Encourage Decision-Making from an Early Age So much of a child's life is made up of a routine they've had no say in. My step-grandmother Elizabeth married my grandfather after the suicide. My grandfather was in danger of losing his four children to child services due to his neglect of his children. Elizabeth, a warm, kind-hearted woman, married my grandfather and did her best to weave the family back together. She brought with her a retarded daughter from a prior marriage. Together my grandfather and Elizabeth had a child of their own, named Paula. My father had three full maternal siblings. His two older sisters were named Maria and Evelyn. His older brother, and the third child of the family, was named Sam. My father was the youngest. Maria detached herself from her family as an adolescent. Because I'm a kid from nowhere Minnesota, with no money and an art degree from some rinky-dink liberal arts college, she said, shaking her head. How am I going to get a job at the most important animation studio in the world? Now, that, Rox, is a great place to start our futurecasting journey, I said. I've described this scene before--the game on moment when a client moves from a kind of contemplation phase about the future to being ready to take the plunge. Rox might have been plagued with self-doubt as we talked, but I could tell there was a part of her that was starting to believe this new story of her future. That's an important lesson in futurecasting: doubt, disbelief, naysaying--these are often signs that the future is near. If there's a voice in your head saying, That will never work, or if someone else is saying it to you, that's often the moment to double down on the idea. That's the course I took with Rox.

Who are the people who can help you get there? I said, diving headfirst into the futurecasting. School uniforms, the school day, what they eat or drink, where they sit, what they learn, what they do on weekends, who they spend time with out of school, what time they go to bed, and so on. There's little opportunity for them to hone their decision-making and problem-solving skills--vital attributes for this adulting lark. There's not much room for them to have a say, to explore and express and make decisions beyond who they're friends with, what toys they want to play with, and what they want to watch on TV. Without being allowed to make wider decisions, they lose out on the lessons that come with deliberating, dealing with consequences, and those not-so-nice learning from your mistakes situations. And then comes that time in high school where they're expected to make massive decisions about what they'd like to do for the rest of their life. Those decisions are 100 percent on them, and to an emerging adult it can feel like they've been handed a tremendous weight of responsibility that they are ill-equipped for. They might look to their friends, parents, and teachers for advice, but ultimately, only your child can decide what's next. So how can we bridge that gap? How can we scatter choices throughout their lives so that the arrival of adulthood isn't such a rude awakening? We can honor their self-expression by providing freedom of choice: Let them choose what they wear outside of school. I never knew her. I have been told she resented Elizabeth as her dead mother's replacement. She severed her relationships with all the members of her family, as soon as she believed she was old enough to do so. I recall sensing the sorrow in my father's voice whenever he spoke of her. He missed the older sister who tried desperately to mother him after their mother's suicide. His sister Evelyn suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and was in and out of mental hospitals during my childhood. Sam was a large man, who reminded me of a silver back gorilla. He was tall, hunched over, had a protruding jaw, huge skull, and for some reason stared at the ceiling whenever he spoke to you.

I tried my best not to look at him very often. Mom and Dad rarely blended both sides of the family. In her first week of work, Rox had completed Step 1 of the process, coming up with a bold new future for herself, working as an animator at Pixar. Now she had to identify the future forces that would propel her toward that future. Who are the people who have done this kind of thing before? I asked her. What tools and resources are out there? Who are the experts who can help you? You want me to call John Lasseter? You know, the director of Toy Story. You could try that. I shrugged. We can involve them in the consultation as to what weekend plans or vacation plans might be. We can allow them to change their minds and make room for them to evolve, even if it's in an unexpected way that screws with our identity-related boundary clocks. We can be mindful of the rhetoric surrounding people who seem different from us in the way they look or sound and make sure that our children's questions aren't shut down. We can listen and not assume that just because we're older we're smarter than they are; We can stop speaking over them and make space at the table for their input and perceptions and opinions and insights. We can apologize to them when we've made a mistake and openly admit that we were wrong. When they come to us with a problem, we can stop trying to fix it and inspire them to start thinking of solutions. Respect Their Privacy

When we pick up our children from school or childcare, they're not always tripping over themselves to chat about their day. They're exhausted, and what feels like need-to-know information for us is part of their day-to-day. We'd visit my father's parents on Sundays, and my mother's brothers would stop by during the week, if they stopped by at all. My mother's family wasn't the kind you'd visit, anyway. John never really had a home of his own, aside from the homes of the married women he slept with, and Peter was an undemonstrative man who made it known he didn't appreciate company. My mother's mother wasn't what most would consider the nurturing or communicative type. She was a frail, quiet woman, with stern green eyes, who was wound tightly like a top. I never felt like she was my grandma. This was not a sentiment that ever left my head. Lots of kids lived on my block. Barbara and R. If the five of us ever did play together, my brother would be sure to remind me that I was the odd man out, the fifth wheel, the one who had no friends of her own. But you may want to start a little further down the food chain. Meanwhile, are there local professional groups you could connect with? Maybe networking events geared for people looking to break into animation. So what, I'm supposed to hop on a flight to California, make my way to Emeryville, and start hanging out with animators? Well, if you want to be a lumberjack, you need to move to the forest, I said. As you know by now, I'm a man who loves a good maxim, and this is another one of my go-tos. I realize I've been saying since the start of this article that the future is local. But that doesn't mean the right future for you is happening in your own backyard.

Some futures you have to move to. Rox was obviously not happy working for a construction firm in downtown Minneapolis. We can lay the foundations for the boundaries surrounding their personal space--including headspace--and their privacy by not firing a million questions at them. The details tend to filter out at mealtimes, when getting ready for bed, or during an unrelated conversation. A gaggle of children can bring out revered diplomacy skills as we teach our own to be kind, respectful, and to consider the feelings of others. Sharing toys is where things can get a bit fraught. It's an odd one, this sharing toys thing, because it can blur the lines of ownership: this is mine and that's yours--the basis of excellent boundary work--and the ability to distinguish between the two. It stands to reason that our belongings are ours to do with as we wish, right? Yet we so often encourage our children to share their toys if they don't want to. Isn't it up to them what they do with their toys? Just as it's up to us what we do with our stuff? We sometimes tie the actions of our children in with who we are as parents. It would sting like a hot pick to my skin whenever Marc lashed out at me like that. It was so rare that I felt like I fit in. Sometimes I didn't want to remember that I didn't belong. It was normal for me to spend time alone. During the summer months, while most kids were outside playing together as carefree as the wind, it was most likely that I was in my room daydreaming, writing, or out riding my bike somewhere across town. Experience had taught me that spending time alone hurt less than trying to be accepted. At about the age of ten, I silently surrendered to the idea that I was flawed, broken, bad, and just plain wrong. Most days I rode my bike to Eaton's Park, where I either fished off of the rocks that bordered the water's edge, or just wandered through the park's trails.