Parenting with intention
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Last week, I spoke to middle-school parents about navigating the exciting (and sometimes challenging) adolescent and teen years. We discussed the following principles for parenting with intention.

1. Be in the moment while keeping the end goal in mind: First, figure out what success as a parent means to you—the kind of adults you want your children to become, and the kind of a lasting relationship you want to build with them. Second, take action every day to provide guidance, give feedback and serve as a role model in ways that are consistent with that end goal. Ask yourself, “Is the way I’m interacting with my children right now helping them grow into the kinds of adults I envision?”

2. Shift from caretaker to coach: A parent’s job is to prepare children to function independently. In the early years, children are completely dependent on their parents for everything: food, clothing, shelter and entertainment. At this stage, the parental role can be all-consuming, with one’s time, identity and satisfaction wrapped up in a child’s daily activities, challenges and accomplishments. As children reach the adolescent years, they struggle for independence, despite being unprepared. They push against their parents—seeking their own identity and testing the waters—trying to decide who they are in the world. The same parents who were once indispensable often feel unneeded and unappreciated. During this important transition, parents must focus on being a “coach”—providing guidance and information so their children can learn to make their own healthy choices. Don’t give up; just shift how you guide them. It may seem like they aren’t listening, but deep down, they really are.

3. Figure out what matters: For your children:  How do they envision their future?  What is important to them? Family, friends, relationships, work, lifestyle? What talents and resources are at their disposal, and how can they utilize those privileges to move toward their future? For you as a parent: What do you want to be known for in your full life, not just in your role as a parent? What talents, activities and relationships can you explore to keep growing and ensure that your sense of self-worth and satisfaction are not completely dependent on your children?

4. Remember that choices beget choices: Decisions made now have long-term consequences for you and your children. Encourage your children to reflect on how choices they make will impact their future.  As a parent, consider how the choices you make every day affect the end goal you have in mind.

As you think about that end goal, consider these two questions:

  • How are you preparing your children for their independence in the following areas:  financial—earning and managing their own money; self care—laundry, cooking, cleaning; and making healthy lifestyle choices?
  • How are you preparing yourself for your children’s independence?

Don’t try to navigate this parenting phase alone. Reach out to others—friends and family members who can provide advice and a sympathetic ear. And trust your instincts. If you feel something may not be right, it probably isn’t. Keep your eye on the goal. You’ve made it this far, and you’re on the home stretch!

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