Most of us tend to plod through life, one foot in front of the other, without much intentionality. We look for opportunities to eat, sleep, have fun, have sex, and hopefully survive again to try it again tomorrow. We often make short-term plans and live for those moments. The weekend, next month’s annual vacation, or a birthday celebration are examples of these sort of short-term plans.
“We look for opportunities to eat, sleep, have fun, have sex, and hopefully survive again to try it again tomorrow.“
You would never get behind the wheel of a car and leave your hands off that steering wheel; you would never walk a narrow ledge with your eyes closed; and, you would never walk into a burning building without a purpose. So why do we, as parents, stumble through this life without a purpose or plan for our families? Why do we take a hands off approach to parenting? And why do we walk the dangerous ledges of raising children, with our eyes closed?
We think we are making long-term plans when we talk about finishing college, buying a house, or “someday” having a baby. We even think saving money, to buy a house, car, or big-screen TV is a long-term commitment. But we fool ourselves. I’d like to invite you to think bigger, more long-term, and take a moment to think about how intentional you are as a parent.
- First, think back on how intentional your parents were. Are you anything like what they hoped you would be? Did they have a plan? What intentional actions did they undertake to help you become the person you are today?
- Second, process these ideas into the kind of parent you are right now. Are you parenting in a way that you respect? Are you the type of parent you hoped you would become? What are you doing in your life, and the lives of your family, that will enable them to become the people you hope they will become?
- Third, take a moment to jot down some notes about your children. What challenges do they face? What opportunities are in their lives? What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? When you picture your children 10, 20, 30, or even 50 years from now, what kind of people do you expect them to be? What kind of people do you dream they will become?
- Finally, think about what you are doing to launch your own children to become the kind of person you hope they’ll become?
Are you parenting on purpose? Are you being intentional? Are you challenging the familial habits, dysfunctions, and flaws in order to break the cycles that have ensnared you and your ancestors?
“the un-aimed arrow never misses”
I know in my heart of hearts that my parents wanted me to grow up to be a “good” person. But I also know that they had no idea on how to make that a reality. They hoped I would turn out OK, and they hoped they were good parents. And for the most part, their hopes were realized – depending upon who you talk to in my life. However, my Mom and Dad didn’t have a plan. Most of their parenting was accidental.
I remember my parents telling me how overly strict their parents were and how it was their intention to not be as strict. They went on to explain that because of their more casual approach, I would probably be a more strict parent. I believe my parents believed in balance and I believe they were seeking balance, but I’m not so certain they ever found it.
It’s been said, the un-aimed arrow never misses. The same is true in child rearing. If you have no plan, you will never fail.
My Dad quit smoking because he read that children are more likely to smoke if their parents smoke. My Dad used to smoke four packs of cigarettes a day. But he quit cold turkey in order to save my life. That, by itself, is a tremendous legacy. What legacy do you want to leave with your kids, your grandkids, and your great-grandchildren? Have you thought that far down the road? Are you capable of thinking that big?
I hope my kids will be happy, healthy, smart, fun, compassionate, content, and well-liked. I pray for them in these areas. But the fact of the matter remains, they are going to mimic me in these areas. Am I happy? Am I healthy? Am I well-liked? If I possess these traits, there is a good chance they will too.
I learned common sense from my Dad. I learned to be creative from my Mom. It wasn’t necessarily because they were intentional about teaching these things, it is just who they were. My Dad took me to work with him. I handed him tools, rode on heavy equipment with him, and watched every move he made. Some kids that I grew up with never had opportunities to do those things – and it shows.
I’m giving my kids those opportunities, but I’m trying to be more intentional than my Dad. I intentionally allow my Darling Daughter as well as my Smiling Son to help me work on the car, hang some shelves, or repair a lamp. I deliberately take them with me when I go to the hardware store. The task becomes secondary to my ability to expose them to the resources available and the process of problem solving. I not only allow them to watch me fix, solve, hammer, cut, and repair, but I intentionally involve them in the process. This allows them to see how my mind works and I intentionally pass on the wisdom of my Dad, my grandfathers, and all the other mentors in my life. I’m intentionally instilling common sense.
Just as my Dad quit a 4-pack a day habit, for my sake, I’ve made similar choices. Long before I met my Wonderful Wife, I chose to stop drinking, stop being addicted to TV, and to stop making poor relationship choices. I did these things for myself and my own survival, but I also made these choices for my future children. It was an act of love that transcends time and space. I’m so glad I was inspired to make these lifestyle changes, especially after my kids came into my life!
It isn’t enough to hope though. There has to be a plan.
Many people want their kids to be successful. That is a good goal. But define success. What does that mean to you? Now, how will you prepare the way for that to happen. For me, success means a life of balance, contentment, and wholeness. I’m not as concerned by financial success as I am by their ability to be whole, and to achieve spiritual, emotional, mental, social, and physical health.
Now, the challenge becomes, how will that be accomplished? What am I doing to make this goal a reality? What changes am I undertaking? What challenges am I willing to face? What opportunities am I pursuing?
It’s easy to look at my kids today and bask in the blessing of their presence. They are well-mannered, content, and healthy. Sometimes I wonder what they will be like five years from now, or 10, or 15. It is difficult to imagine my Smiling Son as a 25 year-old. The thought of my Darling Daughter entering puberty is frightening enough – let alone picturing her as a 25 year-old like I was. What will they be like when they are 35, 45, 55, or 75? Will they be good people? Will they love God with all their heart, mind, and soul? Will they love others more than they love themselves – or at least as much?
Will my kids be good parents? Will they overcome the curses of addiction that plague my family and challenged my ancestors? Will my children be good spouses? Will they be good citizens? Will they be good employees? Will my kids be loving grandparents? Will they overcome the burdens of dysfunction I’ve passed onto them?
Some of these things will happen, even without a plan. Arrows, shot into the air, will occasionally find a solid target. There is a lot of good in our lives, passed on from some really good genes and family dynamics. Many of the dysfunctions are impossible to overcome – they are just there. But my kids are not so old, and I’m not so far over the hill, that at least within our family, we can’t continue to be intentional in our parenting.
I’m curious, what are you doing in your life, and in your family, to be intentional about raising your kids? What challenges do you face? What opportunities have been presented to you? Where do you see your kids in 5, 10, or 50 years down the road?