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Monday, January 24, 2011

Does your 9 year old have a mission statement?

A mission statement is typically reserved for corporations and board rooms. Disney has a good one that seems to work for them: "We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere."  However, a personal mission statement can provide direction, affirmation and motivation to individuals as well. 

When working on personal mission statements with my undergraduate students we focus on the positives.  At the age of 20 when getting a job is high on the agenda we are looking at how the mission statement can help them focus on getting into a specific company or position that is right for them.  We also talk about how the mission statement can be used in a job interview or when writing a cover letter.  But why wait until your child is in college to run through this exercise with them?

What is a mission statement? I ended up with this definition for my son.  A mission statement is a sentence or paragraph about yourself.  It usually includes your goals and things that are important to you. I then came up with a few questions that I thought would be easy for a 9 year old to think about.  I tried to keep them short and simple.
  1. What do you want your friends to say about you?  This question is easier to answer if you pick a specific friend.
  2. If you could do any one thing better than you do it now, what would it be?
  3. Who is your hero and why?  It is not important who your daughter idolizes but rather what value or attribute that person represents.  Go ahead and let them be frivolous as well.  At 9 years old it is OK for them to like someone because they are really tall or have a cool music video.

Try to refrain from adding your own parent oriented suggestions.  A mission statement is a personal declaration and means less if someone else puts it together.  If I were to write my son's mission statement for him it would go something like this:

I am obedient and always listen to my father, mother and teachers.
I love homework and try to finish it neatly and promptly soon after getting home.
I always clean up after myself.
I want to be a lawyer or a doctor when I get older so that I can support my parents in their old age.

Here is what he actually wrote:

I will be a good friend who is funny, nice and has lots of energy.  
I will play and learn soccer like Messi.


I think I like his better.

I have seen several suggestions regarding a family mission statement.  I think this is a good approach but by 9 years old you will be surprised at how much your son and daughter thinks about their life.  Give them a chance through a personal mission statement to express some of their goals and interests.

It also helps if you write up a mission statement of your own and ask your child to help with it before asking your son to think about his.  This way it does not seem like you are just giving them work to do.  You can call it homework and flip the tables on them.  Given the number of days(7!) in the week my son asks me to help him with his homework  I think he can help me once.

Some of the ideas my son had for me were:

  1. I don't yell at him as much (I did not ask him ..."as much" as who?).  This one we broke down into patience as one of my strengths.
  2. I help him with his homework.  We agreed that this was because I know things (at least more things than a 9 year old).

My actual mission statement:

I am a patient, caring, loyal and dedicated husband and father.
I am optimistic about life and encourage others to believe in themselves and their potential to achieve anything.
I work efficiently for my clients, candidates and students and care about giving them exceptional service.
I am passionate about freedom and the ability to choose my own direction.

A mission statement should be motivating.  It should inspire your child to strive for something whether it is a short term goal or a long term goal.  However, chances are he or she may forget about it as soon as you finish writing it down.  That is OK too.  A mission statement can also affirm your child's values and help them to understand their strengths.  Sitting down and going over what makes your child great will help them to reinforce those qualities and remind us parents as well that are kids are fantastic.

Examples are great so if you make time to write a mission statement with your child please share it below in the comments.

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