Parenting with Purpose
Parenting can feel like a rush from one activity to the next. Sure, we have conversations with our kids and try to guide them in a desired direction, but sometimes it feels like we’re just surviving it, doesn’t it?
Parenting should be about more than just surviving.
Have you ever met someone truly exceptional? Such people are few and far between, and if you meet one, it sticks with you. I had the privilege a few years ago to meet a family that had several (really all) children meet that criteria. Had I just met them briefly or had only a few interactions with them, I probably wouldn’t have had any idea how this came to be. I’d likely have chalked it up to DNA or God’s plan that was specific for them. And sure, those things play a role. But I was able to get to know their parents well.
It immediately became clear that they were the most intentional parents I’d ever met. Parenting was their passion. It was a huge part of their purpose. And they didn’t just let their kids grow up. They molded their kids. They molded the opportunities presented to their kids. They had thoughtful and intentional discussions with their kids. They had firmly established family routines. They parented on purpose seemingly at all times.
I started to think about my kids and who they would become. I thought about my parenting practices. Was I intentional? Did I view each day as an opportunity to mold them into who God wanted them to be?
I found that my parenting was much more reactionary than I wanted it to be. Perhaps you’ve noticed that about your own parenting.
In education, we talk about beginning with the end. We start with what we want our kids to know or be able to do, and work backwards from there. Once we know what our students should know or be able to do, we think about what topics or skills we must cover in order to reach the end goal.
This same principle can be applied to raising our children, whether that’s through homeschooling as I am now doing or through our parenting in general. If we begin by thinking about who we want our children to be and what we want them to do as adults, we can work backwards and become much more intentional about our parenting practices.
We can choose the few most important things and go deep in those areas rather than “spraying” our kids with a million different techniques and experiences and hoping the results we want will stick.
The 3 Cs of Intentional Parenting are based on this thinking.
Crafting a Family Mission Statement
Creating a Parenting Plan based on the Vision and Mission
In this post, we’ll share how to cast vision for your kids, craft a Family Mission Statement, then create a Parenting Plan that addresses the vision and mission you developed to help you parent more intentionally. First, I’ll share what this looked like for me. Then, I’ll share a free download we created that you can use to make your parenting more intentional, too.
Where there is no vision, the people perish.Proverbs 29:18, KJV
Casting Vision: The Big Picture
To become more intentional in your parenting, the first thing to consider is who you want your children to become. What is your vision for the future? Thinking through your vision for the future and working backwards to what you must do today to reach that vision are important parts of intentional parenting.
Here is how this process looked for me.
One of the first things that came to mind for me as I tried to parent more intentionally is the idea that I want my children to have a disciplined lifestyle. I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying leadership and the practices and traits of successful people, and discipline is a regular theme. Laziness is not a trait of a successful person! In fact, the most successful people rarely binge-watch shows, fritter away their hours on social media, or sleep in till 10am (though wouldn’t that be wonderful!?!). Instead, successful people have typically spent their lives learning to deny themselves of their vices, focusing instead on their larger and more important goals. They are responsible and driven.
It was also important to me that my children grow up to be adults that act responsibly in terms of God’s creation. I want my children to take care of the earth. I want them to recycle and use the materials God has given us responsibly. If they eat animals, I want them to care about how the animals have been treated and raised. I want them to avoid pesticides and toxins as much as possible, and I want them to learn how to treat the earth and environment with respect. I want them to honor their Creator in their approach to his Creation.
I desire for my children to grow up with a love of learning. I want them to read lots and lots (and lots) of books. I want them to empathize with people of vastly different life experiences, across cultural and ethnic lines. I want them to learn the many ways humans have harmed each other and broken outside of God’s design so that they may not repeat some of the horrible aspects of our history. I want them to recognize the importance of minority voices. My desire is that my boys will grow up to value women, and I want my girls to know their worth. I want my daughters to be strong and independent, while also enjoying rich and deep, meaningful relationships with their future husbands.
