We sat around the table in a Mexican restaurant enjoying tortilla chips and salsa. It was my birthday, and my friends took turns encouraging me with their words.
I loved my birthday back then (ha!) and loved even more hearing the kind things my friends had to say. I’m a Words of Affirmation girl, so that evening meant a lot to me.
I still remember the words of my friend, Cheryl: “You are the most intentional parent I know.”
I must have glanced over my shoulder when she said it because I thought that surely her words were meant for someone else. Cheryl knew me well. She knew that I got frustrated with my kids. She knew that I yelled at times. She knew that I was far from a perfect mom.
And yet there it was: intentional.
Over the next few weeks I thought about her comment often. It bolstered me as a mom. It began to shape the way I looked at parenting. It gave me hope that I wasn’t as big a mess as I thought I was.
And it made me wonder: what is intentionality? What does intentionality look like in our home? With our children?
Intentionality as a parent isn’t perfection—I’m living proof of that. Intentionality isn’t getting everything right. Intentionality isn’t about looking good on the outside when everything is falling apart on the inside.
Intentionality as a parent is more about building character into your children day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.
Intentionality starts with one important question: Why?
Have you ever thought about why you do what you do as a mom? Sometimes that’s an easy question to answer. You make sure your kids brush their teeth because you don’t want their teeth to decay. You put a coat on your child before they go outside because you don’t want them to get cold. You give them healthy food to eat so that they can grow strong.
It’s easy to answer why as we tend to our child’s physical needs, but what about her spiritual growth? Have you ever asked why you do what you do to help build character in your child? Asking why will help you look ahead to the type of person you’d like to see your child become and develop a plan to see that happen.
For example, my husband and I really wanted to help form a global ministry perspective in our daughters, so we have taken them to visit missionaries around the world. These trips didn’t just happen—they took planning, saving, and preparation. We had to be intentional about communicating with missionaries, finding out about their needs and their places of service. And we had to forgo other types of vacations in order to help teach our kids about the work that missionaries do in other cultures.
In addition, we are involved in serving missionaries on home assignment in our own town. We host missionaries in our home whenever we can, and we assist with local housing for missionaries. Yes, it is service we enjoy, but we also do it with an eye toward teaching our daughters something of spiritual value.
We can ask why about many areas of spiritual development. Why do we attend church together as a family? Why do we insist on truthfulness? Why do we love our neighbor? Thinking through areas in which we can be intentional will start helping our children live purposeful lives.
In the book of Exodus, God shows His intentionality by rescuing His people from Pharaoh’s oppression. God had a detailed plan and He explained, through Moses, exactly why He wanted His people out of there: “When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” (Exodus 7:5 NLT)
God didn’t just wake up one day and decide to strike terror on Egypt. He didn’t think to Himself, “Gee, the frogs didn’t work; let’s try gnats.” No, each plague was a part of God’s carefully laid plan that would culminate in horrible destruction. Yet even in that terrible night, God had a purpose: He was setting the stage for the coming of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who would be our ultimate sacrifice, the one true Passover lamb.
Purpose. Perspective. A plan. These are parenting tools that we all need, and we can start working toward them by asking why.
Mama, do you want a fresh start with your kids this year? Do you need a new perspective as a parent? Would you like to be more intentional about encouraging spiritual qualities in your kids and in your family?
Why not start with why?