What Ricochet the Dog teaches us about parenting


Are you familiar with the story of Ricochet the Dog? She began “school” as a young pup so that when she grew up she would be a Service dog for an individual with disabilities.

There are parallels between what happened during her training and what can transpire as you raise your children.

You have great hopes for your little ones and invest years doing the best you know how to grow them into adults.

A big part of that parenting is learning when you have given your children enough wisdom and direction in any given area so they can fly solo.

You hold their tiny hands and guide them as they learn to walk, and then let go as they take their first steps.

You help them read and write, and then watch as they discover favorite books and pen their own stories.

You encourage them to hone their talents, and then stand back as they surprise you with their abilities.

After all, you want them to do well in school, get a great job, meet the love of their life and be happy, just like Ricochet’s trainers wanted her to become a wonderful helper and companion to her owner.

Sometimes, though, what you want is greatly at odds with what they were built to do and be.

You assume that for them to be happy, you must push them into a career that you choose give them direction so that they have status and/or a high paying job, and that will be all they need for lifelong happiness.

Plus, you create bragging rights for yourself. It’s very important to be able to say to friends when they ask how Billy is doing that you can lift your chin with pride and say “He’s a doctor” or “He’s a fill-in-important-title-here”, as opposed to mumbling something about they are still finding themselves, or they have dropped out of school, or they’re working at the local big box store. (Just being sarcastic about the bragging part in case you don’t know me very well.)

In your desire to help, you may become overbearing and overlook their unique gifts.

Instead, think about what Max Lucado recommends in Cure for the Common Life, Living in Your Sweet Spot, “Don’t see your child as a blank slate awaiting your pen, but as a written book awaiting your study.”

I remember when our youngest was in sixth grade, and the class was assigned posters depicting what they wanted to be when they grew up. One boy split his poster in half. As he described his creation to the class, he pointed to the left side and said dully that this was for his mom, because she wanted him to be a doctor. Then he pointed to the other and said with great enthusiasm that he wanted to be a professional athlete.

Recently I heard about a young lady in her mid-twenties who is pursuing a new direction, doing something she loves and at which she is very, very good. She went to college for Event Planning (Who knew that was a Major? I did not.), because that was what her parents said she should do. Actually, when she was in high school, she came home one day very excited. She told her mom she had discovered psychology and LOVED it and wanted to pursue it as a career.

Her mom’s response? “Oh, honey. You’re just not smart enough for that.” I think you’d be a good event planner.”


Rather than embrace interests and see where they might lead, “distractions” were firmly squashed to keep the parent’s hopes and dreams intact.

In Ricochet’s case, while she excelled at her tasks, a penchant for chasing birds came to light. This would present an obvious risk to a person.

Her trainer spent months trying to change the very nature of this sweet pup and make her into something she just wasn’t. Ultimately, Ricochet was removed from the program, and her trainer looked at her beloved dog’s strengths for other possibilities.

Lucado writes to parents in a similar vein:

God prewired your infant. He scripted your toddler’s strengths. He set your teen on a trajectory. God gave you an eighteen year research project. Ask yourself, your spouse, and your friends: what sets this child apart? Childhood tendencies forecast adult abilities. Read them Discern them. Affirm them. Cheerlead them.

Yes, affirm and cheerlead them indeed. It is a delightful, and yes, sometimes tremendously difficult journey to walk alongside your children and to guide them on their way to adulthood, to provide love and support, and to be the parent, and later the friend.

Let go of who you think your children should be and help them bloom in their beautifully unique way. (Click here to tweet this!)

Here is a final quote from Lucado which I recommend posting somewhere as a daily reminder:

Study your kids while you can. The greatest gift you can give your children is not your riches, but revealing to them their own.

And last, but certainly not least, here is the video that launched this post. I realize it is just over five minutes long and that that is a lifetime in our short internet attention spans.

I encourage you to watch the whole thing for a real boost of joy to see how Ricochet’s talents have been encouraged. Note that she is serving, but in a wonderfully, completely different way than originally planned or imagined.

If you’d like some books and resources for helping your children, you can find them here.


Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it.  ~Proverbs 22:6 (Amplified Bible)


Questions: To slightly paraphrase Max Lucado, do you see your child as a blank slate awaiting your pen, or more as a written book awaiting your study? Which of these better describes how your parents saw you? I invite you to jump into the comments today-the water is warm and friendly!



