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Raising children can feel mundane and thankless. Probably because, many times, that’s exactly what it is. “The days are long, but the years are short” is a much more cheery and heart-warming way to put it, but the reality is the same!
Feed everyone breakfast.
Drink half a cup of cold coffee.
Get everyone dressed.
Clean up a potty accident.
Break up a fight.
Feed everyone a snack.
Deal with complaining about the snack . . .
And now’s it all of 9am!
When you’re in the trenches of motherhood, how do you know if you’re being successful? 18 years isn’t very long, but it feels forever away when you’re wondering if you’re even doing a good job. So how can we know if we’re parenting effectively? How do we know if we’re mothering well?
Love is the foundation
It starts with love. All good mothers love their children. Notice I did not say, “All good mothers LIKE their children 100% of the time.” Truthfully, sometimes are children aren’t very pleasant, and can be hard to like! No, love is what makes a good mother.
What does love look like as a mother? It looks like cooking one more meal – when you know they’re going to complain. It looks like washing another round of dirty dishes. It looks like bedtime stories, and cuddles when they’ve had a bad dream. It looks like going to the park when you’d rather stay home and (finally) catch up on laundry. It looks like rocking a teething baby in the middle of the night.
It also looks like saying no to things they want, when you know it would be bad for them. It looks like providing consequences and discipline for bad decisions.
Love looks like all the little jobs mothers do every day to serve, care for, and instruct their children. So love is the foundation, the first benchmark we can use to gauge if we’re being successful in parenting.
You need goals
After love, we need to know where we’re headed if we want to know if we’re getting there. You can’t hit a target if you’re not aiming at it, right? So, we need goals to help us see that we’re on the right path in parenting intentionally.
Where do your goals come from?
Some parenting goals are smaller, and can be reached pretty quickly. Things like:
+I want my child to put his dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
+I want my child to get ready independently in the morning.
+I want my kids to share their toys.
But what are these goals for? What is your bigger vision for your children? Think down the road to your children being adults. What kind of people would they be for you to count them as a success?
What kind of character would they have?
Would they need a certain level of education?
What type of work would they be engaged in?
Would they be involved in church?
What is their own family dynamic?
Everyone’s answers will be different. I encourage you to think through these questions, write down your answers, and then ask yourself why that’s your answer.
We all bring our own background (and hangups and hurts!) to parenting, and it can help bring SO much freedom if we ask ourselves why we have the goals we do.
Are your goals coming from a place of reaction toward your own crappy upbringing? Are your goals for your children a way for you to live vicariously through them? Are you maybe trying to fix your parents’ mistakes through your own kids? These are tough questions to ask yourself, but taking the time to work through this will give you the clarity and freedom you need to parent intentionally, and in a healthy way!
The why comes before the how – so take some time to ask yourself where your current parenting goals come from. And don’t be afraid to let some of those go and change course with your parenting!
How to set your parenting goals
I like to periodically (generally about once each spring, summer, fall, and winter) reassess my parenting goals for each child in the following areas:
How is he doing in this area? Are disrespectful words popping up more? Is laziness becoming an issue? What is he doing well? What are his character weaknesses? How can we work on those?
More for older kids, I look at each kids’ progress in school, what he’s excelling at and where he’s struggling. I decide where we need to spend more time working, and if he’s getting burned out or frustrated in some area, what I can do to help that.
Practical life skills
How is he doing in basic personal care? Do we need to have more instruction on effectively brushing teeth? Is he leaving his towel on the floor in the bathroom? Should we work more on sweeping floors? Does he need more practice with laundry? I set goals for practical life skills each kid needs to work on.
Relationships and emotional health
How is he REALLY doing? Is he getting 1 on 1 time with each parent? Does he struggle with one of his brothers? Is he generally happy and thriving? What is his love language, and what am I doing to speak it to him?
By taking the time to work through these four areas regularly and set goals for each child, I am able to stay clear on what my goals are, and be sure my daily life is helping me get closer to those goals.
Intentional parenting brings peace
Children are born with their own God-given personalities and uniqueness. It’s our privilege as parents to help them grow into the best version of that person God created them to be. Intentionally parenting your children brings peace, because you know where you’re headed along the ups and downs of raising kids.
Parenting isn’t easy, but having clear goals can help you have more confidence, and stay focused on what truly matters most.
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