Parenting is HARD.
Anyone who says differently is a liar.
You are given the biggest, most important job of your life with no specific instructions or user manual or anything.
And heaven help you if you try to Google the best way to parent. There are so many different styles of parenting – authoritative, permissive, authoritarian, attachment, free range, slow, holistic, positive, and helicopter are just a few that came up.
They all have pros and cons.
They all have supporters and detractors.
But the one thing that almost all parents have in common, regardless of their parenting style, is the desire to see their child succeed.
This is where deliberate parenting comes in.
The word deliberate is defined as
1. done consciously and intentionally.
2. engage in long and careful consideration.
When I stop and think about it, I know that I want to parent consciously and intentionally. I know that the decisions I make regarding my most important job ever should be made after engaging in long and careful consideration.
But I often make decisions that are based on convenience or exhaustion. I choose things that will make my children happy right now instead of helping to mold them into adults that can find joy in all situations.
My husband and I have committed to be deliberate about our parenting decisions this year. We are finished existing in the stressed out, rushed, survival mode where we make decisions with little thought of the future.
We sat down and discussed what kind of adults we want to send out into the world.
We have talked about the talents and passions that are already present in our kids.
We got really honest about the habits and traits that could lead them onto a path of destruction.
Then we assessed our current situation and looked at the opportunities we could provide to help them develop into awesome adults.
And yes, I know that we cannot control exactly how our children turn out. Obviously, they are free to make their own choices which will lead to their own consequences, but we can give them specific skills that will assist them.
Here are some examples from our life. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. That list would bore you to tears. These are just a couple of examples that might be applicable for you as well.
1. College Scholarship
Our kids are going to need a (very large) scholarship to go to college.
College tuition rates are rising at an alarming rate, and with our current financial situation, we aren’t able to save enough to pay for the four of them to attend college. Realistically, they aren’t going to earn an athletic scholarship because “only about two percent of high school athletes win sports scholarships to NCAA colleges or universities”(http://www.cbsnews.com/news/8-things-you-should-know-about-sports-scholarships/). So we are focusing on an academic scholarship.
- Our children read or are read to every single day. Study after study has shown that reading just twenty minutes a day will make kids smarter and more successful. Okay, the studies are much more specific than that, so look them up if you need specifics.
- We work on learning Latin and Greek root words. I use this book from when I taught public school. It is specifically designed for grades 4-8, but I just take one root and we work on it for as long as it takes them to remember it.
- We challenge our kids to solve problems in creative ways. As a parent, it is usually so much easier to just solve the problem for them, but when do you quit? When they’re 10? 15? 20? We try to always
give our children the opportunityforce them to solve their own problems.
- Example from yesterday: my son convinced me to let him bring his Tervis cup in the car because he would “be soooo thirsty” while we delivered homemade goodies around town. He left the cup in the car and didn’t have a drink when we sat down to dinner. We told him to get the keys and go get the cup. The keys were hung on a hook about 6 feet high. He connected several of his PVC pipes to reach the keys, took them out, set off the car alarm, turned off the car alarm, got his cup, set off the car alarm, turned off the car alarm, and joined us for dinner. At about five different points, I could have solved the problem for him. It would have been faster, easier, quieter (there was a lot of whining and complaining that I left out of the story), and much less stressful. BUT HE DID IT. I would have never thought to build a contraption to get the keys down. I would have gotten a chair or stool because I’m boring. But if I’d stepped in and solved the problem, I wouldn’t have gotten to see the pure joy and pride on his face when he came into the kitchen with that cup in his hand.
2. Emergency Preparedness
Emergencies happen. And though I know I can’t possibly prepare my children for every scenario, I can help them to learn to be calm and respond appropriately in scary situations.
- We run fire drills at home. We talk about what firemen look like. We set off the fire alarm and go through the steps of what we want the older kids to do. When we asked Dax what he thought he should do in case of a fire, his first response was “hide.” Obviously that’s not the right answer, so we are practicing the correct response.
- We have a family code word. There are a couple of situations that we use it, and all of them are serious. One way is for an active shooter or other similar situation while we are out in public, and we need the kids to obey right away, no questions asked. I’d like to pretend that is how they obey all the time, but it’s not. There are usually questions or whining or both. We’ve practiced a couple of times in the grocery store where I say the code word and then “get down!” The kids did awesomely and dropped straight to the floor.
- We’ve taught the kids about the emergency weather conditions that exist in our part of the country. For us, the biggest concern is tornados. We’ve gone through the procedures of what to do when they hear the tornado siren. Again, our hope is that running through these drills during a calm time will help them to be calm during a real emergency. If you live in a part of the country with earthquakes or mudslides or whatever, you should teach your children what to do in those scenarios.
