From the desk of WFA president Julaine Appling:
Doug, father of four children in our private Christian school, sat across from me in my office early one school day. After very brief pleasantries, Doug sat up straighter in his chair and looked at me and said, “So what do you think are my kids’ God-given strengths and abilities? I want to know if what you see is what we are seeing at home. Our children are God’s gifts to us; we want to be good stewards in every way and help our kids cooperate with God in using the gifts and talents He has given them.”
The question surprised me. I’d never had a parent ask me that. I answered him thoughtfully and carefully, suggesting that he also make sure to talk with their classroom teachers.
As we stood and shook hands later, I candidly told Doug that I had never had a parent ask me that question and that I was impressed. “From my vantage,” I said, “it means you and Gail are truly intentional about how you are raising your children. It’s not often I have the honor of working with parents who take the time to really know their children individually and then purpose to work to build their character individually and to intentionally strengthen the family unit.”
Intentional, purposeful parenting is not easy, but it is absolutely essential if parents want their children to grow up to be all that God intends them to be and if they want their family unit strong and healthy.
Recently, I came across a blog that featured a post entitled “10 Ways to Build a Healthy and Happy Family.” As I read the piece, it seemed to be at least a good starting point for some practical suggestions on intentional and purposeful parenting.
The post is actually practical applications extrapolated from a book by Jim Burns, The 10 Building Blocks for a Solid Family. Wendy Hopler, of Crosswalk.com wrote the blog article from Burns’ book. I think the main points are worth mentioning. It may take a week or two to get to them all, but they are, I believe, important reminders to all families.
The first building block according to Burns and Hopler: “Be there.” It’s so obvious but so important. Someone has said showing up is half of life. For kids, parents showing up is likely almost all of life. Kids know when they aren’t a priority. When parents are really “there”—mentally, emotionally and physically, kids know that, too. They sense interest, involvement, importance. As Hopler says, “nothing can make up for your absence.”
Building block 2 is “express affirmation, warmth and encouragement.” The blog author encourages parents to be wary of “shame-based parenting,” which she contends is performance-oriented and approval focused. Don’t make everything about doing, not doing, or achieving or not achieving. Spend some relaxed time just being with your children, listening, interacting, expressing interest, letting them know you love them for them, not for what they do. This is the kind of investment that lets you learn about them and enables you to direct the child into areas of strength and help him or her on those areas of weakness.
Building block 3 is “build healthy morals and values.” This requires much prayer, study and wisdom in order to know what is going on in the culture that is influencing your children and then seeking God’s will for how to, on purpose and with intention, help each of your children—individually and collectively as a family—deal with the good, the bad and the ugly. It means making tough decisions about television, movies, the Internet, video games, and events and it also means having difficult decisions about personal purity. Parents need to come up with a personalized game-plan for each of their children. All children won’t struggle with the same areas, but all children must know what God says about what is good for them and what is bad for them.
We’ll get to the other building blocks in future commentaries. But these 3 get us started and allow for careful examination of your parenting. Are you being intentional and purposeful? Are you being personal in how you parent? No matter how much time and energy it requires, I can guarantee you this is an investment with returns so high they cannot even be calculated.