Looking Into the Future

Are you a visionary parent?

On my 13th birthday, my parents gave me a drafting table with all the drafting tools I could imagine. For most of that year, I (Les) had been talking about how I wanted to be an architect. I’m not sure where I got the idea. However, it was my dream— that is, if I didn’t make it in the NBA playing for the Boston Celtics.

My Mom and Dad understood the vision. But it didn’t end with the table and tools. The next week, Dad got permission from my 8th grade teacher to take me out of class for the day to visit the University of Illinois School of Architecture with him. My Dad had booked a couple of appointments with some school personnel, and he and I made a day of the field trip. 

That night over dinner, once we were back at home, we filled in my Mom about our adventure. I was animated with excitement. In the weeks and months that followed, my Mom or Dad would put a clipping on my desk that pertained to something architectural. And on a weekend, my Mom took me on a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous homes near Chicago.

Needless to say, I didn’t become an architect. That dream started to fade after I took my first course in psychology. Yet, that didn’t matter. The point is that my parents were visionary, helping me see what my future might entail and what it would take to make my dreams a reality. 

Helen Keller was once asked, “What would be worse than being born blind?” She answered: “To have sight without vision.” Every visionary parent understands this sentiment. And every child who is blessed with a visionary parent has wings.

How to Become a Visionary Parent

Visionary parents have a vision for themselves. If you don’t have a vision for yourself, it is difficult for your child to rise to a vision you might help him capture. Why? Because being visionary must be modeled. Your kids need to see that you have dreams, too.  

Visionary parents picture a special future. No matter how you define success or what you hope your children become professionally, you can encourage your child to imagine his potential. When a child feels in his heart that the future is hopeful and that his parents believe in what he can become, the child faces life with a strong and positive attitude. 

You picture a special future for your child when you say things like, “You have such a generous spirit, I wouldn’t be surprised if you end up helping a lot of people when you grow older.” Or, “You are so helpful around the house, I bet you are going to make a great husband (or wife) to the person you marry.” Or, “You truly enjoy studying the ocean, I wonder if you might become a marine biologist.” 

These are ways of planting little seeds that may or may not take root. What matters is that as a visionary parent, you are considering your child’s future. You aren’t imparting your own egocentric vision of what you want your child to become. Rather, you are sensitive to your child’s unique gifts and qualities, and you point them out on occasion to highlight how they could be maximized by a picture of the future.

Visionary parents impart their blessing. Our friends Gary Smalley and John Trent wrote a book called The Blessing (Pocket). Thousands of people identify with its message of receiving a blessing from their parents as well as passing on the blessing to their children. What is the blessing? It’s the knowledge that someone in the world loves and accepts you unconditionally. And that’s exactly what happens when you picture a special future for your child. This is a key element of giving your child the blessing. According to the authors, picturing a special future for your child is like building a campfire on a dark night. It draws the child “toward the warmth of genuine concern and fulfilled potential— instead of leaving a child to head into a dark unknown.” 

As you light a pathway for your child’s future, remember to give your child the blessing. Painter Benjamin West is a good example. He tells how he loved to paint as a youngster. When his mother left the house, West would pull out the oils and try to paint. One day he made a mess with the oils. He hoped to get it cleaned up before his mother came back. However, she returned and discovered the mess. West said what she did next completely surprised him. She picked up his painting and said, “My, what a beautiful painting of your sister.” She gave him a kiss on the cheek and walked away. With that kiss, West says, he became a painter.

Every day, you have the opportunity to paint a picture of the future for your child, even when it seems like your son or daughter has made a mess. And each time you apply a single stroke to this picture of your child’s future, you are giving an immeasurable blessing.

How Visionary Are You?

The following quiz is designed to get your wheels turning. Don’t worry about getting the “right” answer, just circle true or false to each question depending on what you currently believe.

  1. I know exactly what my child should do when he or she grows older. True/False
  2. I’m not that worried or concerned about seeing the future for my child. All that matters is being fully present right now. True/False
  3. Having a vision for my child’s future is low on my priority list as a parent. True/False
  4. It’s up to my child to eventually find his own vision for his life. My goal is to remain hands-off until he discovers it, and then I will be supportive. True/False
  5. I may not have a vision for myself. That’s of little consequence in helping my child capture a personal vision for the future. True/ False

Scoring

If you answered “true” to any of these five items that’s a pretty good sign that you need to brush up on how you can become more visionary for your child. Of course, even if you correctly answered “false” to each of these items, you can always improve this important parental quality to give your child the courage and motivation to explore his talents and create a fulfilling life toward a greater goal.