A defining moment in any parent’s life is when his son or daughter “leaves the nest.” It’s a roller coaster ride of reflection and anticipation…and conviction about how well you prepared them for success in life. (For you younger moms and dads, just wait!)
The first time it happened to me, it literally changed my life. It was August 2008, two weeks before our Michael would leave for his freshman year of college. That Sunday night I experienced a “dad moment” for a lifetime. I began questioning how I had done as his father. Did I cover the bases? How will our relationship change and grow? Did I earn a 4.0?
Honestly, I felt so convicted by these questions that I rushed to my computer and began recording all the life wisdom I could muster. My brain was bombarded by one thought after another as I reflected on the amazing leaders I’ve met. They covered fundamental questions like how one defines “success” and demonstrates honorable character. Or, how one builds strong relationships and communicates well with others. Or, how one handles adversity and becomes a masterful decision maker and time manager. Then, I turned to advice for the upcoming decisions he’d be facing, such as his academic transition, career, marriage, and managing his finances.
In the days ahead, I shared my list of 100 life success pointers with parents and leaders and they all urged me to write a book! And, so I did. In a few years, my list would become a conversational book of essential life wisdom for young people and the adults who guide them…like dads! That’s how What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead came to be.
Based on reader feedback, What I Wish I Knew at 18 is proving to be a wonderful, third party voice for parents and a rare book they can enjoy together with their teens. The key is finding a spot for regular casual conversation (e.g., coffee shops), letting them choose the topics, opening up about your life at that age, and just sharing together. The rest is magic.
So, how do you earn a 4.0 in preparing your children to thrive as adults? In a nutshell, a 4.0 Dad focuses on the following:
- Destinational Preparation: providing a comprehensive vision for an honorable, productive life and before-the-fact wisdom for key upcoming decisions (the essence of my book)
- Relational Preparation: evolving your parenting style from “control” to “influence,” based on mutual trust (“coach” vs. “lecture”); conveying your belief in them and confidently releasing them into independent life
- Transitional Preparation: ensuring they (and you!) get off to a strong start in those critical first 3-6 months after leaving home; preparing them for the upcoming social transition and avoiding putting undue pressure on them to “perform”
My hope is that What I Wish I Knew at 18 will serve parents as a destination guide for the milestone launch into adulthood. So here’s to you, Moms and Dads: May you earn a 4.0 in the eyes of your children!