Sharing at NOBH, Better Mom, Finding Heaven, Things I Can’t Say, Hearts at Home


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  1. In my 40’s I am still trying to “undo” the wiring from the messages I received as a child. I pray to see past these self imposed limitations every day. Thank you for the beautiful reminder that I can do it differently with my kids!
    ilene recently posted…My Big Girl ShoesMy Profile

    • Hi Ilene,

      Hope you don’t mind but I couldn’t help but to see your response. While it may be tough to see past self-imposed limitations, I am excited for you – mainly because of your level of awareness.

      Let me explain: Far to many people are sleep-walking their way through life; unconscious of self-imposed limitations or corrupt belief patterns. In reading your brief blog reply, it doesn’t sound like you are one of them. YEA!

      The next step in your growth and development could possibly be to learn how to shift and embrace new thoughts, ideas, and beliefs about your potential and capacity.

      Here is a worksheet I use with a lot of my clients – “transforming your personal belief system”.

    • Oh, that nasty, tangled, out-dated, incorrect wiring!
      It’s good that you can see your way past to doing it differently with your kids.
      Joel shares some great advice here. His worksheets are great and will bring you great insight! I speak from experience, as he was my life and career coach and is now a friend.

  2. Hi Kim,

    Wonderful post and beautiful video. Very heart-warming.

    Your words remind me of an email I received from a dear lady in California. Her middle child (age 17) is a gifted writer and spends most of his free time exercising his gifts of imagination and creativity.

    The “perceived” problem was that his artistic interests (science fiction and fantasy) didn’t fit in the “box” that his parents, thought it needed to fit into. As you might imagine, this caused family friction as the parents didn’t see it as a “worthy” pursuit. When they caught him doing what he couldn’t help but to do, they would often frown and censure him.

    Once the mom realized that by stifling her son’s gifts, she was, in essence, silencing God’s expression, she and the dad blessed and encouraged him to follow where his spirit, heart, and pen led him.

    The young man has just passed the 100-page mark in writing out his novel. He is free to fully experience and share himself with the world and as a result, the family relationship is more harmonious.

  3. It seems easier when they are little to tell your kids they can be anything they want . As they are getting up into high school, I seem to be having a difficult time balancing giving them their space and freedom to explore and not feel pressured and not giving them enough guidance to help them feel secure and confident in their decisions . All I can do is be honest about the fact that I don’t know any better than they do and let them know I’m here. But I’m not sure if that’s helpful

    • I hear you, Kimberly! It seems so far away when they are little. When they get to high school, however, the stakes seem higher. I know I began to stress: what will they do? how can they be successful, etc. Not a healthy or happy path, and it caused discord in our relationships.

      I have added a link to the bottom of the post that includes resources, including some great books. I encourage you to check them out! If you ever want to talk about teens and future, shoot me an email. I have had one go through college and then onto photography school, and another who has completed about half of her degree program, but decided to pull the plug. LIfe is never dull as a parent!

  4. Great post, Kim, and AMEN to that!! In fact, a couple of years ago, before my kids chose their college majors, I gave each of them Cure for the Common Life. We wanted to read through it together but our schedules kept getting messed up. But we got through a good bit of it together and it was great to hear my son and daughter affirm each other’s strengths and look at what might be good jobs for them.

    So far, so good. I’m trying to stay in the shadows and not offer advice unless I’m asked. But I AM praying Prov 3:5-6 over them every single day.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Susan Stilwell recently posted…A Monday Pause ~ ServingMy Profile

    • I love how you gave your kids that book! I thought it was terrific. The newer versions have a workbook in the back that includes exercises. It’s really great! The commenter Joel above provides a great resource in his link. My favorite that the kids did for me while I was being coached by Joel is this one: What do they know? You can find it here: http://www.joelandpei.com/resources/worksheets/

      That is a great verse that needs to be stuck on the fridge of every parent of a teen! I think standing back and waiting for them to ask for advice is one of the toughest things we do, Susan. I know I have worked on listening a lot more. When I am overcome by the desire to throw in my two cents, I will ask if I can share my perspective. That has worked much better than me just telling them what I think. :-)

      Thanks much for coming by. You always add so much to the conversation!

