses or debilitating injuries could occur that make the parents simply unable to provide basic necessities. In other situations the “failure to provide” may be due to a lack of skills or resources on the part of parents who are unprepared for parenthood. Regrettably, they cannot provide what they do not have. Other parents fail to provide because of personal apathy or persistent laziness. The apathetic or lazy parents comprise the element of “deadbeat parents” that is truly a blight and embarrassment within our society.
 

If we provide too much, we are apt to overindulge and “spoil” our children. Conversely, if we provide too little, we could commit the mistake of neglecting our children. Both patterns (spoiling and neglecting) hinder the development of the skills and values needed for adulthood. Clearly, our goal is twofold:  first, to avoid the extremes of spoiling and neglecting, and, secondly, to provide the right amount of the elements that will allow our children to survive today and that will equip and prepare them for successful adulthood.  Therefore, we try to apply wisdom in the discernment of “wants” versus “needs.” We make great efforts to provide the “needs,” and we practice caution in providing too much of a child’s “wants.”
 
Concluding thoughts . . .
 

In this brief article we’ve explored the “provider role” of parenting, specifically in relation to the development of survival skills and personal values. Our goal is to provide for our children the skills and values they will need for their eventual launch into adulthood. As emphasized elsewhere, our efforts cannot guarantee a successful launch but they do provide reasonable reassurances. Since a “guarantee” is not available, most of us will take all of the “reassurances” we can get!

I compliment you for your interest in becoming the best “PRO-parent” you can be. I hope that this material will encourage your efforts to fulfill your provider role with your children. I wish you the very best in your travels along the Parenting Highway.
 
And I wish you the very best in all of your relationship travels.

                                                        
 
 

Note:  To examine a PDF version of the Survival Skills Checklist described in this article please click the image to the right or click here.
 
 
 






 
 
 
 
 
Other Resources: If you are looking for additional information about parenthood, check out the list of helpful books and relevant websites on the Parenting category under Resources (from the Home Page), or just click here.
 


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                ​(Blog #PC405)

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