I’m sitting in the doctor’s office with one of my girls. She’s had mono for two months, and isn’t improving. Her doctor wants to see her to do more tests. She didn’t get to go on the class trip, and spent spring break in bed. From our perspective, we don’t know what else may be going on with her. This is a very crucial point academically in her high school career, and she has very little energy. In the midst of uncertainty, what we do know is how we’re going to deal with this and whatever else we learn in the doctor’s office today, how we’re going to continue to walk our daughter through it, how we’re going to point her to Jesus and what He’s doing in her life, how He loves her and is working for His glory and her good. We know how we’re going to respond, because we made that decision a long time ago.
So much of what I see passing for parenting these days is passive parenting, just kind of letting parenting happen, with no real plan or idea of what folks are trying to see accomplished in the lives of their kids. I’ve been at this game long enough to know that the sovereign Hand of the mighty God is wiser and greater and more loving in the lives of my kids than am I. I do know the futility of trying to control my kids’ lives, or thinking I can manipulate some predetermined outcome for them. That’s a fool’s game, the road to insanity. But, equally futile is to parent with no plan, no idea of how what I believe about life, about Jesus, and about how those two come together plays out in the life of my kids.
Stephen Covey famously said, “Begin with the end in mind.” If I have no vision for my kids’ future—not whether they’ll be a doctor or lawyer or play in the NBA, but whether they’ll live for Jesus and what that will look like when they’re grown—I’m not honoring or glorifying God in my parenting, and I’ll just be tossed around by what everyone else is doing. My kids and I will suffer as a result. We have to parent intentionally.
As guys, so many of us want to lead our families, want to be the men that God calls us to be—spiritual leaders of our home. The problem is, nobody ever told us or showed us how. So, guys, if this applies to you, here’s an idea: take this list of questions, take the mother of your children to dinner, and prayerfully discuss this with her. Moms can use this list, too. Anyone can. I’m sure there are many others, but these are just a few of the questions that intentional parents ask:
- What will be some of the hallmarks of your family identity? I just asked my daughter while we waited for the doctor, and here was a part of her list of our family hallmarks: watching football together (my future sons-in-law will thank me), “that’s a princess problem-we don’t do princess problems”, waffles with Dad on Saturday, Don Juan’s on Wednesdays, sugar only on the weekend, Seaside in the summer, forgive and seek forgiveness, Dad going spiritually deep in discussions around the dinner table. What are your kids going to remember when they’re grown? What are those traditions, those core values that you want your family to stand for? Not necessarily to others, but to each other? Then, how do you talk about those things, model them, and reinforce them for your kids?
- How will your kids be educated and why? Is “it was good enough for me, so it’s good enough for them” really your standard? You don’t drive the same car or use the same cell phone you used in the 80s or 90s, assuming you drove or used one then. Why? Because they’ve changed—things change, even if they were the best things then. Intentional parenting means seeing how it’s changed, and seeing what’s best for your kids now, and why? It’s doing what’s necessary to make what’s best possible, allowing for the possibility that we may be giving up good things for great things. This answer is different for different people, because God doesn’t give parents a “one-size-fits-all” revelation for parenting.
- To what will you say “yes”, and, maybe more importantly, “no”? A huge problem in our society today is overscheduling and stressing out kids. I’m convinced that a big part of it is that we as parents don’t really have a plan in mind, so we play the comparison game. The Joneses, who we admire, are sending their kids to this camp or this clinic, and we want our kid to be nice or smart or a good athlete like their kid (or not lose ground to their kid) so we sign them up for that clinic or camp. When we do that over and over again, we kill our kids with too much stuff on their plates. Conversely, if we’ve got a plan, a vision, we can limit accordingly. We can say, “that’s good for the Jones kid, but that doesn’t work for us,” or “that’s in line with what we’re trying to instill in him; let’s sign him up for that.”
- What things are not okay for you as a family that may be okay for others, and vice versa? You may think having a glass of wine with dinner is just fine, and want your kids to see that wine, like all gifts of God, is good if enjoyed in context. If an alcoholic raised you, however, or have other reasons, your conscience might tell you something different. You might not want a drop in your house, and might really strongly caution your kids against its use. What’s okay for your family may not be okay for someone else’s, and vice versa. Either parenting approach is good. Knowing up front, together, what you will and won’t be okay with, and helping your kids understand that what may be okay for your family may not be okay for others, and how to deal with matters of conscience within the faith with love and respect for other people, other families, is a HUGE part of being a mature follower of Christ. Deciding what is and isn’t okay up front, and how you will teach and model these things to your kids, is a major part of intentional parenting.
I have 3 or 4 more to go, but I have WAY exceeded my word count. This will get anyone who is interested started, and I’ll finish my list next week. If you want to comment on this blog or email me with questions that you think are good ones this week, let me know.