How to be an Intentional Parent
- Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Sissy Goff, David Thomas, and Melissa Trevathan's new book, Intentional Parenting: Autopilot is for Planes (Thomas Nelson, 2013).
Parenting can keep you so busy that you fall into a pattern of simply reacting to what’s going on around you. But you can’t be the best parent God wants you to be that way. If you’re intentional about parenting – choosing wise ways of responding to your children rather than just reacting to them – you can fulfill all of God’s good purposes for your parenting.
Here’s how you can be an intentional parent:
Keep God’s purposes for parenting in mind. Through the process of parenting, God is working not just in your children’s lives, but also in your own life. God intends for you to grow into a more spiritually mature person as you learn to apply His wisdom to the challenges of parenting.
Get to know more about yourself as a parent. Parenting reveals lots of valuable information about who you are as a person. Seek to learn more about yourself so you’ll have the perspective you need to improve your maturity, which will then improve your relationship with your kids. Ask three people who know you well and will tell you the truth these questions: “What have you observed about me as a parent?” “What are the strengths I bring to parenting?” “What are the struggles I bring to parenting?” “What do you enjoy about being in relationship with me?” and “What are the challenges about being in relationship with me?” Then pray about what they say, asking God to help you grow in specific ways.
Study your children. Get to know each of your children’s God-given temperaments well, and ask God to teach you how to work creatively within each child’s temperament rather than against it when helping him or her develop.
Make sure that your life is showing your kids the right story. God intends for your life to show your children what real faith in action looks like. Ask yourself: “What kind of story am I living in front of my children?” “Does my life speak about the things I believe and the people I love?” and “Am I living a life of faith in front of my children, or just talking about it?”
Be a patient parent. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you develop more patience. Some strategies for expressing patience in your parenting include: breathing deeply to calm down when angry, listening carefully to what your kids say, approaching stressful situations with a sense of humor, being realistic about your children’s capabilities and your expectations for them, assuming the best (not the worst) about your kids, allowing downtime in your children’s schedules, remembering what life was like for you as a child, and learning what triggers you to lose your patience so you can deal with those situations wisely.
Be a grown-up parent. Parenting will trigger unresolved issues from your own childhood, so be aware of what those issues are, and expect that when those issues come up in your parenting you’ll feel and reason like a child. Process the situations that trigger your issues with a trusted friend, family member, or professional counselor. Pray for the healing that you need from God to resolve your childhood issues well.
Be a balanced parent. Balance love and fear by identifying what you’re most afraid of as a parent, as well as an area where you could trust God more. Balance discipline and relationship by having clear rules and loving relationships with your children and identifying an area where you want to be more consistent in enforcing consequences. Balance boundaries and freedom by figuring out specific ways you’d like to help your children become more independent, creative, and resourceful through letting them learn from their own decisions. Balance your emotions by choosing a place you can go when you feel emotionally charged, giving yourself some time and space to reflect and pray so you can make more thoughtful parenting decisions. Balance your time by making time in your schedule regularly for enjoyable activities that build stronger family bonds. Balance the support your children need from you with support from other trusted adults who care about them, such as teachers, coaches, grandparents, and friends from church.
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