Finally, a parenting method that isn’t “one size fits all.”
After taking on a mother role for my husband’s three young kids practically overnight, I didn’t have the typical experience of “becoming” a mother.
I had no idea how to parent the three incredible humans under five years old I was gifted when my husband and I started our relationship. So, I approached motherhood as a student. I studied and read books about parenting philosophies, psychology, and human development. I observed the parents of the kids’ peers to witness, understand and try various parenting techniques. This continued after birthing our 4th child as well.
Although nothing can truly prepare someone to become a parent (whether you birth them or not), I believe success is dictated by the intention to do one’s best and be a perpetual learner of their children and themselves and to adapt as needed along the way.
What is Intentional Parenting?
There are many parenting styles and ideologies out there. Researchers have identified four parenting styles: Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive, and Uninvolved.
It’s a natural human desire to find comfort in a label or follow a doctrine, but no human or parental relationship fits into one box. Every child is different, and our parenting styles and responses can vary based on our upbringing, traumas, mood, and personality.
Intentional parenting is adjusting your parenting to your individual child. It’s a mindset based on seeing yourself and your children as complex and holistic people who need tactics to adapt as necessary.
For example, I had an unstable lumbar spine for a few years. I’ve seen many practitioners, from chiropractors and osteopathic doctors to acupuncturists and physical therapists. All were experienced professionals and experts in their fields, but none alone could help me manage my pain levels and improve my quality of life.
It wasn’t until I met a practitioner who actively researches, learns, studies, and practices all the specializations for the human body and uses them holistically that I finally got relief.
Just as there is no one-size-fits-all solution for physical health, the same applies to our complex minds, development, and relationships.
Intentional parenting is a continuous practice of learning and trialing, using your best current thinking and knowledge to influence your parenting based on where you and your kids are in every individual moment. Your parenting evolves as you and your children do.
Intentional Parenting integrates perspectives on the past, present, and future
Past: Understand your upbringing to have self-awareness as to why you are who you are as a parent. Remember the experiences our children have had that have influenced their current selves. Reflect on interactions between you and your child to learn from the past and make intentional changes when needed in the future. What worked or didn’t work before in the same situation/context for me and my child?
Present: Continuously learn to bring new thinking and action into each current moment based on the context. Notice and be present for what is without trying to change the past. Avoid wishing for the present to be different or forcing a future that doesn’t yet exist. Subscribe to a favorite parenting website or pick up a parenting book once a month that aligns with your values to learn new parenting tactics, communication methods, and child development information.
Future: Think about how your actions today influence your child’s future. Whether it’s direct interaction or your words and behaviors with them in the room, what your children hear and see influences what they think is normal, right, and wrong and their future behaviors.
Intentional Parenting means stepping outside the default, “This is how it’s always been done in my family, culture, and society,” and instead, focusing on what resonates with you and works for your unique children. It considers that you and each child are individuals, which should be reflected in your dynamic relationship.
How I discovered Intentional Parenting
I came up with Intentional Parenting after decades of studying human development and behavior, psychology, mindfulness, varying religious ideologies, and researching dozens of parenting modalities and principles.
What worked with my kids was a piecemeal approach, where I brought together parts of many philosophies. I continue to study and integrate my learnings into my ever-evolving approach to parenting.
How Intentional Parenting aids calm
As you know, I’m all about calm, and there is more peace of mind and calm in parenting when you consciously decide to do your best for your kids at any given moment. And, if you notice that you could’ve done better, reflect on what happened, integrate the learning, and share that with your kid.
The beauty of this approach is that you can never fail because there are no strict rules. The only rule is to do your best with what you know and adjust as needed.
For example, I adjusted my approach to homework based on my son’s unique personality and needs. While reminders worked for my daughters to get started and complete their assignments, they didn’t resonate with him, causing us both daily stress, anxiety, and often, many tears.
Instead, I developed a new approach, integrating the concept of natural consequences with nuggets from books I’ve read, like “The Self-Driven Child.” I set achievable goals for my son with his mental health and abilities in mind, and I made it clear that if his grades fell below a certain level, he would miss out on activities like gymnastics and hanging out with friends. I provided resources and support for homework but allowed him to take responsibility for his actions. Initially scary for me, this approach allowed him to learn from experiencing the consequences of inaction and leaving work to the last minute.
This Intentional Parenting move ultimately motivated him to complete his work, get it done earlier, and reduce overall school stress, proving more effective than constant reminders.
Every kid is different
As every parent of multiples knows, even kids with the same nuclear parents and upbringing styles can vary wildly in personality, temperament, instinct, and sensitivity.
For example, if they fall, one kid will hop up and say, “Never give up!” Another could lay on the ground shouting so loudly you’d think the world was ending.
Even if exhausted, one kid will demand to walk, but another kid will whine, “Carry me!”
Take a moment to think about your kids’ unique personalities and differences, and write down what approaches you’ve noticed working for one and not the other.
Get to know who your kids are as individuals and match where they are to your skills, abilities, and natural ways of being. I suggest making these observations regularly (like weekly or even daily) because who your child was yesterday isn’t necessarily who they are today. The brain is incredibly malleable, and just like you are not the same person you were a year ago, your children aren’t the same from one week to the next. Much changes after even just one sleep!
Intentional Parenting should work for everyone
Unlike helicopter, authoritarian, or attachment parenting styles with rigid rules, Intentional Parenting means not following any particular parenting approach and instead utilizing the best elements of each.
I approach my parenting and interactions with my kids with thoughts about how the past informs that moment and how my actions will affect them in the present and influence their future.
If you don’t have time to research all the modalities of parenting and find what resonates with you, don’t stress! Scientific research suggests that, in general, professionals agree on the main themes of good parenting, including:
(2) willingness and ability
(3) day-to-day versus complex/long-term needs
(4) making children a priority
(5) fostering attachment
Our kids deserve a parenting approach as unique as they and we are.
How will you intentionally show up for your kids today that will meet them where they are right now and support the person they will grow to be? If you need help, I’m here!
To read more on parenting with the five pillars of calm, pick up my book: Chaos to Calm: 5 Ways Busy Parents Can Break Free From Overwhelm, and sign up for my Own Your Calm newsletter!
Reach out, I’m here for you.