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It may be a lack of effort on the part of your parents that motivates you to be the kind of parent they weren't, or you may find yourself trying to emulate your parents because you realize the older you get that they really gave you their very best.
Either way, there is no such thing on this earth as a perfect parent, but there are a few things you can do to set your kids on a path to success.
1. Personal interviews
It doesn't matter whether it's a father, mother or both parents conducting an interview with their child, the important thing is that it is done. Children need an opportunity to talk to their parents one on one. They need an open forum to discuss concerns and to share their dreams.
In my home, my father held interviews with us once a month. He always helped us set educational, physical and spiritual goals for our lives. He emphasized the importance of writing down these goals because as he often quoted, "A goal not written is only a wish."
When I was a college student, I returned home one day to find one such list of goals on my mirror. My mom had found an old list of my goals while cleaning and placed it somewhere I would easily see it when I returned home. As I looked over these goals that I had long since forgotten recording, I realized that I achieved almost every goal on my list. I had played college basketball, I was a student at the university I wanted to attend, I had read the books I wanted to read, and had just enjoyed my summer dream job.
There is power in talking with your children, helping them set their sights high and then encouraging them to achieve their goals. I know this because I experienced firsthand the difference this made in my life.
2. Take them to museums
When your kids are given the choice between Frankie's Fun Park and a museum, it may be easy to choose go-karts over aisles of gothic art. But if you can instill in your children a thirst for knowledge at a young age, you will find that eventually they will choose museums on their own.
National Geographic offers a few suggestions for how to raise a museum-loving kid. It encourages parents leave their children wanting more (meaning, don't stay all day long), find interactive opportunities (it doesn't get much cooler than taking a Segway for a test drive), and to go to museums that feature subjects that already interest your children.
When it comes to this one, you can be creative (pun intended). Teach them to love music of all kinds. Dance with them in the kitchen. Take them to see "The Sound of Music" at a local theater and watch the Olympics with them. Fingerpaint or take them somewhere to create and paint their own pottery.
These things will encourage your kids to find their own interests and dream, but will also naturally transition into a desire to take music or dance classes. You will find over time that you have created a well-rounded human being who not only loves the music playing on the radio but also appreciates Mozart.
As a little girl, I auditioned to be in "Annie." I was cast as one of the orphans with just four lines in the whole play. Our community theater was about a half hour drive away from our home but my dad took me almost every day. By opening night, he and I could quote the entire play together. He had to be sick of "Annie" by that point, but he never let on. I knew it was important to him because it was important to me.
4. Serve with them
This one is crucial, but you can't just wake your kids up for a Saturday morning service project and send them on their way in an effort to teach them how to serve. You teach your children to serve by setting an example of service — and better yet, you serve with them.
Benjamin Franklin once said, "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."
Each week, my family volunteers at a local retirement home. We have made friends with former war heroes and Olympians who are now just sitting in a home seemingly forgotten. My mom is the ringleader. She's the one who gets us to go even when we don't feel like it. She insists that she benefits more from these visits than the residents, but I've seen their faces when she walks in the room. She is a light at a time in their lives when their light is becoming increasingly dim.
Helping your kids find ways to serve within your own family and within your community will foster within them a greater love for each other, your community and the environment. Teach them that by being conscious of their environmental footprint they are not only impacting the lives of those around them but also the lives of those in future generations. Free to Choose Network offers a valuable resource with videos to help teach your children about how to better care for the environment.
This is not a foolproof plan for successful parenting, but from the experience of a child who was the beneficiary, these five things will add up to become millions of little things. And those millions of little things will eventually be remembered as big things.
Visit Free to Choose Network for more information on how you can save money and improve the future of the earth for your children.