Parenting has changed so much over the years, which means what used to “work” for our parents just doesn’t anymore. Learning how to be intentional every day when it comes to your parenting can improve not only your child’s life but yours as well. But what does being intentional actually mean? And how does that intertwine with being a parent?
What Does It Mean to Be Intentional?
Let’s jump right in. What being intentionally really means is bringing attention to or a focus on something that is truly important to you. So in our case, this is parenting, or how we are raising our children. But how can one be an intentional parent? And will this help me be a better parent to my child?
Intentional parenting is something I came up with after doing some research, and watching tons of videos on gentle parenting. While I love the idea behind gentle parenting, and it is at the base of most of my beliefs, I prefer the term intentional parenting. As this truly depicts what I try to do in my daily life.
So this is where I add my disclaimer that I am not a parenting expert nor am I educated in child psychology or childhood development. But, being a mother of five, all with vastly different personalities, I strive to be the very best mother I can be.
With that being said, intentional parenting means intentionally parenting each child how THEY need to be parented. And it starts with learning your child. Learning not only their love language, but how they learn, what motivates them, and just who they are at the core.
I have a saying saved on my phone. And it’s the first thing I read whenever I unlock it.
“Discipline to instruct and shepherd not to control.”
Why Is Being Intentional Important?
As is life, our priorities typically take precedence over anything else. So learning to be intentional will only improve our outcomes. Taking actions on things that are important to you, focusing on them with the intent to see results in the future, is intentional living. And means you are consciously choosing to create a life you want, instead of having one dictated by your own feelings, emotions or fears. The same is true for parenting.
How to Be Intentional as a Parent
A lot of things can happen just haphazardly. Your toddler spills their milk and you’re so upset that you scream at them. Or pre-teen tells you they don’t want to be seen with you at school anymore. Your feelings are so hurt you say something you truly don’t mean as a knee jerk reaction. This is where the power of being intentional comes in.
Whether you’re a new mom, just started working from home with a toddler, or looking for ways to find your peace again, learning to be intentional can come in handy. I know for me, it’s been a game changer. Simple things that I had never thought of before helped shape not only my thinking but my children’s future. Below are my top tips on how I started my intentional parenting journey. And a few may very well help beyond parenthood.
1. Identify Your Priorities
Motherhood can be all encompassing. This we all know. One way to be intentional with your parenting focus is to identify your priorities. What things are your non negotiables when it comes to parenting. Those core values. And what can be adjusted if needed.For example, one of my core values is connection over everything else.
I was once the mother who swore off all screen time for her children. Well, I quickly learned that television isn’t the enemy. And truthful, the amount of time you spend watching it doesn’t have to be either. But I still needed to find a way to encourage connection during those times.
So when I found out my children love the would you rather exercise videos on Youtube I was happy to include them in our routine. Sometimes I jump in and we exercise together. Other times I let them watch a few while I get things done around the home. Finding a way to bridge that gap while simultaneously getting housework completed is one way I try to be intentional and also prioritize my family values.
2. Learn to Actively Listen
This was a hard one for me. I was so used to tuning my kids out that I honestly had no idea what was going on in their lives. I’d get overwhelmed and shut down. Using simple word answers like, “Oh okay,” ‘that’s cool,” or ‘Wow, really.” But my kids quickly caught on and our conversations were getting shorter and shorter. I want my children to confide in me. So learning to actively listen and show that I am, was something I had to change immediately.
Being present is the first step in overcoming this. I force myself to put my phone away and actively join in conversations. And when I feel myself getting overwhelmed from five kids talking to me all at once, I let them know. “Hey guys, mommy can only handle one person talking at a time. Let’s take turns.”
Asking questions is another way to show you are an active participant in the conversation. Even just taking the time to confirm the details you heard will help your children feel seen and heard.
3. Be Aware of Body Language
I may be the only one, but I am so bad at recognizing body language in the moment. Especially when there are tons of other things happening. So this was something I struggled with. But what I noticed was that the more present I tried to be, the easier it became.
Learning my children’s non verbal cues has helped me to connect with them more. I can tell when my daughter is overwhelmed and needs a few minutes even if she never says so. I now know when to stop a conversation, because my oldest isn’t open to having dialogue at that moment. A person’s body language says a lot about them, being a more intentional parent means leaning into these subtle clues from our children. Then using them to build our relationship and connection.
4. Develop a Mindful Morning Routine
If there is anything on this list that I believe you should do immediately, this is it. Being such a key part of developing a more intentional mindset, your morning routine sets the tone for your day.
Try waking up before your kids. Use this time to prepare your mind for the day. Journaling, prayer, or hitting that yoga mat. Whatever works for you, even if that’s drinking your coffee hot for a change. Your morning is the precursor to the day, make the most of it.
5. Make Time for Self Care
As we all know, self care can be easier said than done. Especially when your house is full of five kids and four dogs. But if the goal is to have an overall happier life, it’s going to have to become a habit.
As I mentioned above, one way to find time for this is by waking up before everyone else. Now, I’m not suggesting you wake up at 4am just to get some time to yourself. Unless of course your children are up at 5am everyday. But then you’d be in my home, lol.
Another way is to utilize nap time. Take a nap with your child. Shower to relieve some stress. Read. Do whatever makes your heart full. That’s what self care is really about.
Just remember to become more intentional with your parenting you have to be more intentional with yourself, first.
6. Be Fully Present and Focused
I had gotten so accustomed to zoning out that I’d get overwhelmed by all the “noise.” I’d find myself thinking about literally anything other then what was happening in front of me. It had gotten so bad that I spent more time on my phone, trying to “get away from it all” then actually interacting with my children.
I mention this for two reasons. One being that if you are in the same boat, know you’re not alone. It is literally a trauma response. It’s your body’s flight response to overstimulation.
