It is true that leading by example is the most crucial way you cultivate the best character in your child. Your behavior makes much deeper impression upon them then what you say. Even young humans are smart enough to recognize that behavior should be weighted heavier than words.
And as summer approaches, keep this in mind! After all, no matter how hard you work professionally, what your kids care about most is the time you invest in building a relationship with them. Too many parents get way too caught up in their careers, their advancement, their “busyness” – which in the end really doesn’t matter when you are in your rocking chair. Taking that day off to see a ballgame with your kid would never have affected your career. But many parents just never take that day off. That pattern of decision making is what differentiates the great parents from mediocre ones.
So take that truth and run with it…every summer have one primary goal with your child: to do something really special with them. Something magical. Something extraordinary. Something just the two of you share together. Something they will not forget for many years, or maybe ever! Give yourself permission to dream big because isn’t that what we want our kids to do: to dream big and then do it!
There is no need to spend a lot of money, because luckily, the amount of magic an experience has is not directly correlated to the price tag. If you for you it is, you are not being creative enough. Your kids do not remember how expensive the vacation was, but how many great memories they have from it. In fact, make a point of coming up with novel ideas, go off the beaten track. Brainstorm with your child and talk about a wide variety of passions they currently have. Then, talk about things you might do with them where you share their passion and you show your willingness to dial into who they really are. This isn’t just quality time, this is “let’s chase down the dream time”.
It could be going to watch their favorite sport but at a professional level in another city. It could be hiking some segment of the Appalachian Trail. It could be going surfing or fishing on your nearest part of the coastline. It could be building a tree house in your own backyard. Find something that when you come upon that idea their eyes widen and sparkle.
It might need to be something you would never normally do. It might not be the most practical thing, because it might involve a long drive for very short stay somewhere. But don’t you want your child to learn that sometimes you need to do things that might seem a little bit outlandish to others but for you feed your passion? Isn’t this part of teaching your child to find their own voice? To have the courage to do things that others haven’t done? Teaching them to not care too much what others think.
Make this summer the time when you deepen your bond with your child by living out one of their dreams. You just might find that this radically improves your relationship with them and makes your everyday reality with them even more fun.
Think back to your childhood, and I’m willing to bet what you dwell on the most are either the fun times you had with your parents, or the lack of fun and unfulfilled desires. It is those unmet needs that I think most affect how we relate to our parents, whatever age we are. Be the parent who once in awhile lives like today might be their last day with their child. You never know, it might be.