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?