Some people call parenting a job, but when I think about it, that doesn't seem like an accurate description of what this beautiful and messy thing really is. This is a relationship -- a relationship that takes thought, self sacrifice, love, compassion and intentionality. This is not a relationship you can be stagnant in and expect to go well. So don't be stagnant! Your child needs more out of you than that. Be intentional in your choices and in how you raise your child. Here are eight steps to get started.
1. Think about how you were raised. And no, I'm not talking about reflecting on the best points of your childhood, like that time your parents took you to Disneyland and got you that awesome Mickey hat. I'm talking about the day in, day out parenting that you received. Look at your childhood through the lens of the parent that you are, not the lens of the child that you were. How did your parents or role models teach you? How did they interact with you? How did they shape your decisions?
2. Look to someone you admire. Whether it was when you were a child or someone you know now, look to the parents you admire. Nobody is perfect, but there are positive bits and pieces we can pull from those around us. If there's someone you admire as a parent, talk to them. Ask them questions. Figure out what works for them and how they feel they can grow.
3. Communicate with your partner. This is a team effort. Being intentional in how you raise your child is all about knowing what matters to you and making sure that you and your partner are on the same page moving forward. Men are not always known for our open and skillful communication, so ladies, drag it out of us if you have to.
4. Think about the character you want your child to have. Who do you want your child to be? How do you want them to treat others? How do you want them to act? Think about these things. Personally, I want my daughter to be responsible, to be kind, to be loving, to treat everyone -- from the CEO to the janitor -- with the same level of respect and compassion. Those traits aren't just going to happen by themselves, they have to be learned, and if they have to be learned, then my wife and I need to teach her.
5. Create a routine to help your child succeed. Routines are important. As your child learns and grows, having a routine that they know is in place will help them be prepared for the day. Just like you have a routine every morning on your way out the door to work, your child needs a routine as well.
6. Be consistent. Was there anything more confusing as a child than being told "yes" by Dad and "no" by Mom? When you and your partner decide how things are going to run, stick to it! Do not compromise what you believe to be the right and good thing for your child for what can sometimes be the easier route. When you set a standard, stick to it.
7. Take time to unplug. Think about it like a date -- when you're out on a date, it's incredibly rude to spend the entire evening with your nose in your phone. Do the same favor for your child. Take that time to mute the TV, put the phone down, put away the tablet and simply exist in space with your child. Show them that they matter enough to have your undivided attention.
8. Spend time with your child. When life gets busy -- and trust me, it does for everyone -- make sure you are still taking the time to connect with and develop the relationship with your child. You aren't just an authority figure in the life of your kids, you are someone they admire and look up to. So take the time to enjoy them, participating in what they like, showing them how to act, teaching them to be gracious and kind and setting the standards for their life. Be present.
Intentional parenting is a wonderful -- albeit challenging -- decision to make. But for the benefit of your precious little nugget, take the time to be present and intentional. They will appreciate it later.