And two, know that things can change. You can learn to enjoy the noise, so to speak.
Start with baby steps. Try giving your attention in small spurts. Taking breaks as needed. That can be stepping outside, or sitting in the car for quiet time.
Our brains can only handle so much. When it gets overstimulated, all bets are basically off. Which means trying to force yourself to focus in a situation where your body is literally trying to escape isn’t the best idea for anyone involved. Instead, take it slow. And give lots of grace.
7. Declutter Your Home
This is one I can truly attest to. When my home is overly cluttered things get overwhelming. That feeling turns into anxiety and next thing I know, I don’t want to do anything.
It’s hard to be more intentional with your children when your anxiety is high.
Get rid of the things you truly don’t need. Rule of thumb; if you haven’t used it in over 6 months you can probably get rid of it. Have your children help out. Starting young with tidy up time will enforce such habits as they grow.
8. Practice Kindness Daily
Wondering how to be more intentional in life? Kindness takes practice. It is a learned skill. Do it daily, for more reasons than one. Children do what they see, not what they’re told. Practicing kindness daily (towards our children, our friends and family but especially towards strangers) is a sure fire way to raise up some amazing humans. And here’s the kicker, it’ll probably make you feel good too!
9. Read to Your Children Every Day
Read before bed time, read after lunch. It doesn’t matter when it is, but find some time to read with your children. This gets harder the older they are, but becomes that much more important. And it goes back to what you’re prioritizing. Intentional parenting means giving your child what they need, based on who they are. Small moments like these mean the world to them.
10. Set Goals and Map Out Steps to Achieve Them
Is it even important if you haven’t set a goal for it? This goes for everything in life. Setting goals is a great way to make things happen. But you have to do more than just set the goal. WRITE IT DOWN (or type it out). And make sure to include action sets. You can’t just say I want to be more intentional as a parent but then do nothing else.
So how do you actually do that? This may look like having one big goal (learning to be a gentle parent) and then breaking it down into smaller more manageable goals. Such as working on breathing through frustrations. Learning to recognize your own triggers to keep from exploding.
Writing out these goals could look like:
Become a better mother to my toddler by yelling less.
Be more patient with my teen by taking time to hear them out.
I also like to challenge myself with my goals. For example, I wanted to be more intentional about playing with my children. So I challenged myself to get down on the floor and play with them everyday for at least 30 minutes a day for a week.
Being intentional or a gentle parent is not some overnight fix. It’s filled with lots of smaller changes. Things you may already know you need to do. And things that come up during parenting struggles that you now need to figure out and work on.
Setting goals for yourself, working on them, and going back to review / revise as necessary is the best way to become who you want to be as a parent.
11. Choose Your Battles Wisely
If I could count how many times I’ve just walked away from a potential argument with my child solely because it wasn’t worth my sanity, I’d be rich. Not all things have to be addressed. This goes for your child. I think as parents we often get into these power struggles with our children simply because we think “I’m the adult, you have to listen to me.” Newsflash they don’t.
I mean obviously we would like them to. And in a lot of situations it is best that they do. But children are human beings too. They have the right to choose when to listen.
We like to use natural consequences in my home as often as possible. Doing so has helped cut down on the unnecessary power struggles a ton.
12. Prune Your Daily To Do List
We are not super humans and its time we stop acting like it. There is only so much time in the day. Only so many things can actually get done. Or better yet, get done properly.
Having three to four must do’s on your to – do list per day should be standard. From there add in two to three maybe’s for a little razzle dazzle and that it is. That is all.
No need to over do it.
13. Align Your Vision to Your Desired Result
Another way to become more intentional is to try and become laser focused on your goal. Read books on the topics that align with your results. Research videos, bloggers or anything else that can give you more insight. Being a more intentional parent should be on the top of your mind as often as possible.
14. Learn Your Child’s Love Language
I would even venture to take this a step further and say also learn their learning style. Benign armed with both of these will help you effectively parent your child. When you know how your child takes in knowledge AND expresses love, parenting them in a more gentle (or intentional) manner becomes second nature.
15. Communicate Clearly and Openly
The minute I started explaining myself openly to my children was the moment my parenting life changed. I’ll admit it was challenging at first, but now I do it without thinking twice about it.
Communicate not only your expectations to your child, but also your why. Why is it necessary that they pick up that spoon? Why do you not want them jumping on the couch?
And if because I said so comes to mind, stop there. Children are sponges, the more they know the better they can operate in the world around them.
So ask yourself, do you want a child that only knows how to react in certain situations because that’s how they’ve been told to act. Or a child who can problem solve based on past experiences to react appropriately no matter what?
What Can You Do Today to Be More Intentional with Your Time?
Time is the one thing in life we can never get back. So if learning how to be more intentional is the topic, it is only right to talk about doing so with your time. Especially when it comes to being a parent. Those younger years go by so fast and sooner than later our kids aren’t interested in spending time with us anymore.
So what can you do to be more intentional with your time as a parent? Start by making time for yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Fill your cup first, or put your oxygen mask on before helping your child.
Ways to do this include waking up a few minutes earlier. I challenge myself to wake up 30 minutes before the rest of my house during the week. This gives me enough time to shower (in peace), do my hair and mentally prepare for the day.
Leave room in your schedule for fun.
“All work and no play make for a meany mommy.”
That’s what my kids used to say to me, and it was so true. Even if its just 15 minutes here or there. Make the most of those minutes!
And finally, let your children help. Cooking dinner? Teach them how to cook it with you. Washing the dishes? Turn it into a game with them.
Our kids aren’t always going to remember the major moments in their lives. But they will always remember the small moments and how we made them feel on the daily basis. Being an intentional parent starts there. Connection is always key.