As promised, the series You Asked continues once per month (even if it is the last day of said month).
I have to admit, this subject has me pretty well stressed and humbled. It’s nothing I’ll be discussing with any sort of authority or judicious experimental wisdom. If anything, this post will be a letter, a journal entry, a note of reminder and pride bashing for myself.
Parenthood is a journey. I’m not the same mother I was when our first was born 10 years ago and I hope to the grace of God I’ll improve dramatically before our last leaves home. As with most things in life, no checklist or how to manual will get you through. Godly, intentional parenting takes work and grace and prayer.
Now you are deep in what seems to me a peculiarly selfless service. The spiritual training of children must be that. You work for the years you will not see. You work for the Invisible all the time, but you work for the Eternal, so it is all worthwhile.Amy Carmichael
What do we mean when we describe parenting as intentional?
It is easy to fall into routine. To just try to get through the day. To haul everybody through the same wringer, day after day, hoping we’ll all come out the other end sorta kinda smooth and dry.
That’s just straight up exhausting. And it ends in yelling, in fighting, in a home void of peace. It leaves you scrambling for some light at the end of this dark tunnel of chaos and stress.
Intentional parenting means stopping. Stop the frantic whirlwind. Cease the guessing. Choose to no longer passively allow life to take her tumultuous course.
What are some tools we can use to parent with intention?
- Intentionally begin your day giving it to God
I need God´s help every. single. day. There is no shame in starting your day with a plea for wisdom, grace and love. In fact, if I can’t be intentional about being honest with God about my weaknesses, it’s going to be difficult to be intentional about anything else.
2. Intentionally know your children
Observe them. Talk with them. Spend time with them. I can’t guide or parent or shepherd someone I don´t really know. Do they need attention? Are they finding changes stressful? Are they needing to prove themselves? This could be in a written or mental form and should be something you discuss as parents regularly. Children and their needs change incredibly quickly.
To DAD who only reared twelve children and To MOTHER who reared twelve only childrenDedication of Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine G. Carey
Perhaps a worldly woman, but Lillian Moller Gilbreth has forever impressed upon me this vital part of mothering. I can barely do it with four. Not sure how she managed with twelve. Each one felt uniquely loved and seen and discipled.
3. Intentionally carve time for deep conversation
This perhaps goes with #2 but is specific enough to merit its own point. It’s one thing to know my daughter loves gold and sparkles. It’s another to be her confidant, her lighthouse, her place of refuge. This will never happen overnight, nor magically at 13. I must cultivate this practice regularly, creating a safe place for tough questions and confusing observations. For us, this works out beautifully at night before bed. Have I been 100% consistent? No. I need to be. It’s a time to make up for a difficult day, snuggle in, read a Bible story, sing some children´s hymns, pray aloud with them, asking God for each of them specifically, even mentioning issues between them or things you are grateful for in them. It gives space for discussion, a time to reconnect and find love before drifting off for the night. It was during this time that my two children who have professed faith in Christ chose to share that news. It has been during this time that they have confessed their failures and their deepest wishes. This is when bonds of trust are formed, chains whose links beg for time and quiet as they reach from heart to yearning heart.
4. Intentionally say yes and no
There is a time for this and there is a time for that. Occasionally I need to tell myself no. Put down your book, your phone, your broom. Give them you. Sometimes, I need to tell them no. It’s quiet time. Cultivate independence. Give each other space. I need to choose to say yes at times to their ideas and fun and projects. Measure constantly the gauge of balance and intentionally look up to God and confess again, “Father, I need wisdom.”
5. Intentionally discipline and Intentionally recognize good
It’s no secret. Discipline is probably the hardest part of being a parent. I fail at this every day. I let things go, I’m too harsh, I’m not perfectly righteous. Oh for a daily look to the place where righteousness and peace, mercy and truth met and kissed together! How I wish that could be said of our every difficult encounter! Reminder to myself: make sure the child knows what they did was wrong, make sure you discipline for their best interest, not because you are ashamed or angry. Discipline according to the deed, ensure they make reparations for the damage caused, verbally or otherwise. Show them forgiveness. I need their forgiveness often enough myself. Totalitarian parenting might look good on the outside but it’s pretty empty inside. If they don’t witness confession and grace in my life, only the Lord knows how they’ll ever have the humility to exercise it themselves. The contrast to discipline (highlighting mistakes) is to intentionally verbalize your pride and satisfaction in their accomplishments, good decisions and character building. Children thrive on positive reinforcement. They are each beautiful individuals. It is a privilege and a joy to get to do this thing called raising kids.
My goal isn’t to produce perfect little robots.
My goal is to raise children into men and women who with humility and love, choose to passionately serve God and others before themselves, who find joy in heavenly things and who will shine as bright and beaming lights to the world of darkness around them.
It’s 10:00 so I’m now going to intentionally go to bed so I can try to be a semi decent parent tomorrow…. good night!