Sunday, 4 November 2012

Parenting with purpose

In the past I've taken for granted the idea of parenting with purpose.  My parents were really great at this, and some programs our church uses also help parents in focusing their efforts at home.  A website I read (and occasionally write for) called the Power of Moms just published a book called Deliberate Motherhood, in which I wrote an excerpt.  (So incredibly cool to see my name in print!)  So often I think we as parents resort to just day to day survival when raising our children.  We see to their basic needs, make sure they are fed and clothed, stop any fights, prevent them from losing an eye or breaking a leg.  All this is important and necessary, but we mothers have so much more possibility.  We mothers are raising tomorrow's generations.  We are raising sons and daughters to become leaders.  We are raising children who may make a difference.

In many aspects of life, we plan.  We meal plan and write grocery lists.  We set career goals and short term steps to get there.  We lay out education roads and the stops along the way.  We host parties that stem from long to-do lists.  Actually, there is very little we do in life that doesn't first require a plan.  But for some reason, raising our children rarely includes such forethought.  We go by the seat of our pants and hope that by the time we leave we've done some good, taught them a few things, and that they'll keep their heads above water in the big ocean out there.

Right now, I think I'm halfway to parenting with purpose.  Once a week, on Monday nights, we have a time set aside for Family Home Evening.  During this short half hour, we all sit down together and learn something that James or I feel we as a family (or someone as an individual, without being singled out) needs to learn.  We include songs and games and activities (and always dessert!) and try to teach things like honesty, peace in the home, prayer, genealogy, tidiness.  We might write letters or cards, or play a game together or go for bike ride.  The nice thing about making it Monday nights is that we know every week we are going to at least have one moment to purposefully teach our kids.  (Also, we know how long it's been since we've purposefully taught them, if we seem to be missing Family Home Evening!)

Other than this weekly event, most of my parenting is reactionary.  For instance, yesterday when the boys' rudeness and physical fighting reached epic proportions, I called a family time out.  We all sat together on the couch quietly while I read two books: Panda is Polite and Lamb is Joyful.  We discussed what it is to be polite, how we had been rude, and what we could do to rectify our attitude.  Then we spoke about anger and joy, how both are valid emotions, and appropriate ways to let our tempers cool down without hitting, kicking, biting, yelling, etc.

Currently, I have two parenting goals I want to institute:

My first goal is to get ahead on some real character development for the kids.  I have a great book called Teaching Your Children Values by Linda and Richard Eyre, that outlines 12 important character values for children to develop.  These are things that some kids might pick up one or two if we do nothing, but they are 12 traits that can be taught to your children with some forethought.

Secondly, I want to do some more tailored teaching to each child.  Each one of the boys is so different, each has his strengths and his weaknesses.  I want to celebrate each child's strengths more openly, so they will feel a sense of pride in the good they are doing.  I also want to teach one-on-one some of the things I see they need to work on.  (Like controlling a temper, noticing needs of others, sharing the spotlight, listening to instructions, etc.)  I found a link to this handout on character qualities that give 49 different traits and definitions.  It's a great list with many ideas I would never have thought of on my own.  It's from this sheet that I'm going to start my one-on-one instruction.

Goals are good, even if they are hard to remember amidst the every day chaos.  But my main motherhood goal right now is a little more peace and lot more reining in of that chaos.  And nothing is every really accomplished without some direction and hard work.

1 comment:

Kevin H. said...

Great post. I've been thinking about similar ideas (in a much less formal and considered fashion, mind you, so perhaps "mulling over" rather than "thinking about"), partly because of the rapid approach of my neice's first birthday (yikes!) and partly because of what I see around me everyday in various social situations. It's astounding how poorly educated we are (as a generation, perhaps as a society) -- socially, culturally, intellectually -- and I don't just mean strangers who hog the road or let doors close on your face behind them, etc., but the people I actually consider friends, the people I actively spend time with. Even myself. Simple rudeness, apathy, sarcasm, indifference to social virtue, all of these appear far more regularly in my day-to-day (even minute-to-minute) life than seems acceptable, and that's over-and-above the abysmal lack of classical values that used to be implied by the words "Liberal Arts Education". Critical thinking, how to read well, how to write well, how to identify great writiing and powerful thought and how to separate it from the swirl of constant input associated with life in the Information Age -- these values seem just as important to me as the basic civilities and everyday virtues of social living, but most of us hardly even know what they mean. Many of us seem stuck inside the rapidly calcifying cage of personal opinion, incapable of breaking through the build-up in pursuit of other, larger, even merely different truths. So where does that leave capital-T "Truth"? Sitting on the sidelines, I guess, uninvolved in the struggle.

It's said that only the wealthy and secure have the time to consider "Truth", the rest of us have to get on with the daily task of survival. Victor Hugo once wrote, however:

"Intellectual and moral growth is no less essential than material betterment. Knowledge is a viaticum [i.e., a supply of provisions for a journey, with spiritual overtones]; thought is a primary necessity; truth is as much a source of nourishment as corn. Argument lacking knowledge and wisdom grows thin. We must pity minds, no less than stomachs, that go unfilled. If there is anything more poignant than a body dying for lack of food it is a mind dying for lack of light."

I find it hard to disagree.

A final note on information, knowledge and wisdom, and how to differentiate between them -- something of which too few of us seem capable. I take my example from poetry. A poem itself is information -- just the words on the page; knowledge is understanding what they mean; and wisdom is knowing why that matters.

Thanks for an inspiring post. I'm glad to know you're tackling the issue head-on and actively trying to instill these things in your children -- and with the use of a plan no less. : )

Here's hoping it works out for you. And here's hoping I can one day follow your example.