My goal is for my children to be adults with varied interests and hobbies. My children will Lord-willing grow up to be interesting people who can engage with others and find areas of commonalities even in cases where it would be much easier to find differences. If they develop a love of learning, they’ll continue to grow as spouses and parents. They’ll be able to build meaningful and lasting relationships based on strong emotional intelligence. They’ll be good employees who grow in their respective fields as they continue to learn new best practices and research related to their work.
As I parent intentionally, I desire that strong and lasting friendships will be in my children’s future because they will be good friends. I desire for them to be loyal, faithful friends who have clear boundaries that allow them to be healthy adults. I want them to be secure in who they are and were created to be so that they don’t lower themselves to engage with those who will ultimately hurt them or lead them down paths that aren’t for their overall good.
It is extremely important to me that my children grow up to be men and women of integrity. Again, the theme of knowing themselves and who they were created to be arises. I want them to be secure in themselves and know from whence their true value comes. If they know that their worth isn’t found in their perfection or accomplishments, they’ll be more inclined to admit their mistakes. They’ll be men and women of their word, people others can rely upon and trust.
I want my children to grow up to be service-minded. I want them to be servant-leaders. They should recognize the many blessings in their lives and share their wealth- whether monetary or otherwise- with those around them. I want them to be generous with their time and resources. If they see a need they can meet, I hope they will act upon that ability.
Finally, and most importantly, I want them to have a genuine and life-long love for and awe of God. By exposing my children to high-quality curriculum and literature that points them to Christ, I hope to make faith a thing of permanence in their lives.
Casting Vision: The Specifics
With the context for the vision thoroughly thought out, I boiled it down to a series of important points to incorporate into my intentional parenting. I desired for my children to have or value:
- A disciplined lifestyle
- A strong work ethic
- Responsible, green living
- A love of learning
- Knowledge of diverse perspectives
- A strong knowledge of self/healthy boundaries
- A sincere love for and awe of God
Crafting a Family Mission Statement
Once you’ve cast vision for the future, crafting a family mission statement can help bring lifestyle implications into clearer focus for you.
Again, I’ll share my process so you can see what it might look like for you.
I had the vision for who I wanted my children to grow into as they became adults. The limited amount of time I truly had with them was not lost on me. (If you’re not keeping tabs on how much time you have to influence your kids, this app is a great help!) I knew if I wanted to parent intentionally, I needed to craft a mission statement that was kept right in front of me daily so I wouldn’t get caught up in life’s twists and turns and forget the desired destination.
With this in mind, I reviewed the vision for my kids and pulled out themes or broader categories that I could capture in a Family Mission Statement.
I wanted my kids to Learn, Serve, Live, Give, and Love.
- A disciplined lifestyle (Live/Learn)
- A strong work ethic (Live/Serve)
- Responsible, green living (Live)
- A love of learning (Learn)
- Empathy (Learn/Love/Live)
- Knowledge of diverse perspectives (Learn/Love)
- Friendship (Love/Serve)
- A strong knowledge of self/healthy boundaries (Love/Live/Learn)
- Integrity (Live)
- Service (Serve)
- Generosity (Serve)
- A sincere love for and awe of God (Love/Learn/Serve/Give)
Can you sense how these categories worked with the vision?
Next I thought about the how- or what adverbs I’d want to describe the key words. These adverbs helped to solidify the vision and capture it succinctly in a Family Mission Statement that I could glance at quickly.
Learn enthusiastically– about God, his world, other people/cultures/beliefs
Serve faithfully– the Lord, other people, their communities and circles
Live responsibly– with strong work ethic and sense of teamwork, with regards to creation and crunchy/green/holistic living
Give generously– of their time, talents, and resources
Love freely– God, others, themselves
Now it was just a matter of putting it together in a simple statement.
Our Family Will:
Creating an Intentional Parenting Plan based on the Vision and Mission
The final step in intentional parenting is creating your parenting plan for the day-to-day. This is where the hard work comes in of living out your vision and mission.
