Becoming an intentional parent is one of the most challenging tasks you’ll ever undertake in life. They’re constantly changing into something new, and it’s up to you (and your partner) to keep up with them! Navigating these waters can be fraught with missteps, but some universal principles are sound for not only parents but individuals from all walks of life: patience, empathy, and positivity. Intentional parenting is an invitation to your partner always to be present, to stay engaged, and most of all, to be kind. These are the ingredients for a successful relationship with your partner and the children you love.
How to become a more intentional parent
- Make room for your children
Parenting is not only about our children; it’s also about us. Yet we often put all of our focus on our kids and forget to look in the mirror, too! Intentional parenting is all about making space in your lives for you, your partner, and the kids you want to raise. It means putting aside time to know each other better and exploring each other’s needs and those of the children. It can be done in a myriad of ways. Try a half-hour or hour-long date once a week, or schedule a weekly family meeting where everyone gets time to voice what they’d like to happen that week or month.
- Practice empathy
Empathy is the basis of true love and acceptance. How can we have a relationship if we can’t feel what our children are feeling? Kids are often susceptible to their parent’s emotional state, so the more you think about and cultivate empathy for them, the better your relationships will be. It doesn’t mean becoming a professional therapist but simply seeing what they’re going through from their point of view and trying to understand how they might be feeling.
- Don’t rush it
Most people think early parenthood is a fast track to motherhood. It’s not. Parenting means slowing down and getting to know each other by getting to know the child within you. You can’t know your partner until you know yourself, the person you love in your heart and soul, so why would you throw that away for a stranger? You don’t need to decide right this second, but if it becomes urgent or necessary, then, by all means, get on with it!
- Be kind
It might be the essential principle of intentional parenting: Don’t be cruel to your partner and don’t hurt them with words or deeds simply because they are raising children. If your partner forgives you for not being the overnight miracle worker of the world, then you can assume they’re pretty forgiving and pretty deep! Be kind to them and the children. If something bothers them, they’ll let you know. We live in a world where everyone has opinions about everyone else, so if we remain kind, even though we have different opinions or sentiments than our partner, it will create a healthy environment for everyone involved, especially our children.
- Be present
It means doing things with your partner instead of simply in front of your partner. If you are at home and your partner is at work, stay home with the children! Parenting isn’t about letting the children raise themselves. They will learn best by being around you, watching you, and being cared for by their mother. Being present also does not mean passively opening yourself up to whatever moods or emotions are swirling in their brains and hearts. You can’t change them, but you can participate with them in changing how they deal with those feelings.
We can all become more intentional parents. We must remember that being a parent isn’t about our children; it’s about us. We have to learn how to be present for our children no matter what we’re going through or how old they are, and we have to learn how not to take it personally when they don’t take our advice.