  5. I absolutely LOVE this, Kim…and I agree with Max Lucado…my job is to help our girl be who God created her to be..to learn about her and not to force my dreams on her…Thanks, Kim :)
    Dolly recently posted…Dream Series: on the way to reaching your dreamMy Profile

  6. I’ve been wrestling with this dilemma for a few weeks now, questioning my parenting skills. You’ve put into words exactly what I’ve been feeling. I just have to read that book my Max Lucado. Thank you for this wonderful post Kim.
    Lynda recently posted…October Autumn, a season of changeMy Profile

    • You are so welcome, Lynda! Raising a teen can be difficult enough in steady and calm waters. I have added a link to the bottom of my post that provides some great resources you may find helpful. Check out my other responses, too. There are some other resources listed within. Peace, prayers and blessings to you, friend!

  7. This is so excellent… I just love it.
    Thank you for this post… So many quotes and nuggets to remember.
    I was right next to you at Jen’s (for SDG) and am so glad that I stopped by.

    My boys are 6 and 2.5, and I am struggling with not projecting my shyness and insecurities on my son, who has never met a stranger. :) Takes after his Dad in that way!
    Meredith recently posted…When reaching out is like building a bridge . . .My Profile

  8. I am so glad you made your way over here, Meredith. I just love Jen’s site. I have found lots of wisdom and joy there!
    I agree-it’s a lot of work to keep our bad habits from becoming our children’s bad habits! You are aware, so that is a huge step in the right direction. I found having kids has grown me in many ways. It has made me look at some of my bad habits and caused me to work on being a better person, because it is what I want to model for them. I have no doubt you will do fine, Meredith. Just take it a day at a time!

  9. Ok, I think I need to get that Max Lucado book! I loved every single quote you used. This was such an inspiring post for me to read. Excellent job!
    hilljean recently posted…The Recycled BloggerMy Profile

    • I’m so glad you found information to take away, Hilljean. Absolutely get the Lucado book. Not only is it good for your kids, but you will find great information for you as well in those pages.Thanks so much for coming over to visit!

  10. Hi Kim! This time it’s “Beth” from Messy Marriage. I saw that Kimberly, my team member, visited you and commented the other day. But I wanted to thank you for this great post. It’s something that I’m really resonating with at this point in my motherhood journey. My youngest is a junior in high school and we just took him to look at a potential college the other day. Discussing his interests and ambitions was a great part of our trip and this helps me to keep in focus–it’s about what God wants to do through our son’s unique wiring. Certainly that’s “my” challenge–to let it go and let God lead him. Great post!

    • You are most welcome. Aren’t conversations with your young adult kids so exciting? It’s so much fun to hear what they are thinking, and about their hopes and aspirations. Thanks for sharing your thoughts-I imagine there are many other moms encouraged to know they are not alone in this challenge!

  11. Your post hit me a little too ‘right between the eyes,’ Kim. I need to post Lucado’s quotes around my house because I do not like one of the career choices my daughter is pursuing. Thanks for the chance to think while surfing the net! Every blessing, Kelly.
    Kelly recently posted…A Thankful HeartMy Profile

    • I’ve been in your shoes, Kelly! It can be so hard to let go, let our kids take a path we don’t agree with, or one on which we are sure will lead to failure.

      My best advice is to become a terrific listener. Children want to share with their parents, they value your advice. You must be the sounding board first. Only through doing that will you “earn” their willingness to listen to you. What I learned—the very hard way—was that the more I gave my advice—ok, I was pushing my agenda on her—the more she pulled back and didn’t want to listen and the less she would share with me.

      And still, now that the youngest is almost 25, I always listen first, listen well, and ask questions (NOT gotcha questions, not questions aimed at showing them the futility and ridiculousness of their idea). Then and only then, and if I feel appropriate, I will ask permission to share my perspective and advice. We are all happier and fell more supported for it!

  12. Thank you for this gentle reminder. I enjoyed watching the video too.

    I just have one question. How do I deal with my son wanting to be Batman when he grows up? :)


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  1. […] Questions: How would you respond if your child wanted to join the military, especially an elite unit such as the SEALs? Have you already faced this question? Please join the conversation. I am most curious what your thoughts are on this and the general topic of children choosing careers. And if you missed last week’s post on training up your child and letting them go, be sure to go back and read it here. […]

  2. […] As I noted in my post, On Ricochet the Dog and Raising Children: […]

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