From as far back as I can remember I looked forward to becoming a dad. When I was young, I could regularly be found on the basketball court or ball field, coaching the neighborhood children like a modern-day Pied Piper. I figured that a love for children was the main ingredient to being a great dad and didn’t really think much beyond that. And, then along came our first child—a bundle of joy and energy. And energy. Oh, did I say, “energy?”
But, within three hours of arriving home from the hospital with our newborn son Michael, the thermometer indicated a temperature of 105! Our bliss quickly turned to panic and a little voice was telling me that maybe this dad thing wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Truth be told, it wasn’t.
What have I learned in 25 years of fathering? “A lot,” as our kids will attest! For now, I’d like to focus this post on the importance of having an intentional mindset. In today’s frenetic pace, it’s more important than ever. This is what it looks like…
1. Understanding and accepting the responsibility that comes with parenting.
Great parenting isn’t just about having fun or keeping our children happy. We are primarily responsible for loving, nurturing, training, affirming, supporting, and empowering our children to be independent and responsible adults. It’s about helping them develop their leadership qualities and preparing them for life and the key decisions awaiting them, as well as having the courage to show tough love when behavioral modification is needed.
2. Having agreement on the parenting team
It’s crucial that parents and guardians be on the same page when it comes to goals, attitudes, and methods. Think of it as one team, one dream! Understanding and agreeing on our parenting responsibilities is a team effort where each partner needs to support, encourage, and reinforce the other. To do otherwise will lead to fireworks and to children who will manipulate the “weaker party” on an issue. If you and your child’s other parent are not together, you can still have a unified front on parenting methods. Try to put aside any other differences and find places of agreement on your parenting goals.
3. Remembering you’re not just raising children—you’re raising future adults
In these days of helicopter parenting, this one is crucial. What incremental responsibilities are you giving them as they mature? What habits, behaviors, and attitudes are they exhibiting today that will need correcting down the road if you don’t intervene now? What praises and recognition can be given for demonstrating responsibility beyond their years? It pays to start early in the process, so fewer corrections will be required in the later teen years, closer to the launch, when they’re exerting their independence.
4. Recognizing it’s not about you
My wife and I are detail-oriented people who are stable in temperament and lack a creative bone in our bodies. So, wouldn’t it stand to reason that Michael would be a blend of these attributes? Ha! We soon learned that his gifts, interests, and temperament were not from our gene pool. We gave birth to a delightfully creative kid who was nothing like his parents. Not better. Not worse. Just different. And, while it took some time to figure it out, we learned to work with that.
Unfortunately, we see a growing trend of parents putting pressure on their children to be just like them (or someone else—like a successful friend or a “better performing” sibling). As parents, we should be striving to bring out the best in our uniquely designed children—whatever that may be—rather than parenting for performance or replication. That means letting them live their dreams, not ours.
By keeping these four points and our parenting goals in mind, we can enjoy a smoother ride and more reliable outcomes. When we are strategic, and most importantly—intentional—with our parenting, we will give our children, and our relationship with them, the best chances for success.
How do you ensure you are strategically and intentionally parenting your child or teen? What parenting goals have you developed?
About the author
Dennis Trittin is the author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead and Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. Through his books, blog, and nationwide speaking engagements, Dennis prepares students for life success and equips parents and educators in their vital training role. You can find him here on Facebook.