Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Intentional Parenting :: Reprise :: Intro (Part 2)

 So how did it go last week? Did you spend time thinking about your unique family? Did you jot down some aspects of family life or character that you’d like to instill in your kids?

This week I want to expand on my thoughts from last week to share three things that intentional parents do.

1. Have a plan.

It’s so funny that I say to start with a plan because I realize that not everyone is a planner. In fact, sometimes I wish I were a little more spontaneous. Friends of ours just took their kids on a last-minute trip to Disney World and, I’ve got to admit, that sounded pretty cool.

Three day weekend? No plans on the calendar? We’re going to Disney!!

Best. Parents. Ever.

I’ve never done that. Never. Not once.

The most spontaneous I’ve ever gotten was to wake my kids up for a ride to Dairy Queen to get ice cream after dark. That was cool too. Maybe not Disney World cool, but my kids thought it was fun.

Anyway, when I say to have a plan, I’m not talking about spontaneity vs. boring-old-parents-like-me. I’m talking about having longer-range goals and ideas for your family. Maybe even writing them down somewhere so you can go back later and see what you’ve done.

As I wrote in my last series, Intentional parents think about the results they’d like to see in their kids and then think about how to accomplish those results.

So goals might be important to think about, even if your kids are very young. But be open to changing those goals as your kids grow—you don’t always know what challenges may lie ahead.

Once those goals are determined, then think about how you might go about seeing those ideas take shape. Do you want your kids to be kind to outsiders? Then you need to put your kids in places where they might be able to practice kindness. Do you want them to love the homeless? Why not make it a goal to serve in a homeless ministry regularly?

You get the idea.

2. Focus on why rather than how.

This, I think, is the key to bringing intentionality into our homes. When we start to train our thinking, focusing our parenting on why we do what we do rather than how we do what we do, our goals begin to take shape.

When our girls were very young, we noticed that everyone in our community put their kids in a sport of some kind. This was new territory for us because even though my husband was an athlete growing up, I was not. We didn’t know yet if our girls would have any athletic ability (if they were going to be anything like their mom, the future was looking grim in that department), so we thought we’d try soccer.

Four year olds and soccer aren’t always the most intentional combination, as we soon found out. Basically, four-year-old soccer is like watching a clump of kids follow a ball around a field. Oh, and don’t forget the one or two stragglers who just run willy-nilly around the field without a clue, pretending to do something important but really not. (Those were our girls.)

If we were just focusing on the “how” of soccer, we’d let our girls play and the season would run its course and we’d be done after one year. Because the running willy-nilly wasn’t getting us anywhere.

But instead, we thought about why we were putting our kids in soccer. Yes, there was something about exercise and finding a sport they could play and having fun while doing it. Yes, there was something about hanging out with their friends.

But could there be more?

For us, it came down to meeting parents in our community, establishing relationships with people we might not meet at church, and getting to know the kids that our kids would eventually go to their neighborhood school with. Soccer had to have a bigger purpose than just chasing a ball down the field.

So B signed up to coach. Yes, this dear man who knew nothing about soccer read up on the sport and coached four-year-olds for a couple of seasons. He had no clue what he was doing (in case you’re keeping score, that makes about five of us who never had, nor still do have, a clue about soccer), but he signed up anyway because they needed a warm body and it would be a good way to meet our neighbors.

It worked. We actually did meet people whom we still know today. We did make friends and relationships with neighbors. We did get to know kids who went to school with our kids.

When we asked why, soccer had a bigger purpose than simply how to play a game.

3. Be proactive rather than reactive.

In my previous series I said, Intentional parents look ahead at what’s coming. They think about how a situation might affect their child and develop a response before it comes up.”

I used curfew as an example, even though we had not crossed the curfew bridge at that point. But let me tell you, I’m sure glad we thought it through ahead of time.

Because teenagers.

Sure, we’ve had pushback about curfew (andprettymucheverythingelse) over the years, but because we set the ground rules ahead of time and because we were clear about our expectations, both with ourselves and with our kids, we were able to be proactive about setting curfews ahead of time. This helped us avoid the waiting-until-midnight-fuming-about-a-child-not-being-home-wondering-where-she-might-be scenario.

Anyway, this week I’d like you to think about how you can be proactive in your parenting. Can you identify areas that could be potential land mines in the next year or two and think about ways you can proactively address them? I’d love it if you’d share some of your thoughts in the comments.

Next week we’ll talk about discipline, and I’ll tell you right now, we won’t be talking about spanking.


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