Last week in Families that Thrive I shared 8 benefits of having a clear parenting purpose. Things like clear common goals with a spouse/partner, consistency in discipline, and greater confidence in parenting decisions are each a payoff for some valuable reflection on what you hope to accomplish in this job called “mom” or “dad.”
I wonder how many people know what their parenting purpose is? Do you? I think about how much peace would come to moms and dads who spend a bit of time getting clear on this question and can let go of agendas or pressures that don’t line up. I picture homes with a great sense of harmony, joy, and fun. Who doesn’t want some of that?!
So, as promised last week, today I share my own parenting purposes. Now, before I make myself vulnerable and disclose some of the pieces of my heart that are very precious, I don’t claim this is an exhaustive list of what is important to do as a parent. These statements come with the idea that certain things are “givens.” For example, in our home, it’s a given that we create a place of love, trust, and safety for each of us. I narrowed the focus in my parenting purposes below to those things its necessary for me to be very intentional about at this stage of my parenting. That could be because at times it’s easy for these things to get blurry for me. Or, it’s because these are deeply important to me and my husband, but aren’t reinforced in the culture that surrounds us. When we are quieted, the purposes below resound deeply. And, so, we choose to put them in writing to make a clear statement that we commit to these intentions.
Also important, I don’t put these out because I recommend everyone adopt these. A parenting purpose is a very personal thing! My intention of sharing is to offer an idea of what this might look like and how it can affect everyday life with your children. With that in mind, here are the commitments I’ve made:
1. Celebrate/discover the person my child is created to be. love lock
One of the greatest joys and challenges as a parent is learning and understanding each child’s personality. I commit myself to helping each child explore areas of life not only for him to learn and grow, but also to discover what brings him joy and where he thrives. When I focus here, one of my highest goals is to notice and affirm what I see. I want each of my children to have a clear picture of the gifts they bring to the world and an idea of how they use those gifts to make a contribution to the people around them, in work, in service, and in the sheer enjoyment of living.
So, one of the activities of our summer is to explore the world of physical therapy for my 15-year-old daughter’s future. She is a dancer, loves exercise, is highly goal-minded, and has a gift of encouraging people. We asked a local physical therapy office to have her shadow a therapist for a day for the sheer purpose of self discovery and the direction it brings. Will she thrive on the people interaction that she sees is a part of this type of work? Maybe she’ll realize she is fascinated by the human body and it’s potential. Or, it could be a time when she observes that she can be too squeamish to work with people in this type of setting. Her picture of what this work is like, and how it lines up with who she’s made to be, will no doubt become clearer. Because discovery of my kids rates at the top of my parenting goals, the ways we use our time this summer will be rearranged from what it would be if I was simply reacting to each day’s agenda.
2. Raise confident, responsible, contributing adults that launch well.
This is one where I have to intentionally choose every day. Straight up honesty? The truth is that it would often be easier, in the short term, to just do things myself. It takes a ton of energy (and clarity about my purpose as a parent) to train kids in the skills they need to launch well. This may seem like a trite example (perhaps that reinforces the importance of clarity about your parenting purpose?), but consider the morning alarm clock. My 11-year-old son often asks me to wake him up in the morning. It’s tempting. If I do, I don’t have to worry about him sleeping through his alarm. I kinda like waking him up anyway – he’s pretty cute when he’s groggy, and he has an incredible little boy charm when he’s sleeping! The best part, when I wake him up the guilt monster doesn’t have anything to say. You know what I’m talking about, right? That icky, nagging voice that says, “If you were a ‘good’ mom you would blah, blah, blah… ” One of the greatest benefits of clear parenting purpose is that destructive voice can be silenced! When I check in on my parenting purpose, I quickly remind myself that I desire to raise fully-functioning, contributing adults that are equipped to succeed in this world. So, I ask myself, “is he physically able to do this task?” “Is he mentally able to do this?” If the answer is yes, then I believe part of my job as a parent is to take on the hard work of training and handing off responsibility. And, I reap the many benefits of children that take ownership and initiative. Love that!
3. Provide spiritual nurture.
For me, there is nothing more important than placing deep in the soul of my kids the confidence they matter greatly to God. I want to model a faith that goes way beyond going to a place of worship on Sunday morning. I aim for them to see that my connection to God affects everything I do. It impacts how I treat people, the decisions I make, how we spend our money, time, and so on. Frankly, I have experienced firsthand that life is full of challenges. As much as I desire to equip my kids to live a capable, responsible life, I also want them to know that they are not alone. The best gift that I can give them is a confidence in a God that loves them like crazy and wants to be a connected part of every day with them. So, this makes a difference in our home. Nobody else is going to put that kind of parenting purpose on the calendar. There isn’t a little league team that develops that. I find it important to make space for the quietness to get clear on just what my task is as a parent, and post it somewhere that I look often. It provides an anchor for me. It centers me. It gives me deep peace that I am doing the things with my kids that matter most.
Some people are naturally good at making this kind of space and following through on the clarity they have. Others benefit from partnership. As a Family Coach, I love locking arms with parents who desire to get clear on their parenting purpose. Coaching intentionally creates the space and environment to get clear on important questions like this. If this would benefit you, please know I’d consider it a great privilege to serve you and your family in this way!