It was only 10 years ago when I first heard someone use the term ‘intentional’ talking about their life.
The exact quote was about living ‘authentically, transparently and intentionally.’ Each of these are things we should all aspire to become, because in the journey to reaching authenticity, transparency and intentionality we become the best version of ourselves.
Unfortunately, too many times relationships with your children are convenient and not intentional. They become a fixture in your life, and, like with spousal relationships, you can start to take them for granted.
But, children are like fledgling businesses, the more intentionally you grow them, the better the potential for success.
This is not to say that every business, or every child, you spend time and energy on will be successful. However, WITHOUT time and energy they are both destined to fail.
In the reality of being mother, father, breadwinner, housekeeper and chief cook and bottle-washer, how do you find the time and energy to do anything intentionally? Children require time, patience, energy, love, understanding, compassion, knowledge, and the understanding that you will make mistakes and you will have to be humble for the next several decades in your life.
Being a parent doesn’t end when they spread their wings and leave home. It doesn’t end when they start their own family. In fact, it never ends.
And your responsibility to continue to engage them intentionally doesn’t end either. When they move 12 hours away, when they don’t respond to your text messages or answer your calls, when they make bad decisions or do things you don’t agree with, when they become someone you never intended . . . you are still their mother and you must still be intentional.
Whether that intentionality means tough love or it means continuing to stay in touch when you’re so angry and hurt you just want to turn your back . . . your responsibility as a mother is to be intentional.
So, whatever decision you make, be sure it’s intentional. Don’t allow life to take over. YOU take over.
Back to the original question . . . where do you find the time and energy to intentionally grow these little ones?
It’s time to take a long hard look your life, make hard decisions and create an environment both you and your children can live with. One of the greatest things about your relationship with your children is that it’s never too late to start being intentional. It may take longer to make up ground you may have lost, but you will make up that ground with persistence and consistency.
Your children need time to understand that the changes they’ll see are permanent and that you’ll continue to be there to support them. So, again I say . . . be persistent and consistent. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
- Take a strong look at the WAY you spend your time and then get creative. TIME is the one factor that you can’t buy or barter more of. You get 24 hours each day, whether you want more or less. How you spend that time will determine your results – at work, at home, with your children or any other aspect of your life.
Keep a calendar for a week and write it all down. Find the things you can do without, you can stop doing or you can outsource. Whether your children start doing more housework, you pay someone to do your errands or you hire a cleaning service . . .whatever you can do, or afford to do, to free up a bit more time in your schedule – do it.
- Direction, purpose and plan. Now it’s time to put in place a plan that you create from the purpose of growing your children intentionally, which you develop from the direction you want them to take in their life.
There are specific daily factors that increase your potential for success – but if you don’t know the direction you want to take, you’ll never know if you reached success. First determine what you want for your children and then make your plan.
Do you want them to be independent thinkers? Creative? Respectful? Athletic? Educated? Relational?
Whatever you want for your children, be sure it fits with THEIR natural talents. If they don’t like chess they won’t be a chess champion. If they are a great basketball player but don’t have the desire to play in college, they’ll never get there. Your direction for them depends on THEIR talents, drives, desires and temperament.
- Include Essential Daily Rituals and be present. Your children depend on daily rituals to stabilize their lives, so develop daily rituals for your own family. These are things your children can depend on each day – dinner around the table with everyone present, homework time, special individual time (#5), Sunday lunches and whatever else works for your family.
Each of us love rituals. Whether it’s a special way of celebrating Christmas or the way you mow your lawn. For the most part, we do the repeated things in our life the same way, each week. Your children are not different. Except, for your children, these rituals give them stability in their life.
Be PRESENT during these events. Don’t let your mind wander. Pay attention to what they say and how they say it. This will give you clues as to what they really mean.
- Quality time incorporates INTO quantity time. You’ve heard that quality time is more important that quantity of time. I argue that both are important. You won’t get your child to open up and talk with you about the important things in life if you spend 1 hour a week with them over Sunday lunch.
Relationships need time and energy to build. Your children have a LOT going on in their heads. If you want to know what it is, so you can have an impact on how they grow up, then it’s time to spend quality AND quantity time with them.
Find the time when your child likes to open up and talk. For my children, it’s always been after 10pm when I want to get to sleep. Sleep has occasionally been in short supply, but when the children start talking at 11pm, it’s time to start listening.
- Weekly or monthly dates. You want to spend time with your children when they want it, but you also want to schedule time with your children. Make a date to do some of the things they enjoy and then keep the date. Stay present during the time you’re together and enjoy yourself!
- Be straight with your children, at their developmental level. Never lie to your children, unless you expect them to lie to you. Children appreciate when you’re straight with them, at a level they can understand. If you can’t take your five-year-old to the park, then tell them why. If your teen wants a new phone and you can’t afford it, then tell them and come up with a plan to help them pay for it.
Your children may not like the answer, but they’ll appreciate your honesty and will come to expect that from you.
- Practice humility, integrity and compassion because you want to and because they’re watching. When you’re wrong, say so. Own up to doing the things you shouldn’t have. This will help you stop the behavior and help your children respect you. When your children respect you, you’ll find they listen to what you say and determine to follow your advice. Do you follow the advice of people you don’t respect? Neither do they.
Integrity, compassion, honesty, truth, humility and every other character trait you want to instill in your children starts with you. And it all starts with humility.
Until you recognize the times you’re wrong, or the times you fall short, you won’t be able to help your children. They’ll only see someone who is hypocritical . . .