I just started reading Upstream by Dan Heath.
The subtitle is ‘How to Solve Problems Before They Happen’.
The book starts with an illustrative metaphor about how two friends keep seeing kids flailing about in a fast-moving stream of water. They keep wading in and rescuing kids. Kid after kid after kid.
Then the two friends see another fellow walking upstream along the bank. They ask him why he’s not helping. He says, “You’re doing a great job pulling kids out of the water, but I’m going to go do something about the man throwing them in the water in the first place.”
As a parent, it’s a powerful metaphor. The upstream vs. downstream thing.
How can I prevent problems from happening before they happen?
How can I prevent my kids from getting in certain situations vs. having to save them from those situations down the line?
What can I do when they are 5, 8, 11, or 13 years old to help them make the right choices to keep them from troubling situations when they’re 16, 18, 21, and older?
The problem is that it’s nearly impossible to prevent all bad things from happening in our kids’ lives. Period. They’re individuals and will grow more and more in that direction. They’ll make their own decisions.
So the first step toward Upstream thinking is to have a little grace toward yourself.
The second step, though, is learning how to build relationships.
To me, as a parent and as a spouse, the best way to build upstream prevention is to double-down on building good relationships with my children and spouse.
I will never be able to prevent all the bad things from happening. No parent can.
But… no matter where you or I am in our parenting, marriage, or any other relationship journey, it’s a good idea to start using upstream thinking.
The question is simple: What can I do consistently now that will help prevent pitfalls and dangerous waters down the line?
A second challenge might also help: Whenever you’re tempted to say, “I have plenty of time,” consider whether it’s a good idea to go ahead and do the thing you’re putting off – while you’re still a good ways upstream.