Parenting is a complex and multi-faceted thing. Creating a plan does not mean you are creating a lesson plan of sorts, with steps 1, 2, and 3. Parenting is about putting out fires as they crop up. It’s about long conversations and quick responses. It’s about word choice. It’s about choosing activities. Bedtime routines. Meal choices. Education. Friendships. Dating. And a million other little (and big) things.
With that in mind, here is what creating a parenting plan looked like for me.
I clearly couldn’t create a plan for every possibility or eventuality. But I could create a plan for my approach to whatever life throws at us. I could create a funnel through which decisions could be filtered.
I found that there were five areas that needed to be filtered through our vision and mission in order to have a parenting plan that would be successful.
Our activities, discussions, educational choices, mornings, and bedtime routines needed to be carefully thought out.
I’ve learned to be much more intentional about my family’s activities. Therefore, our Family Mission Statement became the funnel through which potential activities are evaluated. As an opportunity is presented to us, I look to see if it fits within one of the categories I identified.
Does this activity help us learn more enthusiastically? Serve more faithfully? Live more responsibly? Give more generously? Love more freely?
Not only must the activity fit within one of those categories, but it should give us quite a bit of “bang for the buck”, so to speak. I don’t want to overload our calendar or lives with a ton of activities. I’ve seen the benefits of a more simple and slower lifestyle, and I want to protect it. I want to choose the activities that I feel best help us fulfill our Family Mission Statement. I can do this by asking a few simple questions:
Under which category of the Family Mission Statement does this activity fall?
How closely does it fit with our family goals?
What discussions might I be able to have with my kids based on this activity?
What life lessons might my kids learn?
How important are those lessons?
Can they learn those lessons elsewhere in a better way?
If an activity seems to fit well with our goals, then I add it to the calendar.
A note of warning/ encouragement- this isn’t a perfect system, and your calendar doesn’t have to be perfect either. Make the best choice you can as an opportunity presents itself to you, then learn from it. Don’t hold yourself to an impossible standard or place too much pressure on yourself to make the most of every moment. This is just a guide to help shift your mindset about activities.
Parenting intentionally doesn’t mean parenting perfectly.
Discussions with my children are also impacted by the Family Mission Statement. By keeping my goals for them at the forefront, I can use discussions with my kids to parent them more intentionally. I try to use my words to point back to the mission and vision I’ve established.
I think: What can we learn through this discussion? Can I tie it into being more service-minded? More generous? More responsible? Can I use this discussion to help my children learn how to love someone better or more freely?
Of course we’re always doing this as parents, but having these more narrow categories can lend more direction for conversations with my kids. Open communication with my kids is really important to me, so I try to make sure I don’t sound too much like a lecture during these discussions.
I am also honest and open with my kids about my own failures and life experiences as much as is appropriate and pertinent. My hope is that my being open with them will encourage them to be open with me, even when life gets more complicated and messy for them.
I always thought my kids would go to public school. It never occurred to me that they’d be homeschooled, and I thought I’d die before I sent them to a Christian school. Turns out they’ve never gone to a public school, spent several years in a Christian school, and are now homeschooled. Sometimes I think God must get a chuckle out of our “certainties”, knowing the ways in which we’d veer so widely from them!
I was pro-public school. I taught in public schools, I loved public schools. I loved the diversity of the students. I loved the needs that were found there and the ability to make a difference in my small corner of the world.
Then I became involved in Christian schooling and fell in love with the opportunity to integrate my faith into my interactions with my students as a school administrator. As a parent, I loved that my kids got exposure to believers with different doctrinal stances than I had. We were blessed to be in a very diverse setting, so they encountered people of many different ethnicities and experiences. My children had access to a variety of mentors whose interests could appeal to them. Most importantly, my kids got to learn from people who were dedicating their lives to serving Jesus.
As my kids were moving through their elementary school years, I began to think about how to parent them more intentionally. Time was going so incredibly fast, and I realized my years of influencing them were passing much more quickly than I wanted them to.
