Parenting tip of the day: Identify what matters to you. Own it. Act on it.
I once took my kids to a promotional class at a local children’s gym. There was a mother there with her young daughter, also trying out the gym for the first time, though the class had not gone on long before it was clear the little girl had every intention of running the whole show. This girl ran amuck for forty-five minutes, disregarding instructions, disrupting class, snatching glasses off of other children’s faces and jumping in ball pits and swinging along monkey bars that were supposed to be off limits. All the while her mother, obsequiously apologetic to other parents who shared the sidelines, delivered weak threats, platitudes, and hollow exhortations to behave. Her daughter, clearly familiar with these tactics, paid her mother no heed. It was a fiasco. This was a mother, well-intentioned as she may have been, who had not identified what mattered to her to any conscious degree. She had no firm commitment on which to act. And she didn’t own anything.
Parenting well requires strength. It requires discipline and commitment, care and intention. It requires consciousness. Parenting well requires that decisions be made on purpose and for a purpose. I tell my kids that the Lord God made them on purpose, for a purpose. They are not here by accident, somehow delivered to this earth by cosmic happenstance. They were thoughtfully crafted, carefully planned, and lovingly delivered at a particular time and place. Wise parenting requires similar intention—a thoughtful vision recognized through intentional action.
What is your blueprint for parenting? What are you doing today to help your kids succeed long-term? Have you decided what success looks like and how you’ll know if you or your kids have gotten there?
Our best parenting requires our awareness. It requires our thoughtful contemplation. Envision your children as adults—who do you see in your minds’ eye? Who do you want to see? How can you guide your children now with an eye toward where you want them to end up? Answering these questions will shape the way you think, the way you behave, the conversations you have, and the plans you make or neglect to pursue. Your time is limited, but the options with what you do with your time are boundless. Use the time you have as your children grow wisely. Your knowledge, foresight, and intentional intervention are critical factors in your child’s maturation. It is not your job to live for or through your children, but it is certainly your job to live with them in purposeful interaction to shape and teach them for their benefit. If you didn’t start yesterday, start today. It’s never too late to begin parenting with purpose.
Developing a vision of our children as adults helps us implement a path to get there. Keep in mind the path will have plenty of bunny trails—prudence reminds us that “in his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) There’s no replacement for trial and error as we journey our way toward our vision for the future. But having that vision gives us a compass by which to plot the pathway.
I have a vision of my kids becoming adults who are characterized by honesty. I don’t want them just to think truth-telling is a good thing to do; I want them to esteem truth, seek truth, and commit to truth as a way of life despite any drawbacks. Having this vision informs the way I talk to my kids even now about honesty. It informs how I explain this value to them and how I discipline them when they lie. It informs how I model honesty in my own life because I know the importance of my example. In this way I’m plotting the course so my children, when they are grown, have an established history of living, speaking, and seeing the virtue of honesty in real life. This is careful planning.
Loving delivery is compassion. Loving delivery is selflessness. Loving delivery is putting your children’s needs above your own, except when putting your own needs first also meets your children’s need to learn they are not the center of the universe. Our kids need to learn this—that though we strive to serve them, it is never a virtue to demand to be served.
Loving delivery is doing what you do for the benefit of your children—things like envision their future and parent with a purpose in mind. This does not mean always saying yes nor does it mean always seeking their happiness. It means always seeking their good, which is a very different thing indeed. I am convinced that the vast majority of parents desire to do right by their children, but an unfortunately large number are so weary that they are parenting for today without much thought for tomorrow. But time invested today will pay dividends down the line. Plan for your children’s future. The investment is well worth it.