I have been thinking a lot lately about intentional parenting. It started last November when a colleague of mine called something that I was doing with the kids “intentional parenting,” and I really loved it. I started to put some effort into thinking through ways to intentionally parent my children in their social and cultural development – which isn’t something we often do in positive terms.
I love seeing them when they are focusing on a task that requires them to use their words, hands, and thoughts in love and service. They often see areas of service they can easily contribute to in the community, when we travel, but never with each other. I am the baby of 5 siblings – trust me I know sibling relationships. I also know sibling competition for everything from attention to resources to privileges. It is real and it is epic! Lately, the warm and fuzzy feeling of winter has worn off and we have gotten into the emotional doldrums of the winter in full force. These two have been squawking at each other with a vengeance lately – with the season of love arriving, I thought it might be time to reframe those we are closest to in a more positive light.
This year, I wanted to make a little project with the kids, my daughter is really into creating “real” decorations this year for the different holidays, so I wanted to capitalize on that drive to get her to engage. I began to think about how I could get them to focus on the loving elements of their sibling relationships. Have you ever sunk into a thinking rut? I know I have – and most of the time when we live with someone every – single – day, (EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!) the stresses that you feel can start to build up until they blow. Sometimes, it is good to reframe your thinking and remember that there is good in everyone, recognize that good, and affirm that good that you have seen – especially with family.
I finally decided to have them each make a little wooden Valentine from some cut outs that I bought from a craft store near me. They came in two sizes, so we painted the larger one white and the smaller one dark pink.
I lettered their names (all of our names, actually) in the center of each heart. If you want a little hanger, you can hot glue a little piece of ribbon in place, looped.
While they were all in for making wooden Valentines, they weren’t quite as excited about the concept of engaging in meaningful self reflective practices on a Saturday afternoon…I wonder why? 😊 I had them take a few minutes to think about the thing they love most about each member of the family. I thought it might be good for Papa Bear and myself to do this as well, and was a little curious what they would say about us.
It is easy to cop out and say things like I love him because he is nice (I guess that is why they fight like cats and dogs?) or because she gets me juice. Nope, go deeper. I want a characteristic of someone’s personality that resonates with you – what do they consistently do that makes you feel good about yourself? We forget acts, we don’t forget how we felt. What are they doing that makes you feel loved? What do that do that affirms you? These are the things we need to call up – don’t let them stay in superficial mode to check a box – make them think and feel.
Once you have identified an essential characteristic (boil down that story/description/element into a singe word or two to three word phrase), and write it in Sharpie on the back of the heart. It will be interesting to take them out next year and see how that characteristic has changed and modified over the last year.
Naturally, the next part of this equation is how can you use what makes you feel good about yourself and give that gift to others? That’s right, friends, I made them demonstrate it too. What better way can we get our world and society to change than to lay the foundations with our children so that it changes by virtue of their being in it. We can change our world, we can do it by changing they way they see it.
What are some of the ways you intentionally parent?
Check out my other posts on intentional parenting here:
Coming Up on the 14th:
Why I Write Love Letters To My Children
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