Around that same time, I met some homeschooled adults that were influential in my thinking about intentional parenting. First of all, they were brilliant. I mean, so obviously very smart. They were knowledgeable about a wide variety of topics. They weren’t any more unusual than the average person, and I found the ways in which they may have been a little odd to be desirable and engaging. These individuals seemed to really know who they were. They were articulate and knowledgeable. They could listen and debate in productive ways. They knew God’s Word exceptionally well.
I was intrigued.
I never thought I’d be a homeschool mom. To be honest, prior to these encounters, I’d met a lot of *odd* homeschool kids, and I knew I didn’t want to be party to making my kids that way. I loved school as a child (and as an adult, too!). Learning is probably my favorite activity. I love lecture-style presentations from an expert and feel like I could drink up just about any wisdom they’d care to throw my way. I didn’t want my kids to miss out on that experience.
But I began to feel the homeschool itch.
As I’d send my bigs off to school, I realized how much I missed them. Even though they were going to a Christian school and I was so grateful for the lessons and exposures they had there, it felt like too much of their life was spent being influenced by others. Not that I wanted them to be in a bubble. I just wanted to have more control over their eventual exposures, at least while they were younger.
This is really what prompted me to first articulate my vision for my children and then craft the Family Mission Statement.
As I thought of my desire to raise kids that will
Give generously; and
I realized that homeschooling was the best decision for this season. By homeschooling, I could choose every piece of their instructional materials. I could expose them to perspectives and people groups that I thought were important. I could work to develop and hone the skills that were most important for them to have the kind of future I desired for them. I could build in opportunities for them to serve others and love freely. It just made sense.
Homeschooling makes sense for my family as I try to parent them intentionally. I recognize that it might not make sense for you, though! The point here, again, is to use your Family Mission Statement to choose the best method of education for your family. What type of schooling will help you reach the end goals you have for your kids? What must they learn? To whom and what should they be exposed?
One of the best things that has come out of this Family Mission Statement is an intentional morning routine. Let me back up and say that I am not a morning person. But having these goals so clearly outlined and prevalent in my mind has helped me focus my mornings better. It’s helped me make time for myself before everyone else wakes up.
On the best days, I wake up at least an hour before my kids do and I have time with God’s Word and my coffee all by myself. BLISS! But even on the days when that doesn’t happen, I still have a morning routine with my kids that I have been able to faithfully stick with.
I’m going to venture outside of conventional wisdom a little bit and say that in my experience, while it is best to have my alone time first, it is not necessary for a good day with your kids. I used to feel discouraged or defeated if I didn’t mom “right” by waking before my kids. In practice, I’ve actually found that the most important thing is making sure I start my kids’ day right. Even if my morning didn’t start the way I wanted it to, I can “fake it till I make it” with regards to my kids’ morning. Even if that means our morning routine starts later than I’d like. Even if that means I’m drinking my coffee during our morning routine time. Even if it means I’m not yet dressed for the day.
It seems to me that the most important thing is that it happens.
What’s been working for me is what I call “Family Bible Class.” We homeschool, so this works well for us. If you don’t homeschool, you’ll likely need to tweak this. That’s ok. This isn’t about you replicating what we do exactly. This is about you developing something that fits your values and priorities based on your vision and mission statement.
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Here’s what we do.
- We do some little kid worship because I have littles and bigs right now. I recently discovered “Listener Kids” and have really loved what they produce. They have a YouTube channel that has a playlist that I can just let run for a few minutes. We ended up enjoying their music so much that we purchased the album. Sometimes we do this worship first thing. Lately I’ve been moving it to the end of Bible Class so that my bigs can get started on other school work. They don’t get a ton out of the baby Bible songs anymore, so I think this is ok.
- We read a Bible lesson from one of two books- The Jesus Storybook Bible or Leading Little Ones to God. These books are great because there’s a short reading selection that fits pretty well with my littles’ attention spans yet they are written in engaging enough ways that my bigs enjoy them too. Plus it gives my bigs the opportunity to demonstrate some leadership and help the littles. It’s important to me that my bigs can help mentor my littles because I believe it will help everyone grow.
