3 Ways to Be a Mindful and Intentional Parent

In a world full of information, suggestions, and advice from family, friends, magazines, and experts, you might feel a little lost or overwhelmed with figuring out what's the best way to support and guide your child. 

One thing that has helped me tremendously in my parenting journey of my neurodivergent children is to have a path to guide me that is based on my priorities and values. That way, when I get off track, I can sniff my way back to what is most important to me, my children, and my family.   

In our online course and community for parents of neurodivergent kiddos, Dr. Rebecca Brandstetter and I have developed a pathway based on our WISE model, which stands for Wisdom, Intentionality, Self-Care (and self-compassion), and Everyday Strategies.

Let me break down the WISE model briefly

  • Wisdom: This is the foundation of the pathway where we as parents can get grounded and be mindfully aware of our own internal (and external) needs as well as the needs of our children. We can use this combined knowledge to parent from a place of conscious action rather than "on the fly." When we are able to do this, we can tap into and get very clear about our values and priorities. 

  • Intentionality: Setting and leaning on our intentions (based on wisdom/values) helps us answer questions like "what matters most at the moment and the future" and how can I be conscious of my child's needs and help them grow without neglecting my own.

  • Self-Care and Self-Compassion-These are the things we do to help us feel more grounded and able to show up for ourselves and our kids. Self-care is more of the "off the job" things we do such as getting enough sleep or taking a long bath at night verse self-compassion, which is more of the "on the job" things we can do to treat ourselves with kindness and compassion in each moment such s telling ourselves that "we are doing the best that we can!"

  • Everyday Strategies: Teachable moments and environmental support are ways to support your child and help them grow during all of the daily activities. Some examples are to provide daily emotion and body check-ins to support your child's ability to regulate. Or helping them take the perspective of their sibling when playing together. This is an "add-in" to your busy lives vs. an "add-on." 

 

I’ve talked a lot about mindfulness in past blogs, so I’m going to focus on the “I” in the WISE model and dive into Intentionality today.

 

What is intentional parenting?

You might have heard the term conscious parenting, which is the parenting style that focuses more on being mindful with parenting choices. Well, intentional parenting is similar in the way that it comes from our parenting wisdom and helps inform and guide us.  

Intentional parenting simply means adapting your parenting style to your priorities in a mindful way.  It’s being aware of our values, so we have intentionality and tailor our actions to meet our child’s needs to their unique needs. It provides intentions (different from goals) to focus on and reminds us of how we want to show up with our kids and family. It helps us identify what we can do to support our child and what we can let go of so that we can focus on connecting with our kids and with ourselves.

Intentional parenting means you bring conscious attention to what's happening NOW instead of being hijacked by your emotions and/or distractions. It's not about being the perfect parent, and it's not something you can fail at; it's simply paying attention to what you are feeling right now and letting go of the shame and guilt of the past. It's accepting rather than trying to change or ignore. 

 

Why do your kids benefit from you being an intentional parent?

Through intentional parenting, we become more aware of our own thoughts and feelings and get clarity to be less scattered and more focused on priorities. 

Over the years, I realized that having intentionality in parenting can help move us away from default mode (survival mode), where you are trying various strategies to help your child without a clear vision. That can be like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if it’s cooked enough.

Ultimately intentional parenting helps us feel more at ease and raise children who grow up in the world equipped with confidence, kindness (to themselves and others), acceptance (of themselves and others), and unconditional LOVE.

 

How to be an intentional parent

Here are three tips that I used (and continue to use) to raise my children with intention:

  1. Fill your cup FIRST. 
    In other words, make your emotional, physical, and mental needs a priority. Remember, you can't pour from an empty cup, so it's important to take care of yourself before taking care of your child. 

    If you are stressed out or exhausted, you cannot be available to your kid. That's why the flight attendant advises putting your oxygen mask FIRST on the airplane before taking care of others (you cannot take care of others if you are deprived of oxygen). The same applies to parenting.

  2. It's not a race
    We live in a world where we are so used to competition that it sometimes feels natural to pit kids against each other or compare your parenting style with other parents. This can be an unconscious trap that we fall into! 

    Your child is perfect the way they are. They are LOVE and have uniqueness, gifts, and talents no one else has.

    Our kids don't need "fixing," they need acceptance and compassion. Let your children know that you love them unconditionally. Help them realize the strengths, gifts, and infinite potential they possess by focusing on their positive traits.

  3. Connect with your kiddo every day.
    I know you have a lot on your plate, and the list of your to-dos is never-ending; however, spending just 5-10 minutes of "special time" or connected/focus time with your child regularly can really move the needle in raising healthy and confident individuals.

    Dr. Ned Hallowell talks about "harnessing the power of the other Vitamin C, Vitamin Connect." The time spent with your kids, tapping into their interests, and following their lead can open up a world of joy and lay the foundation for the relationships you build with your kid in childhood and beyond. 

 

Intentional parenting is about making that special bond every day, even if it's just sitting near them which they have a snack, or listening to their new favorite song (I just did this with my 15-year-old, and it was so powerful to hear his take on the lyrics), etc. 

And if you want to get specific on what you can do with your kids every day, you can grab my activities calendar here.

As you can see, intentional parenting is about deep reflection to get clarity and then to use that clarity daily to be mindful so that you can engage and support your child with more ease and joy! 

There is no one else chosen for the role of parenting your unique and amazing child but you. No one can raise your child the way you can. It is all meant to be, and if we can accept that gift and appreciate it, our children will also appreciate it and will thrive because of it.

 

 

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