Sunday, October 9, 2011

Purposeful Parenting

I don’t know when I was able to first articulate 
my goals in parenting into words. 

Like many moms, I had vague concepts of desiring to “turn out good kids.” 
I recall the era that I formed my first “opinion” regarding it into a statement. Our boys were about 3 and 5 which also means First Born Daughter was newly born. We had spent time with friends who had children the same ages as our kids and the kids were not fun to be around. They were whiney, and insistent, and all-around annoying to more than just my husband and I. We watched the parents take 10 minutes to eventually cajole one child to go do for the other child what a mama or baba ought to have done in 30 seconds, but they were too engroassed in a conversation or an activity to do it themselves. It made everyone around them a little miserable, including themselves.  Because of the character of the parents, I was actually pretty sure that the kids would turn into good adults, but I didn’t relish spending much time with them until they were. 
(If we knew you and your kids at that time, assume it was NOT you. 
I don't think the person of whom I am writing reads this blog.)

So, I decided the Arrows in my quiver (Psalm 127:4-5) were worth shooting toward a more refined goal than “A Good Christian Citizen” later in life. My desired product became 

"a kid that was pleasant to be around while he/she grew into a man/woman 
that loved God with his/her whole heart.” 

I still think that is a succinct, if not detailed, statement of my general aim with my Arrows. With that statement, I began my journey to Purposeful Parenting.

Please remember that I strongly feel that you (yes, you with the coffee cup beside your computer) are God’s gift to your children. Your home (with the water ring on the side table) is exactly the place God wanted your particular (and possibly peculiar) child/children to be. He is not calling you to create my home (for which you have my permission to thank Him) and I am not called to be you (for which, I may or may not have already thanked Him.) Each of us (including you in the new blouse reading this at work) has been made to be suited for the job He’s given. I am also convinced that He changes me (ouch! growth!) to become more of what He intends me to be, so that I can function even better at the tasks He sets before me (whether they be Teething Nights and Peanut Butter and Jelly Days, or Prom Nights and Graduation Days.)

In my attempts toward Purposeful Parenting, I look at 
my expectations and long-range goals, 
then attempt to recognize the steps needed to get to that outcome. A previous post, Launch Dates, talked about preparing my kids for adulthood. I look at their spiritual, physical, emotional components. I look at where they are, and which things from today will contribute to their overall success in that area. 

I must say I am passionate that my children have been given a purpose by God EACH MINUTE of EACH DAY that He desires for them to accomplish. 
Sometimes, that purpose is learning to be kind when it isn’t fun. 
Sometimes that purpose is learning to survive when life is hard. 
Sometimes it is creating music from their soul, whether it be on their violin, from their fingertips to paper, or in the laughter on the playground. 

I do not want to focus my kids (or myself) on their future to the exclusion on their present! 
Each one of my Dear Ones has an agenda from God today...and it fits perfectly into the agenda He has for their life. I have yet to live my’s still ahead of me, so I need to focus on what I have: today.

By nature, this is where I would give you some examples from my family's life to help you understand the idea of what I am trying to say...but I am hesitant to give you that “out.” This is the Mom- (and Dad-) work through which you need the Holy Spirit to lead you. I might be sad about it, but I don’t get to be you...and you don’t get to be me. But, I will attempt to give some direction.

1. Expectations
  A. Decide what your expectations are for your child. Do not shoot too low. They will only aim for what you do. (Most kids will aim just slightly lower than you do, with the exception of that first born personality!)
  B. Decide how tasks from today build the overall character you want to see tomorrow/in the future.
  C. Decide if you’re child is ready to hear why this thing matters (washing their brother’s dog in itself isn’t going to make them a good CEO of a business, but it may contribute to the self-discipline needed to handle other people’s money responsibly.)

2. Implementation
  A. Model it. If you wear the same pair of shorts 4 days straight and haven’t combed your hair in a week, don’t think they will be motivated to do otherwise. If your bedroom has clothing on every horizontal surface, careful consider how you’ll request them to send clothing to the laundry room each Tuesday.
  B. Teach it. Even if I model safe driving, I don't expect my 15 year old to get behind the wheel of our vehicle and understand the full dynamics of what needs to occur. If I say, "Fold the towels in the dryer," but never show them how I want them folded, I can't really go back and hold them responsible for something I've never shown them. They may be folded, but will they even fit in the space you usually put them? Once I've folded them with the kid, I feel like they are responsible for the lesson.
  C. Make expectations non-negotiable (we consider blood and fire to be adequate reasons for interrupting adult conversations or for not following through with assigned tasks. Mark and I would have to discuss if we’d consider hospitalization as an adequate reason, also.)
  D. Declare consequences for any misdemeanors. I desperately attempt to have the consequence be an “natural” as possible: 

(Here I go with personal examples...Ugh!!) 
~~If the dish isn’t cleared from the table after you used it, your next meal will be served on it. (really. It usually only takes one tearful meal to "remember" the once difficult task of clearing the table.)
~~If the dog is repeatedly not fed without a reminder, you will go a day with 3 plain meals, and no snacks AT ALL. It doesn’t feel good to be hungry. (I borrowed that one from a mean friend who is a great mommy, but never have used it myself...) 
~~Potty mouth gets to clean toilets.
~~A helpful hint from my cupboard: I have a 3x5 on the inside of a cupboard door with a list of tasks that are yucky. When a consequence is needed, I often refer to that list. Simple, but necessary, things like weeding, cleaning outside trash cans, sorting the game closet) It seems my mind goes blank at crucial parenting times, and the list helps me through those moments.


Oh, and did I mention, FOLLOW THROUGH. This truly is the most difficult part since we are humans in tired bodies with blurry eyes from the sleepless night or allergies. We have spent ourselves on these (occasionally ungrateful) Darlings with little reward. We have seen others do this without looking like they even put effort into it. We have all the "reasons" why being consistent is just not easy for us...But you must FOLLOW THROUGH. If we don’t, then we’re apt to raise the kid we read about in the wrong section of the paper (and my heart goes out to those mamas) We want the delightful human interest story, or the change-the-world story written about our kids!! Front page is best but we’ll take the sports page if the paper spells her name right.

As the Brits said in The Second World War, 

(Which just is Queen-speak for Follow Through)

Enjoying a quiet house and a cup of tea from the Czech's my one weakness.

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