Intentional Parenting

Loving white pine trees and poems - just part of what we can share with kids.

Loving white pine trees and poems – just part of what we can share with kids.

Last week my kids helped me celebrate my birthday with a new family tradition:  Reciting poetry.  I asked everyone to memorize a poem and recite it on my birthday.  The result was lovely.  I felt serenaded.  The kids glowed.  Since we were with cousins and grandparents, I received six poems altogether, ranging from William Blake to A. A. Milne.

My gift is their gift.  Over the years this tradition will give my kids a rich heritage of memorized poems. They are giving me a birthday serenade.  I am giving them thoughts and rhythms that can see them through joyful and melancholy times.  It’s partly sharing joy in literature.  It’s partly giving them tools to accept every emotion.

Memorizing poetry is one way we can intentionally parent.

What skills and heritage DO we want to pass on to our kids?  We need to make room for these priorities, whatever they are.  Here’s a list of ideas I consider essential — skills and lessons I try to incorporate into our lives.

  • Healthy attitudes toward death and life cycles
  • Money management, including saving and the ability to delay gratification
  • Cooking skills, nutritional choices and stopping when you’re “almost full”
  • Basic chores and life skills – how to sweep a floor, set a table, make a bed
  • Neighborliness – knowing our neighbors, spending time with them, reciprocating kindness, checking on elderly neighbors
  • Family heritage – a knowledge of our family trees, story telling about family history, repeating these stories many times
  • Perspective – we are one among 7 billion unique humans
  • Magnificence – a sense of wonder and responsibility toward other species
  • Seasonal traditions – singing parties, camping trips, celebrations
  • Balancing outside messages – identifying ads, going deeper with school history lessons
  • Accepting all emotions – understanding that being fully human means experiencing the full range of human emotions

Of course, there’s more.  This is a partial list.  But it’s good to remind ourselves what’s truly important, what we truly hope to pass on when we interact with kids and set daily (or yearly) rituals.

What would you add to this list?  What family lessons or traditions do you treasure today?

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6 Responses to Intentional Parenting

  1. Great list, Heather. All I can think to add is:

    Always be learning- the lifelong education idea

    Exercise your body as well as your mind- as you state, much can be learned by children from playing, and a healthy body also improves one’s self-esteem and confidence


    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Great additions, Chris. And as far as exercise goes, this message is more important than ever for today’s kids and parents. Maybe we need one that says “get outside every day.” Bravo!

  2. Heather – You rock! I love your list, thank you for sharing it.

    One of the things we do on purpose — by intent — is practice kindness. It’s as simple as that.

  3. Gina says:

    I am new to your blog (referred by Abundant Parenting), and I am enjoying your point of view immensely!

    I have just been making a list of skills and priorities that I want to pass on to my daughter, so this list is timely for me. I also appreciate the suggestions in the comments.

    My 5 year old daughter will be starting kindergarten next month, and I am trying to prepare her and myself for the transition. I want to keep encouraging her free spirit and natural curiousity, but it seems that many schools don’t subscribe to that notion, so I need to find ways to balance their “scheduled” learning style with more free play at home. Thank you for the many great ideas and support! 🙂

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Great to have you, Gina! Welcome aboard.

      Your daughter is lucky to have you, and I’m sure your list is packed with good priorities. So glad to hear you’re creating your own list.

      Yes, lots of open, unscheduled time at home will be even more important. Hopefully your kindergarten teacher will allow true free play during the school day, too, but kindergarten teachers are under lots of pressure and it’s rare to find a teacher who can give kids as much play-based learning as kids need. Good luck!