Parenting with Intention:: It’s All About the Endgame

Parenting with Intention:: It's All About the EndgameMy kids complain about me and my parenting all the time. I never let them do anything. I have too many rules. I don’t let them have soda or candy. Whiny reminders of my children’s feelings toward me ring out constantly throughout the halls of our home. 

“Ugh, Mom. Do we have to?”

“Why Not?”

And the ever-famous, “It’s not fair.”

While it actually does bother me sometimes, and I yearn for more opportunities to be more likable to my kids, I have to remember:: I’m not just raising children, I’m shaping future adults. It’s all about the endgame.

Our children will always be our babies, but after the small window of sweet childhood closes and they enter adulthood, they have to know how to function. Our job as parents is to create healthy, autonomous adults. What we instill in them as children will shape the kinds of adults they become later.

All in Moderation

Finding ways to moderate ourselves and find balance in life is a learned skill. To my children’s dismay, screen time tends to be very limited in our house, mainly because my children become wild heathens when they’ve watched too many episodes of PJ Masks or have explored apps on their tablets for more than an hour. Encouraging children to run around outside and enjoy Houston’s typically beautiful weather, wander around Exploration Park in Cinco Ranch, or collect cicada shells just to examine them teaches kids to seek out experiences and expand their minds without screens. In parenting this way, my hope is that my children will learn to regulate themselves and seek balance into adulthood.

Learning to Deal

Parenting a disappointed kid

Developing healthy coping skills is a huge focus of my parenting with good reason. We often see people who have a hard time accepting rejection, handling disappointment, or dealing with tough times. It’s often hard to tell if it’s a generational issue or a sign of the times, but it can be traced back to the fact that some have never learned to cope. Teaching our children to mindfully cope, finding ways to calm down, and work through difficulty is incredibly necessary. My husband and I discuss feelings with our kids, letting them know it’s ok to feel hurt or disappointed or even cry. As adults, we feel pressure to keep emotions bottled up and put on a happy face. Forget that. Our children desperately need to learn healthy, productive ways to manage life’s hard knocks. 

Happy Helpers 

Developing a sense of responsibility through chores and an earned allowance has been a huge focus for us in our parenting. My boys are ages seven, four and two, so I give them tasks that fit their ages and capabilities. They are encouraged to be contributing members of the family. Helping put dishes away, emptying the trash and feeding the dogs may not be fun to them now, but these “jobs” create a foundation for my boys’ futures. The goal is to produce helpful people. We all know, are married to, or work with people who simply don’t seek to help, and we know how frustrating those people are to deal with. I certainly don’t want my children to become the people who don’t pull their weight in group projects or have the attitude of “that’s not my job” when they one day create families of their own. I want my future adult children to seek out ways to lend a helping hand.  

Dollars and Sense

Parenting with IntentionWhen my kiddos fill their weekly chore charts, they receive five cents per star, and they lose money for tasks they are assigned but did not complete. While I want them to want to help, the small monetary incentive allows for more of a learning opportunity. They are taught to earn and save money and use a portion to spend on things they want. Is that not what adulthood looks like? I know I was not prepared with basic money management skills when I moved away from home. I overspent and under saved, and had nothing to show for all my hard work. The sense of pride my boys get as they portion out their weekly earnings, half into savings and half into their wallets to spend at Target, is priceless!

Let ‘Em Handle It

Encouraging kids to clean their own messes and handle some of their own hygiene, like brushing their teeth or making their own beds in the morning, reminds them that they are capable of so much. Giving our boys chances to make their own lunches is a favorite!

Lately, I’ve been helping my children pick their own clothes when it’s time to get dressed. It’s a fun task for them, and it allows me to watch them consider the weather in their choices and get creative and express themselves while being in charge of something in their lives. My husband and I reiterate to them that we trust their abilities and that they can handle much more than they realize!

Sometimes, this is a bit of a hit or miss. If my boys insist on not wearing coats on a cooler day, I don’t try to make the decision for them. When they end up being cold {like I knew they would be}, they realize they should have chosen differently.  Their choices, their consequences, their learning experiences. They are autonomous little people, and in some ways, they can take care of themselves.

Speak Up

I urge my children to have their own voices so that, as they grow into adulthood, they are comfortable communicating their wants, needs, desires, concerns and perspectives with confidence. Everything is up for debate and discussion in our home, and the boys are emboldened to speak up, disagree and protest. While there are some decisions that my husband and I ultimately decide on {like eating veggies or having a reasonable bedtime}, we like our children to discuss their points of view and defend their arguments. We nudge our boys to order their cheese quesadillas at a restaurant or speak up when choosing between a red or blue balloon at a birthday party. We allow them to disagree with our plans for the day and are willing to discuss other options whenever possible. Being secure in their own voices is valued as an adult, so we practice now. 

Keeping the endgame in mind changes how we look at parenting and motherhood. We are our children’s first teacher. Let them see you and your husband disagree with each other but still communicate respectfully. Show them how you count backwards from 100 to calm down. Work on the budget and pay the bills with the kids. Be a willing helper. Explain to them that you go to counseling to keep your mental health in check. Turn off the TV and engage. 

Instinctually, we want to protect our babies and make things easier for them, but leading them toward becoming functioning and thriving instead of dependent and ill-equipped serves for the long run. Our children will always need us in one way or another, and what they need from us now, from our parenting, is to challenge them, encourage them and sit on the sidelines as they grow up and take care of business… and themselves!

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