Parenting with Intention

There are many decisions to make when becoming a parent. Cory and I are looking forward to that day, and thinking ahead about what kind of parents and family we want to be. Our parenting vision is something that we’ve spent a lot of time writing and refining, and in my last two posts I shared about two of the key elements in our parenting strategy. The first one is keeping God at the center, and the second one is using attachment parenting principles. In this post, I want to share about the third key element in our plan, which is choosing an intentional lifestyle.

At first, this may sound like a very vague ambition. What does it mean to choose an intentional lifestyle? The way that Cory and I understand it is something like this; we want to make choices in life that are thoughtful, wise, and purposeful, not based on what is the normal standard for the rest of the world, but instead based on what makes sense for us and our family, and what will reflect best on our God. At times, this means that we do things in ways that are unusual or possibly frowned upon by others.

Choosing to get married at 19 brought a lot of judgment and lack of support from people around us, but we did it anyway because we knew that it made sense for us and that we only had to please God, not others. (We were also lucky to have good support from some of our closest friends and family). Choosing to leave school before finishing was another choice we made that society as a whole doesn’t tend to support. Yet for us, it made sense to reconsider the use of our time and money, and we believe it has allowed God to move in more powerful ways; Cory was able to find an awesome job that supports us comfortably, thanks to God. We’re firm believers that college isn’t for everyone, and we don’t buy into the social pressure that says we can’t succeed without a degree. My point with all of this is that we like to question and think about different ways of doing things, to find what truly works for us as individuals. Sometimes, that means we take the road less traveled.

As parents, we want to have the same attitude. There are many aspects of parenting that are considered “normal” which we do not wish to emulate. I want to be clear that I am not judging anybody, or saying that a certain way of doing things is wrong. I am simply outlining some of the decisions that Cory and I have made for our own family, which we think will work best for us.

For example, many parents allow their children to use technology for entertainment, or as a way to get a break from the chaos. For our family, though, we don’t plan to allow our children to use “screens” of any kind, including the television, computer, tablets, or cell phones, until they are two years old. At that point, screen time will be limited and monitored. Instead of using technology as a primary form of entertainment, we will encourage our children to play creatively, both outdoors and indoors, and develop other hobbies and interests.

We’ve also decided to home school our children, so that we can foster a more genuine passion for learning than is typically found in children who attend public school. We want school to be about growing, gaining knowledge and understanding, and encouraging curiosity, rather than superficially memorizing information to earn a high grade. Social development is also important to us, so we plan to ensure that our children are involved in several different activities with their peers on a regular basis. The children’s program at our church provides one convenient arena for social development. We will also have our children participate in activities outside of the house such as sports, art, or music classes, and take advantage of home school groups in our area.

We believe it is important to raise children who are competent and responsible. One way we plan to do this is by teaching our kids life skills from an early age. I’ll always remember this simple rule that I learned in one of my child development classes: never do for a child something that he/she can do for him/herself. For example, when our child is able to bring his/her plate to the sink, then he/she will be asked to do so. When new skills are being learned, the tasks may not always be completed well, but the point is that the child starts learning how to do it. We will expect our kids to clean up after themselves, and contribute to the family’s well-being by helping with communal chores, as age permits. We will teach our kids how to cook, clean, manage money, communicate effectively, resolve conflict, and other important life skills. So many children grow up these days without even knowing how to do their laundry or cook a meal, and they end up struggling to live in the real world without the slightest idea of how to survive on their own. That is not what we want for our children; we want them to be competent in taking care of themselves.

Discouraging materialism is also of concern to us. Few things are more annoying, in my opinion, than children who are ungrateful and whine about stuff that they want. Kids will be kids, of course. But Cory and I believe that stuff should not be the “gods” of our lives. When collecting money and material possessions becomes our major concern in life, there is something wrong. Our objective in life should be to pursue God and the things of God, such as love, joy, peace, compassion, and wisdom. Enjoying the things that God blesses us with is a good thing! Yet this should be tempered with a thankful heart, concern for others, generosity, wisdom in how we use our money, and a focus on more eternal things. One way we hope to instill this attitude in our kids is by modeling it; we try to be thrifty and thoughtful when making purchases, and we help others with our financial blessings when possible. We also plan to limit the number of toys in our home; toys that aren’t played with should be donated, and before new toys come into the home our kids must choose some of their current toys to give away (we have some more specific rules in mind to clarify this, but I won’t bore you with them).

