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!

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