Q&A with David Thomas, author of Intentional Parenting: Autopilot is for Planes (Thomas Nelson, March 2013).
David wrote Intentional Parenting with Sissy Goff and Melissa Trevathan, who all three are on staff of Daystar Counseling Ministries in Nashville, TN. Daystar is a not-for-profit ministry offering both individual and group counseling for children, adolescents, families, and young adults.
Q: How would you define being an intentional parent?
First, let us tell you what intentional parenting is not. Reactive. It is essential to parent out of love instead of parenting out of fear. When we parent out of fear, our kids never get the best of us, the most of us, or even what they really need from us. Parenting out of fear is a reactive form of parenting.
We’d love to invite you into more proactive parenting—thoughtful, intentional, strategic, and wise parenting. Or more active parenting—responsive, engaged, invested, connected parenting. It’s difficult to parent out of love when we are simply reacting to everything going on around us. We are postured to react rather than respond.
We always have options. Sometimes we choose fear over love. Sometimes we choose love over fear. You will continue to hear us invite you to extend grace to yourself in the journey of parenting. You are going to make mistakes. God can redeem the mistakes we make in parenting. He extends grace to us so that we can then extend grace and mercy to our children. Receive the grace and mercy that is available to you. And then do that thing we teach our kids to do when they fall off their bikes while learning to ride: get back up, dust yourself off, and try again.
Being an intentional parent means I get back on the bike and learn from the mistake I made last time around.
Q: What does play have to do with parenting?
Play has purpose for you and your kids. When we speak to parents, we talk about the need for every child to feel enjoyed by their parents. Every child needs time with their mom and dad that is not spent instructing, coaching, teaching, or even exhorting … just plain play together. It helps build a child’s confidence and increases the bond between you.
As a side note, we’re not only talking about watching your children play, although that’s important too. Kids want an audience, and it’s easy to think (especially after a hard day’s work) that by watching them play, you are entering in. You can watch them play tennis and dive off diving boards, but they also want you to jump in and get a little wet right alongside them.
At camp, the kids will beg the adult counselors to get in the lake with them. I cannot even begin to count the number of kids who have said to me, “My mom won’t swim with us. She doesn’t like to get her hair wet. Or, my dad comes to the lake with us, but he spends a lot of time on his phone because it’s hard for him to get away from work.”
Dive in. Get your hair wet. Get on the floor and play a board game. Laugh. Enjoy your children by playing with them. And then save a little time to play without them, as well.
source: Ces’t June
Q: What role does hope play in parenting?
Your child will place his or her hope in a lot of things over the years—new friends, parts in plays, winning football teams, homecoming dates, SAT scores. And when those things fall through, discouragement will follow. Your encouragement, in those times, is invaluable. A middle school girl said that her mom puts a new Scripture on her mirror every day … just to encourage her. A high schooler said recently how much it means when she knows her mom is praying specifically for her and for what she’s facing that day. The encouragement of these moms is a genuine expression of their hope. When your encouragement rises out of that place, it has more impact than you can imagine.
In all of the complexities of growing up today, children and teens need hope. They need life and healing and relationship with you, as their parent. And they need you to offer these things out of the overflow of your heart. Encouragement is not just the words you say. It’s not just the truth and hope that you offer. It’s the way you live His truth and His hope out. Sensitivity to your child’s heart and confidence in God as your protector, provider, and redeemer is what truly encourages. You offer hope as you point your children toward Christ.
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