Photo by Sarah Joiner

I remember discovering a book when my four kids were young that helped me understand something about how kids should turn out. The author had interviewed a group of young adults that had exceptional characteristics. He wanted to find out what their parents had done to help them become such quality individuals.

So he asked these ideal kids a series of questions about their parents and made a list of characteristics that all their parents had in common. Then he wrote a book to reveal the specific list of things every parent should do if they hoped to raise kids who “turn out ” like these kids.

I obviously read it–because I wanted to be a better parent. In the middle of the book, something occurred to me. So I called up the author and asked this question, “Did you interview their brothers and sisters too?”

He replied, “What do you mean?”

I said, “I was just wondering if the same list of things these parents did to raise their ideal kid worked on ALL of their kids?”

There was a pause before he explained, “I only interviewed the kids who turned out a certain way. I didn’t interview the kids who I didn’t think turned out right.”

That’s when I started asking more questions, “So what do you mean by “turn out right” anyway? And what if the other siblings didn’t turn out right? Doesn’t that mean if these parents did the same things for all their kids, and some didn’t turn out the way they hoped, then sometimes it just didn’t work?”

Yes, I overanalyze.

And I do have a problem with skepticism.

But parenting is not a science or a formula.

Here’s something to consider.

Maybe the goal is not for your kids to turn out right, or even to turn out the way you have pictured for them to turn out. Maybe your goal should be to help your kids turn out the way they were designed to be. Maybe one of the most important things to learn as a parent is how each of your children are wired a little different. And that’s okay.

Your job is to do whatever you can to help them discover their own personal attributes and find their specific calling. That may also actually mean you treat them each a little differently and not the same.

But on this point, I hope you will trust me: Your children will probably not turn out exactly the way you expect them to. And if you are trying to push them into a specific mold or conform them to a picture of how you think they should be, you could be setting them up to feel like they will never measure up.

Reggie Joiner Headshot_bw 2013Reggie is founder and CEO of Orange. He has co-written two parenting books, Playing for Keeps and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity as well as other leadership books including Lead Small  and Think Orange. Reggie lives in Georgia with his wife, Debbie, and has four grown children, Reggie Paul, Hannah, Sarah and Rebekah. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.