3. Physical Fitness
We’ve seen first hand the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle. I (Chip) have always struggled with my weight. In part because I never learned good eating habits. My parents did a great job raising us in a lot of aspects, but a healthy diet wasn’t one of them.
It’s really easy to look at a 75 pound two year old on the Maury Povich Show and think, “My kid is fine!” However, the goal in deliberate parenting is not just to make healthy decisions for them while they are living with you, but to give them a foundation to maintain a healthy lifestyle as an adult.
- We eat healthy most of the time. To us, this means mostly whole foods most of the time. However, we have four small children and a life so we still eat macaroni and cheese and frozen pizzas on occasion. We still eat dessert pretty often and popcorn on movie nights. Our goal isn’t to strictly adhere to a paleo, vegan, whole 30, or whatever diet, but to eat nourishing foods most of the time.
- We explain how food works. Food is fuel for your body. That’s it. So if your goal is to grow strong, healthy children, make healthy food. Then, expect them to eat it. Demand that they eat it. Don’t cave and make them a cheese sandwich because they don’t like orange chicken and cauliflower rice. You don’t like the thought of your child developing diabetes or heart disease because you didn’t instill healthy eating habits, do you?
- We encourage active play. Kids love to move. So, when the kids get home and finish their homework, we let them play for as long as they want. When they get bored and whiny, I give them chores. They catch on fast enough that they can play freely if they play actively. When they start begging for the iPad or some other device, they get a chore.
4. Good Money Managers
- Each week we pay the kids for the chores and help them sort their money into four categories:
- 10% tithe
- 10% saving for college
- 10% saving for something of their choosing
- 70% whatever they want
- We talk to them about our finances. This can be tough. To kids that get paid a quarter per chore, $1,000 a week sounds like an incredible amount of money. But, once we went through the household bills, they’ve gotten a better grasp on what things cost. It has helped them to be less wasteful and just generally more aware.
So what does this look like for your family?
Step back and look the things that take up your time and money. Ask yourself if they’re leading your children to where you want them to be.
Then ask yourself if that’s the best, most direct route to get there.
For example, let’s say your child is playing competitive rugby. They love playing rugby, and you feel like they have a real chance at getting a rugby scholarship for college. So, you spend the money for the sign up fee, the uniform, the private lessons, the gear, the weekend tournament fees, the hotel for the weekend tournaments, the food at restaurants while you are away for the weekend tournaments, the weeknight meals that you don’t have time to cook because of practice, and then the doctor’s bills because of the torn rotator cuff at 14 from playing competitive rugby for the last six years.
But let’s say money isn’t an issue so it doesn’t matter that you’re spending thousands of dollars for your child to play a sport that they have very little chance of ever actually getting a scholarship from.
You want your child to play rugby because they love it.
My kids love to eat ice cream, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to let them eat it all the time. If my children had their way, they’d eat ice cream for every meal which would be horrible for their health.
Or maybe your child plays competitive rugby because they need to learn the value of teamwork, and they’re just not going to learn it at school or anywhere else in life ever.
Obviously, this is a semi-ridiculous situation in that very few children play rugby in America. But the scenario isn’t too ridiculous if you sub in softball or baseball or dance or football. And please don’t misunderstand. I am not against organized sports. I know that they have merit.
I am against the notion that we can’t tell children our “no.”
I recently had a conversation with a friend about her ten-year-old daughter getting a cell phone. My friend didn’t want to give her daughter a cell phone and had several valid reasons for her stance. But, her daughter kept asking, and it seemed like there were a ton of reasons stacked up as to why she should get her a phone. After encouraging her to stand her ground, I thought about how sad it is that society has gotten this all backward.
Often times, parents are so concerned with protecting the feelings and emotions of their child in the future, that they forget to parent now.
Of course, it’s important that your child learn to be part of a team, how to be a good winner (and loser), and all of the other valuable lessons that come from playing sports. But they will learn those lessons elsewhere in life. Those are not lessons unique to team sports. So, if you look at your budget and schedule and determine that competitive rugby isn’t what’s best for your whole family, then quit.
Put the money you’re saving into an account for college.
Put the time you’re saving towards teaching your kids how to cook healthy meals or preparing for a 5k together or relaxing in the evenings and doing a 1,000 piece puzzle together.
Whatever your decision, make sure it is a decision. Not just something you got swept up in because there was a signup sheet and an excited child in front of you.