Play - Parenting With Intention

Making commitments and then planning actions in the direction and service of those objectives is living with intention. I don’t want life – and especially parenting – to be haphazard. It doesn’t serve the beings we love the most in the world to fly by the seat of our pants as we guide them to adulthood.

What is intentional parenting?

Intentional parenting means using conscious awareness about the kind of parent you want to be and the impact you would like to have. Parenting with intention means you are clear about what you want and you know what you’re aiming for. It can be as simple as an intention to not raise your voice one morning getting everyone out the door, or as complex as having an intention to be the kind of mom or dad your teenager can be honest with.

We all have some unconscious motivations that compel us, and this makes intentional parenting somewhat difficult. This will always be the case because no matter how much awareness we cultivate there is a portion of our mind’s activity happening below the surface. You may consciously or sub-consciously have hopes to raise a child who will go to law school or become a successful athlete or work towards world peace; those hopes will steer your parenting choices whether you’re aware of it or not. Many of us do not recognize that we hold secret desires for our offspring to realize dreams from our own younger life.

How to be an intentional parent.

Sometimes we approach parenting with a decision to be less like our own parents or more like other adults we admired. I remember one friend I had throughout high school whose family I spent a lot of time with. I looked up to her mom and was impressed with her open mind and adventurous attitude; I knew I wanted to be a parent like her when I grew up because she was easy and fun to be around.

Intentional parenting is about how *I* aspire to be as a parent. It’s about my hopes and goals for the things I can control – my own words and actions and mindset. I can intend to be financially responsible or an active listener or the kind of person who spends quality time with my family on the weekend. These are within my ability if I am aware and disciplined.

Intention and impact

We can know the impact we desire to have on our kids, and aim for that - but remember that actual impact is something we cannot control. I want my son to feel appreciated and adored, and I can use words and actions that I think will convey this message, but it’s impossible for me to create those emotions within him.

Imagine I hold a limit with my teenage daughter and say she needs to finish her chores before she can go out with her friends, and the conversation gets heated because she insists her friends are only available this afternoon. The teen may say, “You don’t trust me to clean up the garage this evening!” and my reply is, “This isn’t about trust – it’s about integrity because you made a promise.” I may intend to have a trusting relationship with my daughter and to show her that I do in fact trust her, yet she may feel like I don’t.

Or she might say, “You let Dad change his mind depending on circumstances; you don’t tell him he lacks integrity because someone else changed the schedule. You’re only acting bossy because I’m fourteen!” In my mind, this dispute may have nothing to do with age, but I cannot control how my words may impact my daughter.

Some will say that parenting is the kind of endeavour that can only be done by trial and error. While this is true, life is also a creative process and we have an opportunity every day to ask ourselves what impact we want to have. We get to set a course of our own choosing, with intentions to be firm or fierce or friendly. It’s an honour to model for young people how much we can invent our lives with purpose and playfulness.

Photo Credit Vanessa Croome