Parenting with the End in Mind

A few weeks ago, while my family was hanging out at Buffalo Wild Wings, it hit me – this is the challenge of being a parent today. 800 TVs were playing different channels, tablets were asking trivia questions, someone was singing happy birthday, 3/5’s of us were getting phone notifications, and we had 40 varieties of chicken nuggets all demanding our attention (you do know that’s what boneless chicken wings are, right?). How in the world was I going to get my kids to focus on anything much less on the most important things for them to learn in their short childhood?? It wasn’t a full-on existential crisis, but it was a worrying thought. Now, I love Buffalo Wild Wings, but helping kids grow up isn’t the point of their business, is it?

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey writes on the habit: Begin with the End in Mind saying,

“To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”

To “begin with the end in mind” has helped me in so many areas of my life. Google Maps isn’t very helpful if you don’t know where you’re going. (If you say, “Hey Siri, how do I get somewhere?” She asks, “Where would you like to go?“) But with a clear destination, the path becomes clear as well. So many things can happen by accident in life. But real and lasting success (in school, sports, work, relationships, finances, and yes, parenting) is always purposeful and planned.

So, how can we approach parenting with purpose and intention in a BWW world? How can I avoid parenting in a short-term gain, long-term loss way? How can I help my kids learn and grow up in a healthy way, not by accident?!

Covey continues,

“The same is true with parenting. If you want to raise responsible, self-disciplined children, you have to keep that end clearly in mind as you interact with your children on a daily basis. You can’t behave toward them in ways that undermine their self-discipline or self-esteem.”

This is, of course, easier said than done. With the chaos of life, it can seem impossible to take a step back and think long-term about where you want your kids to end up. I get it. But imagine how valuable it would be for your kids if you were to approach parenting with the end in mind!

To help you think this through, set aside time to read through these questions (below). Pray about them. Talk with your spouse about them. Holly and I wrote down the values we wanted to shape our family (i.e., our destination) on index cards at a restaurant on a date night. I’ll never forget our conversation. Write down your thoughts in a journal or your Notes app. And revisit them on a regular basis. This will change your family. I’m not even kidding. Ok, here you go:


1. What would success look like for my kids when they grow up? Does this change what I care about or make a big deal about today as a parent? Are the most important things today the most important things of tomorrow?



2. How would I want my kids to treat other people as adults? (e.g., their spouse, kids, friends, co-workers, neighbors) Are there skills/experiences/corrections they need today that would help them in those relationships down the road?



3. What character traits would I want my kids to have as adults? (here’s a big list if you’re stumped) Am I modeling those character traits for my kids today? Do they see them in me? Am I explaining why they are important?



4. What would a healthy relationship with God look like for my kids as adults? Am I helping my kids grow in their faith today? How so? Am I praying long-term prayers for my kids?



5. What ideas/phrases do I want my kids never to forget? (e.g., Jesus loves you. You are valuable. People matter. Be quick to forgive. Have fun and learn a lot. Always say please and thank you.) What phrases would you want to repeat and repeat and repeat so that they work their way into the hearts of your kids?