If you are like me…then a lot of times parenting is less intentional and more fly by the seat of your pants. Even though I have all the desire to be intentional about various aspects of my parenting, I often let it get crowded out by other things.
One area of parenting that I talk a lot about with my clients, teach at parenting classes, and practice in my own home is essentially…being clear with our children about expectations. Specifically expectations around their responsibilities (chores, tasks, etc.), around specific privileges they get (allowance, prizes, play time, etc.), and then around consequences (time out, things taken away, etc.)
What I have come to find is that a lot of children and parents just aren’t on the same page when it comes to understanding what is expected. As parents we have these ideas in our mind, but we rarely communicate them well, and if we do communicate, it can often be in the heat of the moment or in frustration — which is not a good time to try and communicate.
So I have a five and half year old daughter and a two and half year old son. They need different things at these ages, but one of the things we are doing with our daughter is developing and designing with her a chart she hangs in her room that spells out her responsibilities clearly — identifies how she gets certain privileges — and though we don’t put the consequences on this chart, my daughter is aware of them and can see for herself where there might be consequences.
Each kid is different and needs to be taken into consideration when talking about responsibilities, privileges and consequences. As parents, my wife and I have played around with a lot of different ideas and methods, but with the use of this chart we are trying to emphasize a few things that I think are important.
- It’s intentional. We had to come up with a list of responsibilities, privileges and consequences.
- It’s a team approach. My wife and I came up with a list first, then we asked our daughter what she thought her responsibilities, privileges and consequences should be. Surprisingly, she was on the same page as us pretty much. And since we gave her a voice, there is more buy in from her. This is important for helping kids one day “launch” out on their own (but that’s for another post).
- It’s visual. We can all see it spelled out clearly. Me, my wife, my daughter. There is no “wondering” about what the expectations are. We can all see them. And if we forget, we can walk up to my daughter’s room and look at the chart.
- It’s creative. My daughter and I designed the chart together. We colored it together. (That’s the chart we created above). It was a fun process. And we will probably change the look of it next month. I will ask her how she would like it designed and displayed.
- It’s participatory. Each night my daughter will sit down with us and go over her responsibilities of the day. In each one that she finished she gets to put a check mark (her idea). And where she didn’t finish it, an X (her idea again). The participatory element along with the other ones allows this to be about teaching, which I think parenting is a lot about — rather than being built just around consequences and punishment (which are often the only tools many parents have in their parenting toolbox).
- It’s not about perfection. The most important thing we told my daughter was, “You don’t have to be perfect on this chart. We want you to try your best. At the end of the month we aren’t looking for perfection, but we are looking for effort and a good attitude.
This is a work in progress for us in our own house, but I have seen it work well in a number of households that I have worked with.
What do you do to be a more intentional parent?