One final area of concern for us is health. We strive to find a balance between the over-zealous style of modern medicine and the opposite end of the spectrum, which is rejecting most or all standard medical care, often in favor of alternative medicine. Neither extreme feels comfortable for us. We believe that medical decisions should be well-informed and made carefully and prayerfully. God is our healer, and we will seek his healing power first; we also believe God gifts and empowers people to heal through medicine. We want to eliminate unnecessary interventions in our children’s healthcare, which means that for us, we will not be following the standard vaccination schedule, which we feel is excessive. Instead, we’ll follow our own well-researched, limited vaccination schedule. We also think it’s important to listen to our bodies; treating causes rather than covering up symptoms is something we try to do whenever possible. For example, headaches can often be treated with a glass of water, rest, and relaxation rather than a pill. As another example, praying for healing, using a humidifier at night, and drinking plenty of water has eliminated my allergy symptoms, and thus my need for daily allergy medicine. And of course, prevention is the best medicine of all. A healthy diet and exercise regime go a long way towards preventing illness! We will keep these concepts in mind as managers of our children’s health. Using “green” products in our home and on our bodies is also important to us for health and safety.

As you can see, choosing an intentional lifestyle covers many areas for us in our parenting vision. The overall goal here is to use careful consideration, research, discussion, wisdom, and of course prayer when we make decisions about how to live. Being intentional means that we do things the way that we do them for a reason. We want to live and parent on purpose—good parenting is not an accident.

In the next and final post about our parenting vision, I will share our thoughts on teaching safety and wisdom to our kids.

Thank you for reading, and feel free to comment below to share your thoughts!

Attachment Parenting

In my last post, I shared with you how important Cory and I feel it is to discuss and think about our future as parents. As this exciting time draws near, we’ve decided to write out a plan, or vision, for parenting. The first focus of our parenting vision is to keep God at the center by viewing our role as parents as a gift and ministry. Another aspect of raising our children that is very important to us is forming strong, trusting relationships with them and encouraging them to be compassionate and independent individuals. Attachment parenting is a philosophy that fits well with these goals, as it tends to produce children who are securely attached, independent, and compassionate.

Some of my readers may not be familiar with the term attachment parenting. According to the non-profit organization Attachment Parenting International, “The essence of Attachment Parenting is about forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children.” That is, of course, a simplified definition. Yet this idea of strong connections is at the core of attachment parenting. Specifically, there are 8 parenting practices that Attachment Parenting International (referred to as API from here on out) recommends. They are:

  1. Prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting
  2. Feed with love and respect
  3. Respond with sensitivity
  4. Use nurturing touch
  5. Ensure safe sleep, physically and emotionally
  6. Provide consistent and loving care
  7. Practice positive discipline
  8. Strive for balance in your personal and family life

Each of these principles provides a framework upon which parents are encouraged to build. API provides more details about the concepts, and tips for how they may be implemented, but it doesn’t tell parents what to do. There are a few areas in which API makes strong suggestions, such as breastfeeding and positive discipline without the use of physical punishment. For the most part, though, attachment parenting principles are flexible guidelines that focus on the goal of fostering a securely attached relationship between a child and his or her parents. There are no attachment parenting police who will enforce these principles; it’s simply a way to help parents form their parenting methods with attachment in mind.

We plan to implement these principles in our own specific ways. The first area, preparing for pregnancy, birth, and parenting, is obviously important to us; we like to think and educate ourselves about these things ahead of time! Writing our parenting vision is one way we reflect this. We’ve also done a lot of research and given consideration to our options for pregnancy care and birth. As a result, we’ve decided to prenatally care for and bring our babies into the world gently and naturally, with a midwife in a birth center. The documentary The Business of Being Born is a great resource for insight in this area (though I don’t recommend it if seeing women give birth bothers you).

