How to Be Intentional and Accomplish Your Vision
“If I step on one more Lego, I’m throwing them in the garbage!” I shouted before I could stop myself. But I would never do that: throwing away Legos is like throwing away gold.
I’ve also hissed, “You better listen to me, or we’re going straight home.” But when we drove 45 minutes and spent $80 to get into the children’s museum, I wouldn’t leave after 5 minutes.
Or the ever-lovely, “Why can’t you guys sit quietly for once.” Like they owe it to me.
These empty threats are not my proudest parenting moments.
As I recall these moments, I realize I felt entitled as a parent. Like I have a right to kids who listen the first time, a quiet dinner, or a newborn who sleeps through the night.
I want to snap my fingers and have my kids react perfectly.
That’s not how it works.
The great Newton once said every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Reactions need actions. They don’t magically appear. Every “effect” needs a “cause.”
Every one of my actions forms my kids into who they are. My actions have reactions. Results. And when I don’t perform actions, I can’t expect reactions and results.
If I want my kids to act a certain way, I need to be intentional about teaching them to act that way. I need to set up the environment to make it easier for them. To make it more likely to happen. I can’t blurt whatever comes out of my mouth and call it parenting. I need to work to become a better parent. A parent who helps my children become the best versions of themselves.
I need to teach them the values, morals, and habits that will help them make good choices. I need to stop acting like it will happen automatically and start being intentional about it.
No more empty threats. No more whining when things don’t go my way. No more acting without thinking.
I’m starting a new challenge. I want to have hope in the future, then make my dreams into realities. I want to become more intentional- to think about my actions and choose them carefully.
Follow these 8 tips to become more intentional about your parenting and avoid the entitlement trap.
How to be intentional when parenting
Care for yourself
Learn positive self-talk. The voice in your head forms your attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Take control of it. Don’t condemn yourself in difficult situations. Instead, say something positive. Pick a mantra and repeat it when you need to calm yourself down. “It’s going to be ok,” “I’ll get through this,” or “It’ll work out,” are a few examples. Find what works for you.
Take breaks. In order to take care of your family, you need to be able to function. Sometimes that means taking breaks. Turn away to take a deep breath, sit in the closet to eat a chocolate bar, or give the kids to your mom for the morning.
Have a vision
Realize your goals. What are your goals as a parent and your goals for your kids? What kind of parent do you want to be? What character traits and skills are important for your kids to know and be able to do? Prioritize your goals so you can focus on the most important ones. Write them down as reminders.
Research parenting philosophies. Gentle, positive, attachment, intentional. Each one has different goals and different tactics. Use pieces of each philosophy to help you meet your goals and to work toward the important outcomes.
Use purposeful discipline
Choose your actions to accomplish your vision. Use meaningful and mindful discipline strategies. Always have your long-term goals in mind. You need a reason every time you discipline. Every action needs a why. A reaction it wants to achieve.
Help your kids make good choices. As a parent, your goal isn’t to control your kids. You teach them so they will be able to make good choices on their own. You mold them to become independent.
Use mistakes as learning opportunities. Don’t plot revenge for your kids’ mistakes. Use mistakes as opportunities for your kids to grow and learn. Opportunities to teach an important skill, lesson, or value.
Let go of control
Remember you are not in charge. Everything has a reason, even when you can’t see it. Your eyes can only see a tiny sliver of the universe. A belief system will give you hope and joy outside of yourself and your tiny sliver.
Look for the good. Know there is a reason for suffering, even when you don’t know what it is. Good can come out of it. Find the positive, the joy and the growth that comes out of the trials.
How to avoid the entitlement trap
Don’t expect perfection
You aren’t owed a perfect life. You don’t have a right to a clean house, perfect kids, or a husband who doesn’t snore. If you want your house to be clean, you have to clean it. You declutter, stay on top of chores, and ask for help when you need it. These things don’t happen magically. You need to do it.
Don’t catastrophize mistakes. You will make mistakes. Your kids will make mistakes. Don’t treat mistakes like failure. They are learning opportunities, starting points for growth.
Don’t wing it when you discipline. Choosing your parenting strategies in the moment can create more problems than solutions. Check out your parenting philosophies and research some tactics and goals. Think and plan ahead to be more consistent and take real steps toward your goals.
Choose purposeful, meaningful discipline. When you see a problem, pause, observe, and make a plan. Stick to it, even when you feel so annoyed or frustrated you just want to shout and scream instead.
Don’t discipline out of anger. Calm down and take a step away. This will help you work toward your goal instead of plotting revenge or trying to stop an annoying behavior right away. If you struggle with this, take a few minutes to work on your own calming techniques. Check out my Gentleness Challenge if you need a little more guidance.
Don’t let things slide when you’re tired. Keep your goals in mind, even when you don’t feel like it. If you put up blinders instead of facing problems head on, they get much worse.
Aim to teach, not control. No one wants our kids to do annoying things, but when we try to “stop the annoying habits” instead of “work toward the vision,” we shoot ourselves in the foot. We solve the immediate problems but forget about our long term goals. We control the moment but hurt the future.
Teach independence. Our goal for our kids is independence. Give them opportunities for growth. Opportunities to practice the skills you’ve been teaching them.
Don’t parent other people’s kids. Advice, cooperation, and teamwork are helpful. But if other parents don’t want your advice and your help, don’t take it personally. Step away and focus on your own kids. Everyone has different goals for their kids, and different paths to get to those goals. Work on your own goals and your own path.
Leah Rogers went to school for Cognitive Neuroscience and Behavior Analysis, and uses both in her parenting every day. She writes to help other parents implement the same tactics easily in their own lives to become the best parents they can be.