The Importance of Being Intentional

Intentional. It’s a word we don’t hear very often. It means that we choose to act deliberately, purposefully, and consciously.

Of course, like most serious writers, I’m deliberate and purposeful with my writing. I give myself goals whether I’m researching, writing, editing. I make deadlines for myself ahead of the ones my publisher gives me. I consciously challenge myself to read new writing craft books, to keep learning, to improve my writing skill.

As a mama-writer with five children, I’ve had to learn to be intentional in my parenting too. When people ask me, “How do you manage 5 children AND find time to write,” I can point out that developing creativity in my children has helped (See post: Fostering Creativity in Kids). But I must also add, that being intentional with my children is a big component of my parenting as well.

What exactly does it mean to parent with intentionality? How can intentional parenting help us manage better?

What exactly does it mean to parent with intentionality?

Simply this: We chose to be purposeful with our children instead of leaving things up to chance.

While my husband and I are far from perfect, there are several main areas where we've worked to be intentional:

*Developing character. We’ve done character studies together as a family where we focus on learning about different traits—truthfulness, diligence, patience, punctuality, self-control, etc. When we see a particular characteristic one of our children needs to grow in, we give them plenty of practice in developing it. Sometimes we provide incentives for working on specific traits. And we try to praise them when we see them growing in that character.

*Teaching our children to work. We view childhood as the training ground for adulthood. And since we want our children to grow up to be successful in whatever jobs or calling they pursue, we want to equip them with helpful work habits. Besides, we also have the motto, “Whoever lives in the house has to help with the housework.” So, we expect and teach our children to take responsibilities around the house. (See post How to Get Children to Do Chores for more ideas.)

*Setting aside family time. We know that in the rush of daily activities, family time can get relegated to the back burner. We do several things to protect time together. We guard family meal time and we all eat together around the kitchen table. We set aside one evening a week for “family night.” And then on Sunday afternoons, I do an activity with my daughters and my husband does likewise with our sons.

How can intentional parenting help us manage better?

Simply this: When our children are growing in character, when they’re pitching in around the house, and when they know they’re important to us, then our children THRIVE. And when our children thrive, we as parents can too. We’ll have more confidence, time, and energy.

Yes, being purposeful with our children requires an upfront investment. It takes effort to train our children to clean their rooms or unload the dishwasher. It’s not always convenient to help our children practice sharing or show kindness. In fact, it's less work for us to let little misbehaviors slide than to stop and address the issues of the heart that are driving them. And it's not easy to give up a Sunday afternoon nap to have tea parties with our daughters.

However, when we invest in our children, eventually they begin to mature and require less supervision. This summer we gave our 13 year old son the responsibility of mowing our big back yard. We told him we didn’t want to nag him with, “The grass is getting long. Don’t you think it’s time to mow?” We wanted him to see that it needed to be done, plan ahead around his activities, and just do it.

And you know what? That’s what he’s done. But it’s taken years of intentional parenting to get him to that point. The process required an investment of time and energy on our part, but it’s paid off—he’s developing into a mature young man who will hopefully be ready for adulthood.

~Summary: Intentional parenting equips our children with the skills they’ll need to succeed in life. And it also benefits us as parents—at least it does me. When my children are growing in character, it makes my job as a parent easier. When my children share the household work, it frees my time for other things. And when I know that I’ll have specific family time, it allows me to work hard during other parts of the week.

How intentional are you with your writing? And how important do you think it is to be intentional with children? Do you agree that in the long run, intentional parenting pays off?


  1. I think intentional parenting should just be called parenting. Unintentional isn't parenting, it's babysitting. Just my opinion.
    That said, character studies are an awesome idea! But it overwhelms to think about. How would I even start that? I'm not a detailed or intentional person. I hate schedules. The thought of planning something like that makes me feel nervous, but I know it's SO important and even though I'm always trying to teach my kids Godly values, I've never even thought about intentionally setting up a time for them to practice those values.
    I'd love if you post some more tips on this sometime. :-)

    Thanks for stopping by today! Job's great, finger is getting better and no ACFW for me this year. Maybe next!?!