The second area, feeding with love and respect, refers to a commitment to meeting your child’s nutritional needs and following his or her cues for feeding. Because of the many benefits of breastfeeding, we plan to breastfeed our babies, on demand, for at least the first year of life, and possibly for part of the second year as well. As they grow older, we will strive to balance respect for food preferences and our children’s cues as to when they are hungry and when they aren’t, with the importance of good nutrition.

The third principle, responding with sensitivity, means that we will respond to our babies’ cries and our older children’s voices. We will provide comfort and responsive care, and we won’t let our babies cry by themselves. The “cry it out” method, and sleep training in general, is not something we’ll be using. We won’t ignore our children or brush them off when they’re “annoying” to us—at least, it is our goal not to do so!

In the fourth area, using nurturing touch, we will remember to show plenty of affection through kisses, hugs, and cuddles. Babywearing, or keeping our baby in close contact with us using a sling, will also be an important part of our daily routine. We plan to use infant massage to promote bonding and relaxation.

The fifth API principle is ensuring safe sleep, physically and emotionally. Co-sleeping is one area that is most commonly associated with attachment parenting. Although the practice has become controversial, especially in the U.S., it is widely practiced around the world and it can be done safely. There are many benefits to co-sleeping, as long as the parents are willing to adapt to a new sleep arrangement. One option is to use a separate, but attached, sleeping area for the baby, such as a side-car bed or a twin mattress on the side of your bed. Cory and I plan to co-sleep, using this type of arrangement, as a way to make nighttime parenting more convenient; breastfeeding mothers tend to get more sleep when they co-sleep, since they can feed their babies without fully waking up. In our case, we have decided to co-sleep with our babies until they are ready to move to their own beds. Many attachment parenting families have a “family bed” in which children are welcome for as long as they wish. We plan to allow our children the freedom to sleep with us if they prefer, though we may start suggesting/preparing them to move to their own bedrooms around age five, if they’re still in our bed at that point. We believe co-sleeping will help our children develop a stronger connection with us and a healthy relationship with sleep, since it usually eliminates bedtime fears and battles.

Principle number six, providing consistent and loving care, means that we will spend as much time with our children as we can, while still providing balance for ourselves. We are fortunate in that I will be able to stay home with our children full-time—and that I have the desire to do so! It will be a priority for Cory to reconnect with our babies when he gets home from work every day, and to spend lots of quality time together as a family on the weekends. For the first years of their lives, we plan to keep separations from our children to a minimum. The only times we’ll both be away from them will be for short separations for things like date nights, and we will leave them with a trusted caregiver, most likely the baby’s grandparents.

The seventh area, practicing positive discipline, is one concept that I’ve learned a lot about in my studies of child development. It is very important to us that we discipline our children and teach them to be obedient, kind, and wise. Studies have shown that positive discipline, which focuses on gentle and respectful guidance, is a very effective way to help children develop into thoughtful, independent, and sincerely pro-social individuals. We will avoid the use of shaming, fear, or physical punishment to discipline our children. Some of the tools we will use instead include prevention, natural consequences, effective communication, and a lot of patience and understanding.

The eighth and final principle, keeping a balance in life, is one area that parents, especially highly devoted parents, may overlook. It seems that it can be all too easy to give everything you have to your child, not realizing that you have your own needs that must be met if you are to provide the best possible care. Cory and I want to remember to stay balanced in our lives as parents by taking care of our needs: eating well, getting exercise and sleep, using a support network of family and friends, taking time for ourselves to recharge, and spending time together as a couple. As co-sleepers, we will especially need to adapt to be more creative and spontaneous in intimacy; it’s important to us to keep the fire burning, even after we have kids! It is also particularly important for us to have time with God on a regular basis. God is our source of everything we need as a parent; we never want to cut him out of the equation because we “don’t have time.”