- We pray together as a family. Right now my husband is working from home, so he joins us for this each day. For the first maybe five weeks of this school year, we’ve added about four index cards with names or topics for prayer requests to our list so that now we have a pretty thick stack. We pass them out (this is one of the littles’ jobs to do) so that each person has one or two cards. We get through the entire stack in a week. We’ve been working through our prayer order as either ACTS or CATS. I debate back and forth about which order is best, but I think it’s important that all happen regardless. For those unfamiliar, ACTS stands for:
- Adoration- a time of verbal worship, praising God for who he is
- Confession- confessing our sins. My husband and I try to model specific confession rather than blanket statements. Our hope is that this will help our kids learn to be vulnerable with the Lord and also feel less shame over their mistakes and not try to hide their imperfections from God or others.
- Thanksgiving- thanking God for who he is and what he’s done
- Supplication- asking God for our needs (or really the needs on the index cards of the day)
- Many days we also read from a book that will help us grow in a particular area. So far this year we’ve been reading Kisses from Katie which has been great for my bigs. The littles typically leave to go play before we read this book because it is way over their heads. Another book we’ve read from and will definitely finish is Make Your Bed. This is especially good for boys.
Again, mornings are not my jam. But having my goals clearly outlined has given me greater passion for and discipline in the mornings than I ever would have thought possible. I now look forward to getting our day going.
It is pretty much undisputed that a bedtime routine is good for kids, especially when they’re little. Thankfully, my husband is a rockstar bedtime routine guy.
In addition to the typical things- bath, pjs, brush teeth- my husband does a quick devotion with the kids. Right now he uses this one. It’s quick and simple for our littles. Whereas the topics it covers look more like discussions and real life applications for our bigs, this book helps facilitate such things at an appropriate level for our toddlers.
Another thing he does that is so important and beneficial is that he spends a few minutes intentionally praying with and over our kids. If he’s sinned against them in any way during the day, he genuinely apologizes for it. He makes sure they know without doubt that they are loved and accepted as they are, and he prays for who they will become.
I think this is probably the most important thing about the bedtime routine- using it to clear up any junk from the day and help our kids feel really secure in our love.
Sometimes it’s hard to do because let’s be honest- our days have had some junk in them too! Sometimes we just want the day to be over. Ooooover. It’d be so easy to just brush teeth and get the kids in bed so we can have a few minutes to ourselves.
But this stuff is important. I think the bedtime routine is some of the most important work that we can do as parents if we approach it in the right way.
My hope is that this is a routine the kids will continue in their own lives, working out the “junk” of their day with their Heavenly Father so they can feel completely secure in his love.
The Benefits of Intentional Parenting
Parenting intentionally of course benefits our kids. By casting vision for their lives, crafting a Family Mission Statement, and then making choices that align with our parenting plan, we can set our kids up with a better future. But the benefits don’t end there. Intentional parenting requires great discipline of us. We have to lay our own desires aside as we choose what is best over what feels good in the moment. Intentional parenting also requires us to rely more heavily on our Heavenly Father. We can’t do it alone. Striving to parent intentionally makes us need him more, for it is too big of a task to do on our own.
Putting it All Together
One of the most important parts of living out your Family Mission Statement and truly intentionally parenting is to make sure you don’t forget about it all! Life gets so busy, and if we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves completing exercises like this every few years without any follow through.
I knew I didn’t want this to happen to me this time around. I bought a large chalkboard to hang in my kitchen, and I wrote the Family Mission Statement on it. It’s right in the hub of all our family activity. I see it while I drink my coffee. I see it while we homeschool. I see it at dinner time. There is no escaping it!
To make sure it doesn’t just become a meaningless piece of decoration, I remind myself regularly to revisit it. I read it line by line to help me remember those things that are most important to me as I parent, and I try to live out the mission statement with intentionality each day.
Intentional Parenting is not easy, but it is worth it!
How do you focus on intentionally parenting? We’d love to hear about it below!