“I’m easily distracted and extremely intentional.”
I once read this on a friend’s profile. It struck a chord within me and to this day I come back to the idea of being intentional. We only have so many days on this Earth, so why not be intentional? Especially when it comes to how we parent. Here are 10 ways to practice intentional parenting in the new year ahead.
1. Do Devotionals.
This may sound cliche, but after doing an intentional Advent study with my daughter this Christmas I realize the impact a focused, fun and intentional study can have on your children. I gathered past devotionals I’ve done at the first of the year for Epiphany to create Experiencing Epiphany – a 6-day interactive devotional to walk through with your children. Look for opportunities to do a study or short devotion with you children. Invest in their spiritual walk.
2. Be active.
Look for opportunities to be active and move with your children. When they play soccer, basketball, or any other sport, try to jump in and dribble the ball some. Don’t say “not now” when they ask you to play tag. By seeing their parents moving around, exercising, and participating in activities, your children observe the importance of active living and taking care of our bodies. They mirror what you do.
3. Eat healthy.
Make wise choices with your food. Pick healthier versions of foods and teach moderation.
If you struggle turning down unhealthy foods, be intentional about how you shop at the grocery. Don’t purchase food that you know your family shouldn’t eat. You don’t have to eliminate all the snack foods or even desserts, but practice (and teach!) moderation for your family.
4. Have fun together.
Look for opportunities to do something fun as a family. Moms, take your sons to a sports game. Dads, take your daughters on a date or accept her invitation to have a tea party on the floor of her room. Let down your walls and just have fun. Don’t be embarrassed by something that means so much to your children. Have fun and enjoy what you do as a family.
5. Put down your phone (intentional parenting is impossible otherwise).
Intentionally choose to step away from your smart phone or tablet. Some may struggle with this more than others, but it sends a strong message to your children and spouse. My husband does a great job of this during our bath and bedtime routine. He intentionally leaves his phone in the kitchen during the whole process, which allows him to give our children his full focus. Give your children the gift of your (full) attention and watch your relationship deepen even more.
6. Leave the house.
When you have a house full of chores to do and some kids who seem unwieldy in public, leaving the house sounds like the last thing on Earth you would want to do. But kids (and adults) respond well to a change in scenery.
Take the opportunity to see new things around your city. We have learned many new things about our town just by jumping in the car with no itinerary. These “adventures” remain some of our daughter’s favorite memories. Remember, the little things leave a mark and create new opportunities.
7. Learn a new skill.
Everyone possesses talents and hobbies. You. Your kids. Your spouse. Even if you have a favorite area that you excel in, look for areas to expand your abilities. Expose your children to new hobbies or crafts. Intentional parenting involves doing something together that you’ve never done before. Allow your child to explore, investigate, make mistakes, and grow. If you do something new to your whole family, everyone will learn and grow together.
8. Meet your community.
I consistently fail on this one, but hope to do it better in the new year. Do you know your neighbors? Can you list them by name? Start there — on your own street. Then, expand into other areas of your community. Take your neighbors a plate of new years cookies. Offer to shovel their driveway if you have snow. Volunteer for local events and make sure family members of all ages can participate. You may have to do some investigating, but intentionally seek opportunities to engage your community.
9. Tell stories.
Recently, my husband started telling our daughter stories about his childhood, her birth, our marriage, current events, and other random stories. Each night I wait in eager anticipation to hear what they talked about at bedtime that night. I admire my husband’s intentional parenting. He carefully chooses the stories he shares to help educate our daughter and broaden her knowledge base. Don’t just tell stories for the sake of entertainment, be intentional with what life lessons and opportunities for growth your stories contain.
10. Say I love you.
I love you. It seems like an easy phrase to say, but how often does it actually come out of your mouth? You can’t say it to often enough. Don’t assume that your kids know you love them due to what you DO for them. Remind them at every opportunity that you do, in fact, love them. Be intentional with your words, how you say them and when you say them. These three simple words can make a huge impact on the life of your child. On the flip side, the lack of these three words likewise can negatively impact how your child views her world.
As we head into a new year, examine your life and see how you can integrate these 10 ways to practice intentional parenting with your children. What goals do you have for intentional parenting as you serve your children in the new year?