In order to keep this balance, we must be able to say “no” to our children at times. That doesn’t make us bad parents; it makes us parents who are balanced, and ultimately, that will benefit our children. On the other side of the coin, we will remember that parenting is an investment in our children, and when it’s so, so, so tiring and hard, we will remind ourselves that it gets easier. They will grow up and need us a lot less someday! If we want that future to be a bright one, we’re wise to invest in them in the early years.

In my next post, I’ll share the third facet of our parenting vision, which is choosing an intentional lifestyle.

What do you think about attachment parenting? If you’re a parent, have you used any of these principles? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts!



Attachment Parenting International –

The Business of Being Born – Directed by Abby Epstein and produced by Ricki Lake
Available on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video


Our God-Vision for Parenting

As Cory and I wait and prepare for the next phase of our lives, we’re spending a lot of time discussing our ideal plan for parenting. While we know that we cannot fully prepare ourselves for the job, and that some things won’t be determined until we’re actually parents, we feel it’s important to think about these things ahead of time. We enjoy reading, researching, discussing, and analyzing various aspects of parenting, and deciding how we would like to do things. Throughout our discussions, we’ve started to discover a parenting vision for ourselves.

We have faith that our journey into parenthood is drawing closer now, so we decided to sit down and write a detailed “parenting vision” as a way to guide our choices and clarify our values in terms of how we’d like to raise our children. This blueprint gives us a way to organize our thoughts and begin truly preparing ourselves for the wonderful and demanding task ahead of us. At the same time, we realize that different aspects of our plan may need to be adjusted, amended, or even abandoned as we journey through parenthood. Our plan is something that will likely always be evolving and in need of further refinement. Writing down our parenting vision gives us a foundation to build on as we begin our parenting careers.

One sentence to describe our parenting ideal could be this: We want to raise our children in a way that is centered on God and guided by love, faith, respect, and wisdom. We have also found that the principles of attachment parenting mesh well with our ideals, and integrated them into our vision. Based on this, we created our plan for parenting with four different key areas in mind: putting God at the center, using attachment parenting principles, choosing an intentional lifestyle, and teaching safety and wisdom. Our parenting vision document is lengthy, but I wanted to share a summarized version of the aspects most important to us. In this post, I will focus on the first key area, putting God at the center.

Putting God at the center means that we view our parenting as a ministry, first. We believe that as parents, we will have the opportunity to raise up new members of God’s Kingdom. Our children have the potential to make huge differences in the world for God; they may grow up to be church leaders, people who help the needy, missionaries, healers, founders of world-bettering organizations, influential speakers or writers, or artists who bring more beauty into the world. They may grow up to be husbands and wives and parents to another generation; they will be friends, lovers, employees, employers, thinkers, decision-makers, and citizens. We have a huge role to play in how they turn out. Our job as parents will be to do our best to raise our children into adults who use their lives for God.

Not only is parenting a ministry, it’s a gift and a responsibility. We are entrusted with the care of impressionable, unique, and immensely valued individuals; precious children of God. When he gives us a child, it will be an amazing blessing. It will mean that he believes we have the ability to be parents worthy of the honor of caring for one of his children. What an incredible responsibility and opportunity to serve our Lord! As such, we want to do it for our God by keeping him front and center. Our parenting careers, and our children, will be dedicated to God.

There are many practical ways that we can keep our focus on God. We plan to pray for and with our children daily. We will read and teach them the Bible, and provide resources for each child’s individual spiritual growth. We will be a family involved and connected at church. Spiritual matters will be a topic we discuss openly in our daily conversations; we will answer questions, encourage curiosity, and help our children come to know God in a genuine, personal relationship through Jesus Christ. Overall, we will raise our children in an environment of love, grace, faith, and truth. We will also rely on God as our first and best source of help and success at the monumental task of raising members of the next generation. His supernatural intervention is what we ultimately rely on for the protection, provision, health, behavior, and success of our children. We can’t do it alone and we wouldn’t want to!

In my next post, I’ll share the basics of attachment parenting, and how we plan to use it in our parenting philosophy.