Design for thriving?  Easier said than done.  What if my child is not thriving?  Where do I start?  What changes do I make?

Every parent knows the experience of a season when their child isn’t flourishing.  Maybe it is a season full of foul frustration or school is so difficult or sadness is weighing down all around.  Maybe your daughter is ‘cutting’ or your son is bullying.  Maybe hurt or rejection is just oozing out.

Nothing is more painful than watching a child struggle.

Nothing brings me to tears faster than watching my child struggle.  I’ve been a mom for a long time: since 1996 to be exact.  Now, with my bonus baby, at age 7, I’m wondering again, “How can I design for thriving?”

Here are some questions I ask myself on the journey to design for thriving.

What Matters Most?

I invite you to ask the question.  Learn Forward suggests a model of faith, worthiness, selfhood, belonging, or changemaking.  But, that’s only one model.  What matters most to you?  Maybe it is love, laughter, and life.  We have many thoughts and feelings, yet possibly the most important part is drawing what matters into language and pasting it on the wall.

Am I Modeling Thriving?

As a parent or teacher, your job is to “model the way.”  Famous leadership gurus, Kouzes and Posner, wrote a book called the Leadership Challenge and their first invitation is to model the way.  Do you realize you are the leader in your classroom and/or home?  Do you think of yourself as a model for the children in your life?

If ‘flourishing’ isn’t your middle name right now, that’s okay.  In fact, it’s normal.  Feel that sadness.  Lean into the grief.  Let the tears fall.  I wrote a whole book based on the difficult and dark nights of my soul.  Fear not, insight follows just behind those feelings.

Is My Heart Wide Open to My Child?

Each child in your world needs to see the twinkle in your eye for them!  Are you proud of your child?  Do you cherish him or her?  How can they tell?

A child with a ‘generous invitation to exist in our presence’ feels an abiding sense of belonging and rest.  From there, the learning tumbles into action.

Are My Child’s Basic Needs Met?

In general, I think our children are tired and sleep deprived.  Recently, I was in a classroom and when asked about the past day, about 1/3 of the students mentioned being tired.  How many days per week do you have to wake your child up?  How eagerly does your child meet the day?  Even my children who aren’t morning birds will meet the day with openness if they’ve slept enough.

Great nutrition is also important.  How can we offer a big helping of “relationship” with the food, as both nourish our children?

Consider your child’s personality, development, and strengths is the best way to move to needs.  Frankly, many of our children need more sleep and more emotional playgrounds (more on that in a future blog post, so let’s call it “Play” for now).  What can we do to facilitate both active and passive rest?  This is where we work through emotions, heal, and recover from a world that is wounding and challenging.


I hope these key questions inspire you to consider how to define next steps when your child isn’t thriving or when things feel really difficult.  Trust your answers to these questions.  Your yearning will lead you through the maze of healthy development.

For the sake of the children,