More than forty years ago, a father sent his young son to a distant city to study.
It was a time before inexpensive flights and frequent flier miles but the father, wanting to check up on his son's progress, made the long, tiring journey.
When he arrived at the seminary, the father was asked why he didn't simply call.
"Let me explain," the father replied. "If I owned a factory in this city, distance or not, would I not personally come and check up on the progress of the business? Do you think I would just accept a phone report of my profits and losses? Would it be enough for me to review quarterly financial reports? No, I would be here."
Anyone who is responsible with an investment portfolio will occasionally have a professional review it. If a stock suddenly shows a significant decrease in value, we would run to the investment advisor with great urgency. Reviewing assets and materialistic belongings is very common and we consider ourselves irresponsible if we don't have a plan for review. In fact, you probably receive regular update
forms from your insurance company, asking you for details to evaluate the amount of coverage you have.
We all know that being underinsured can be problematic. This article will address the need for reviewing the portfolio of a different kind of our most precious possession our children.
We must identify who would be best to approach for some assistance in developing the "human portfolio". A child's teacher, principal, congregational leader, a family friend or relative are certainly good choices. Unfortunately, the professional "Offspring Counselor" doesn't exist.
It may be easy to review some investment numbers and suggest one investment over another. But really getting to know the characteristics and inner workings of a person requires great insight and wisdom. Parents are often too close to the situation to have a healthy, objective view of the strengths and
weaknesses of their own child. One may be able to have all that it takes to assist your friend in reviewing his child, but it is difficult to see your own child objectively.
Whether or not you have someone to go to for assistance, I suggest that the first step is to create an inventory of your child's strengths and weaknesses. Any format is acceptable as long as it details those areas with specific examples. You may want to begin by creating three lists one of the child's greatest attributes, one of the child's greatest challenges and one of the areas that the child shows average results. The list will look very different, when completed at different ages during the child's development.
Below is what the list may look like for a nine-year old:
My child shows great sensitivity to the pain of others. I know that because I see how he's overcome with emotion when he hears sad news.
My child has a powerful memory. I know that because he can always remember phone numbers and addresses.
My child shows much respect to his teachers and authority figures. I know that because they tell me the specific examples of his behavior and he always shows good marks on the behavior areas of the report card.
- My child is highly unorganized. I know this because he usually forgets to bring home the work he needs at home from school.
- My child is very stingy. I know this because he never spends any part of his weekly allowance.
- My child has a bad temper. I know this because of the way he slams the door shut when he gets into a fight with his brother.
My child does acceptable work in school work. I know this because his grades are usually within the 80-
- My child is friendly enough. I know this because at times he likes to have friends over, at times he goes to others and at times he likes to stay alone.
- My child understands physical hygiene within an acceptable range. I know this because he usually brushes his teeth.
Creating this list is no simple task the first time you do it. Once it is done, reviewing, grading and updating it is easy. It is best when this list is created by at least three people the mother, the father and the child.
The child must be assisted with the completion of this form and must be assured that this
will remain private among the three of you. You will be amazed at the level of honesty your child will exhibit when creating such a list. To make it easy and understandable, we will call this list "the inventory".
For some people, writing this inventory will come easier than for others. For some it may be painful to face a serious analysis on paper of how one is faring and then have to confront a failure. As difficult as it may be, it becomes easier when we realize that with honest examination at an early stage in a person's development we can avoid much greater problems later on, when the failures and weaknesses are ingrained
and become much more difficult to change.
I have had situations when parents didn't know how to begin this process. Their paper remained blank. I told them not to worry. It doesn't mean that they don't know their child. This process requires some skill and objectivity. You may also be confused with some areas that show conflicted symptoms.
An example would be in determining if your child is stingy or a spendthrift. What do you write when you notice that your child will never spend money on others and spend lots of money on himself or the reverse?
What you will probably experience is that once you start working on this list, many doors will open for you. A greater understanding of your child will emerge. If you are brave enough, you may want to test the creation of such a list by writing an inventory on yourself your own strength, weaknesses
and average areas.
How often this list is created is the next issue to be resolved. For this question there is no uniform response. Much depends on the child, his/her age and other variables. The steps that you take as a result of reviewing the inventory may call for more frequent updates.
That brings us to the question, now what? If you completed the inventory, the hardest part is now behind you. In a future column we will discuss how to use the completed inventory for growth and steady advantage.
I encourage you to use this exercise as a learning experience, conducted in a positive and non-confrontational manner. Serious self-examination can be stressful. Don't add to it by admonishing your child along the way and berating him/her for not doing better. Stay focused on the positive results of growth that will emerge from the process.
To be continued