  2. Oh my goodness, this post is inspirational. I love the idea of intentional parenting. Reminds me of how I want to parent and challenges me to stick to those things I believe in as a parent. Which is training my child in character. It reminds me to set aside intentional family time too. Hubby and I BOTH need to get better at this!

  3. I'm thinking parenting book in your future.

    My sister is always blown away about how disciplined I am. I'll tell her how many pages I need to edit by a certain date and she can't understand why or how I go about it w/out anyone cracking the whip. She simply doesn't see my characters huddled behind me with lots more than just a whip. ;)

    I really hope intentionality pays off w/ kids and writing, but even if my fruit isn't as shiny or juicy as I want it to be, I'll keep at it w/ that intentional attitude.
    ~ Wendy

  4. So many bits of life would be better if we attacked them with intention, would they?

    I appreciate your focus in this post, Jody, because the balance between writing and motherhood has been what's most important to me. It's less elusive than it used to be, but it's on my mind (as well it should!).

    I love the character study idea. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Wow. I mean: WOW. Have you considered writing a book about this, Jody? In your spare time, of course. I've often wondered how you manage to get everything done without going nuts. You are so wise.

    Thanks for sharing your secrets with us. Can you send 13-year-old over to mow our lawn?

  6. Intentional parenting better pay off. I'm trying to teach my daughter to put herself to sleep; lay her in bed when she's still awake. The first night was AWFUL, second not much better. She's starting not to fuss now when I lie her down and walk off, which almost breaks my heart even more. She's learning not to need me.

    Still, I know this will be better for everyone in the long run. But it's hard not to go to her every time she cries, and I kinda miss that time I used to spend with her trying to put her to sleep, even though I've been getting more sleep myself lately.

  7. Yes living an intentional life is much more organized and efficient than peettering away empty hours. IN fact, I'm more of a participating parent now that I'm a writer than I was before.

  8. Wonderful post, Jody! I just drafted some blog posts for the next couple months and wrote one on a similar topic. I'm learning just how important it is to set a solid foundation with my children while they're young.

  9. I just started a book about the power of intention, so this is a very timely post. I think intention is key to everything we do, but especially parenting. I would have loved to have grown up in your household, Jody. You and your husband sound like amazing parents. If our intent is pure, we can truly let go of outcomes.

  10. You are so wise, Jody. I have bookmarked and printed your post on getting kids to do chores and this one as well. I think I may need to start a folder just for Jody posts! :-)

  11. Very timely blog. I make it a point never to tell my kids I'm too busy to talk to them when they approach me while writing. I give them a hug, let them know I hear them, and assure them I'll take care of things as soon as I find a breaking point. Of course, its important to follow through too.

    Stephen Tremp

  12. Wonderful post Jodi. I love your ideas on intentional parenting. I think that we have to be this way to help prepare our children. I have to remember this when I'm tempted to just let things go, because in the end that doesn't benefit anyone:)

  13. CONGRATULATIONS, Jody!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This isn't directly related to your great post, but I'm sooo excited I have to share this BIG news with you and your blog's followers. I subscribe to the Romantic Times Book Review magazine, which allows me to see the reviews online several weeks before they appear in print. I've been waiting for them to post the review of The Preacher's Bride, which they did today.

    Your "remarkable debut" novel got 4-1/2 stars, the highest rating they give. I'm beyond thrilled for you!!!

  14. Hi Jody... this is to congratulate you for finishing your rewrites. I know that you were anxious about it, so its great you are through with it. I read about your rewrites on T.Anne's blog.

  15. Oh, yes! I agree! Intentional parenting takes more work up front but gives back time when our kids catch on. And I'm impressed with your son! Good for him (and you!).

