Preparation is indispensible to the success of any mission. Outside of just incredibly good fortune I’ve never seen a business, hobby, investment, or any other task be successful without good preparation. Preparation helps to narrow our focus, develop specific expectations, and plan for how to accomplish our goals. That’s how we keep from aimlessly floating through life and live with intention.
But that type of intention is not only necessary in the way we approach our jobs, hobbies, and investments. It’s just as necessary when it comes to more important things in life like our families. We should be husbands and wives with intention; and we should be parents with intention. So many of the failures our children face in life I’m afraid comes from parents who have not narrowed their focus, developed specific expectations, and planned how to accomplish their goals as parents. They are just drifting through life, going with the flow, and are completely unaware and unconcerned with what their children are going to grow to be as adults. In the Bible we quickly get the idea that we are to be intentional in the way that we parent. But I understand that this is easier said than done. So how can we be more intentional as parents?
It’s about what they know
Much of what develops a child into the adult they become is based on what they know. And don’t kid yourself; they are going to learn certain things in life. So as parents we simply have to ask ourselves who we want teaching them. Do we want to take a chance on them learning these things from the people around them in the world or do we want them to learn them from us as parents? If we are going to be intentional as parents then it’s going to come from accepting our God-given responsibility to be the primary teachers in our children’s lives. That was the role that God told the ancient Israelites to assume in their children’s lives (Deuteronomy 6:7), Solomon reflected the same mentality in his Proverbs (1:8; 4:1,20; 5:1), and that responsibility has gone unchanged ever since (Ephesians 6:4). To be intentional parents we need to have some control over what our children know by teaching them the things that are most important.
It’s about what you show
If anything is more important to our children’s development than what we teach them verbally it is what they see us do in our lives. They, like anybody, are going to learn much more by what they see than by what they hear; and even more importantly our lives had better measure up to what we teach or our own inconsistency will be the single greatest hindrance our children face. In Titus 2 Paul spoke candidly about how older men and women have responsibilities to be living examples to younger men and women. That may be a general expectation in terms of all older folks teaching all younger folks how to live, but don’t you think that expectation is going to begin at home first? The same will be true in terms of the principle of shining our lights (Matthew 5:16); winning others by our behavior (1 Peter 3:1-2), and walking in wisdom toward those around us (Colossians 4:5). All of these may be generic in nature, but will all start at home. So if we are going to be intentional parents we better give as much attention to what we show them in our lives as we do to what we teach them.
It’s about how they grow
We can tell a lot, as parents, as to how our efforts are working over time by the way that they grow. As parents, Joseph and Mary knew they were accomplishing their goal as parents because they were able to see Jesus’ growth over time as he “advanced in wisdom and stature, and in a favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). Jesus grew intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially – all key components to our children’s proper development. And, as parents, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to foster their growth in all of these areas. Because if we are intentional parents, if we ever see one or any of these areas deficient in their lives then we will hit reset, double down our efforts, and do whatever is necessary to ensure success in their development.
In Proverbs 22;6 Solomon spoke of “training up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.” That’s what we’re talking about – intentional parenting. Second only to our own souls, our children are the most precious possession we have. We must protect them, guide them, mentor them, and discipline them to become what God wants for them to be. That’s what intentional parenting is all about.