It all sounds like a typical morning regimen; right? Fast forward a marriage and three kids later, and well, things have changed. My mornings are total chaos. Okay, maybe not total chaos, but close to it.
My morning routine now consists of getting the kids dressed and ready, making breakfast for three kids who all want something different, locating “misplaced” car keys, and cleaning baby food off the walls before walking out the door.
Mornings are definitely different. But then again, life is different. Kids have an amazing way of doing that—changing your life. It’s something that as former, singular entities we sometimes struggle with. It’s an adjustment, but one that can be made. Balance can be achieved again! And once it is, well, we can become better parents. We win—but more importantly our kids win.
So why am I telling you this? Well July is Purposeful Parenting Month, and as someone who considers herself a pretty decent parent, it had me thinking. What exactly does it mean to be “on purpose?” What things have guided me and my husband in our parenting? What things don’t new parents know? What things do seasoned parents need to remember?
Well first things first….
You must gain consciousness of your role as a parent. Embrace it. For the next 18 plus years there’s will be another human being looking up to you for almost everything. Intimidating? Of course it is. And there’s no perfect way to parent, but as your child’s first and most important role model, you owe it to yourself and your child to really own your role and give it your all.
Trust me, I am not perfect. I fall short sometimes. As a parent, I make mistakes—some big, some even bigger. Whenever those times come, I remind myself of who’s watching. I pick myself up, dust off, and get back on track. I do it knowing that everything will be okay. Life is a learning experience and as we (my kids and I) learn and grow together, despite all the rises and the falls, I know we will emerge better.
Speaking of emerging better…let’s talk goals.
It is essential that as the parent(s) we set goals—for ourselves. We need to engage in deep thought about the type of parent(s) we want to be and how we want to raise our children.
Each time we’ve added to our family, my husband and I have a frank discussion about what we want for our family. We had to ask…
- What can we do in order to prevent chaos in our household?
- How can we as parents assist our children as they grow?
- What values do we want to instill in them?
- What kind of character do we want model for them?
- How should we handle conflict?
We answered these questions openly and honestly, thinking of our children first. We listed exactly what we would never do in our parenting approach as well as the things we wanted to ensure were a part of our lives. We were realistic in acknowledging our shortcomings. We set goals like: be attentive, acknowledge each child’s unique gifts, encourage communication through example. The goals we set for ourselves as parents are in no way meant to make us perfect, but they do serve as an excellent guideline for parenting on purpose.
Not only do we need to set goals about our parenting and for our children, we need to set goals WITH our children.
Many of the goals you make for yourself as the parent(s) will carry over into their list. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Try enacting some small strategies that your kids can understand to help them reach a goal. For example, one goal we’ve set with the children is to communicate feelings in a positive manner. When our children argue we use a simple policy of “use your words”. In guiding our children to talk through problems instead of yelling or fighting, we teach them to be aware of not only their feelings but the feelings of others. This strategy has helped ensure that the whole family is communicating in a loving, non-aggressive, open way. Goal achieved.
Your child will have goals of his or her own. They make up the unique path your child will follow as he or she grows. I can’t help but think of this in terms of personality.
Our little ones, are individuals; this means they come with personalities that may not fit into the mold we as overexcited parents have made for them. We all have moments where we lose sight of that. Take for example the parent(s) who is weary of their child’s highly eccentric taste in fashion. We have to ask ourselves is this really a big deal? Does it matter that my little boy wants to wear neon colored jackets and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sneaker on the right foot and Super Mario Brothers’ sneaker on the left? Does it matter if my daughter prefers playing with toy pick-up trucks and footballs rather than attending pretend tea parties?
When we encourage individuality not only are we giving our children permission to be comfortable in their own skin, we are giving them the freedom to have a self-esteem that can weather almost anything. What a remarkable gift.
Bottom line is being a parent is the most amazing job an adult could have; it’s also the toughest and most stressful. But here’s the bonus—the rewards are endless. So embrace every aspect of it, the good and the bad, the infinite changes. Set goals, reach for them, and fail a few times. It’s okay. All of these things will only push you toward being the best parent you can be; and that will then help your children be the best children they can be. I cannot thinking of anything more purposeful than that.
The Stone Foundation is a team of counselors dedicated to seeing you and your children live your best and most fulfilling life. Contact us at 410.296.2004 or visit www.thestonefoundation.com to learn more. Please know that this article is intended for general, educational purposes only, and should not to take the place of professional counseling services or medical care.
Victoria Johnson is a Communications major who maintains honors status at the Anne Arundel Community College. She currently writes for The Baltimore Times and has written for the AACC school newspaper, The Campus Current. Victoria’s talent stems beyond her writing and schooling. She is also the co-founder of God’s Jewels, a charitable organization designed to benefit individuals in Africa who seek spiritual enlightenment.