  16. I like the term intentional LIVING (to teach us old dogs with grown kids.)Have a plan for what we do.
    God is so good to provide a framework...

    Blessings, dear one.

  17. Jody, RT Book Reviews generously granted me permission to share their 4-1/2 star review of your debut novel, The Preacher's Bride. Here's the link to my post:

    I've been doing such a wild happy dance for you this morning that I'm getting dizzy. Not that I mind in the least. I'm sooo happy for you. =)

  18. Good post. This is true and timely no matter what your age or situation. I agree, I think intentional parenting pays off. My kids are proof - not to sound boastful at all. We made plenty of mistakes, but they lived to tell about it:)

    Thanks for the reminder. I need to be more intentional with my writing.

  19. Thank you, Keli!!! You're awesome!! I'm having fun doing the wild and crazy happy-dance with you!

    And for anyone interested in seeing the Romantic Times review on my book, head over to Keli Gywn's blog (her link is in the above comment).

  20. This is a great post, Jody, Being intentional in everything you do is the key to succeeding. We can't just stumble into writing, parenting or living. We must do it intentionally.
    (I don't have kids yet, but I can guarantee you that us, strangers, can tell when a mother is doing intentional parenting. The kids become more pleasant and more likely to thrive in the outside world.)

  21. I've learned parenting is the most important job I have, it never stops, and the payoff is incredible:)

    Now if I can infuse this into my writing life I will be able to exhale!

  22. I agree with Jessica.

    You know my affirmation is "Stay Focused. Be deliberate. Believe". I was saying it before I was doing it. Now that I'm doing it, I could fly to the moon! Why let life happen to you when you can live life instead?

  23. Jody, this is an excellent post. We're also intentional with our children, and they feel as if they're a part of something bigger than themselves. They are also expected to do work, and they also see the rewards that come from hard work. It's nice to see this at a young age.

  24. Hi Jody -

    The word, "intentional," speaks volumes to me. God is certainly intentional in what He does. He had a plan from before creation because He knew we were going to blow it big time.

    I'm intentional with my writing. I set goals and then go after them.

    Susan :)

  25. Great post Jody. Intentional is very important. I am learning to balance my goals and measures of success with what life brings my way. Sometimes, despite my 'intentionalness' I must be flexible and opened to change. That is life with kids I guess and life as a writer too :)

  26. Yes! It's so important, and this fast paced society tries to pull us away from intentional parenting.

  27. oh crap, why weren't you writing this kind of stuff 18 years ago when I had my first child? Oh yeah, you were probably in college or something... ;) I haven't raised my kids to be as responsible as I could have, and it's kicking me in my butt now. They're good kids, just not very proactive... they don't see and do like you raised your son to.

    Maybe I can do better with my five-year-old. :)

    p.s. I'm working hard to be more intentional with my writing!

  28. PHENOMINAL, Jody. And I spelled phenominal wrong, but that's okay. I did it with intention.

    I will be bookmarking your thoughts so I can be intentional as I invest in Chloe's upbringing. Thanks!!

  29. Jody,
    I have to say...this is one of the best posts I've ever read.

    I LOVE this one.

    It made me want to go home, be with my kids all day and not worry about our finances!

    I just wanted to BE with them -okay, so I still do, with a PASSION as always, but I gotta do what I gotta do, and that includes working 50 hrs a week at our family business.

    BUT praise the LORD! I still have time with my babies!

    My oldest is 5, and the intentionality starts now.

    (and Jessica, I totally agree, but I KNOW w/o a doubt that I can be much better with my intentions)

  30. Intentional parenting--I really like this term, Jody. As a single parent of three intentionality would sometimes slide away when I was just too tired juggling a full-time job, and being fully responsible for my house. But help from books and child rearing conferences (as well as a supportive ex-husband) helped my now 17 and up kids to be pretty good! Use the tools out there, I always say! Great post.

  31. What a great post, Jody! Lots of great ideas. I really admire that you take the time to do character studies.


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