Intentional Parenting

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about parenting. About raising my children. It’s hard, you know, being a parent. And it’s not because of the endless work or middle of the night wake ups. It’s not because of the long hours or spaghetti sauce on the carpet. It’s not because at almost two he’s starting to say “no” more now than he does “yes.”

It’s because parenting is intentional. Or I guess I should say parenting should be intentional. Yes, as much as I talk about living in the moment and taking time to slow down…parenting should be intentional. But this is a different kind of intentional. It’s not a plan. It’s a purpose. I’ve not thought about it too much in that way before.

As we’re starting to need discipline, I see that parenting is intentional. As he is starting to ask questions and become aware of his world….I see that parenting is intentional. It has to be. And that is hard because it means I have to figure out in the mess of my own life who I am, and what our family structure and purpose will be, and how I am going to turn him into a compassionate, loving, working human being.

There is a lot of worry out there, especially for Christian parents, about “the outside world.” How can I send my child out in the world when he might be exposed to other children who play violent video games or speak naughty language? I recently was in a conversation where someone was worried that their child would be confused if a teacher taught that it’s ok to have two parents of the same gender. This person wanted to do away with all the freedoms and justice due to gay and lesbian people because their child might be confused.

It just never made sense to me.

If we as parents shelter our children from the world when they are small, what will happen to them when they are grown? If we bubble-wrap them and insulate them from pain, from injustice, from people who we disagree with….what kind of person will they become? Bubble-wrapped children will be weak. They’ll be fragile. They’ll probably be judgmental and self-serving.

Shouldn’t my goal as a parent be to raise a child who when confronted with something confusing, would think about it, come home and talk to me about it, would be able to eventually decide for themselves what is right and wrong?

If I have raised my son to be compassionate, to know the love of God, to strive for social justice…shouldn’t he be able to confront those situations of “the outside world” and come out just fine? I want him to be the kid who asks the loner to sit with him at lunch. I want him to be able to have conversations with people he disagrees with. I want him to have a heart for those with greater need than himself.

But see…how do you teach your child to be that person? You have to be intentional. It sure won’t happen in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, hope-it-all-works-out kind of way. It sure won’t happen in the shelter and bubble wrap your kid from the world kind of way.

I don’t know how to do it. And I know it won’t happen when he’s only two. But I have to start somewhere. I guess if I’m going to be intentional, thinking about it is a good start.

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