In the previous two blogs we’ve explored an approach to the holiday season from the perspective of Intentional Parenting. We’ve striven to shift our focus from material presents and instead to concentrate on intangible blessings. Intentional families reinforce family values in both words and in action.
Like many others of my generation, I am a grandparent handling the day care responsibilities for my grandchild. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, it gives me an irreplaceable channel to forge life-long, solid attachments with my grandson. Second, the cost of quality day-care is prohibitive. My willingness to shoulder this responsibility allows my children to stretch their hard-earned dollars further.
With this first-hand opportunity to shape my grandson, I am able to practice much of the Intentional Parenting suggestions which I proffer here. I believe that helping to shape my grandson’s values in a positive way is one of the best gifts I can provide him. Each day during our time together, I intentionally sprinkle messages—comments that encourage, demonstrate and, reinforce our family values. I think of them as thought-seeds, ideas which I trust will take root and bear fruit throughout his lifetime.
I remind him that he is loved by me, his parents and his extended family. Who loves you, PJ? I continue asking, And who else? Until he runs out of names. Then we reverse engineer the activity reinforcing that there is room for all of the people in his heart. This includes the members of his dad’s biological family who do love him deeply and whole-heartedly. At twenty-eight months, he’s familiar with this “game” and appears to enjoy it.
I also like to remind him that he is capable, that it is essential to try and try again until success is achieved. Nana is so proud of you for trying… I acknowledge when he accomplishes something especially when he’s worked hard to do it. When we are together, I also comment on my own efforts to try. I point out when something doesn’t work but that I’m going to try again. This models capability in addition to speaking about it. And it reveals that even adults must work to gain proficiency.
I think it is important for children to understand that adults do not achieve success every time and that it is a process for us also. If they overheard me speaking aloud, narrating our play like a toddler outsiders might think me crazy. But I believe it reveals important information to children which they might otherwise not notice. In fact, most kids infer that everything is easy for adults; they do not realize we’ve been learning for our entire lifetimes.
One other belief which I emphasize is the importance of helping others. I let him know that I noticed and admire his efforts to help. Then I mention that his mommy and daddy are wonderful helpers as well. Our family believes in helping. Similarly, I highlight how everyone in our family is a helper, tryer, sharer and, hard worker. This builds compassion as well as a sense that we should not only feel empathetic but that we also should feel called to action.
Often this requires courage, especially in the moments when it is difficult to speak out, stand up or, get involved. This kind of conviction emerges from a lifetime of reinforcement. We plant these seeds when our kids are young and then we nurture them as they grow. This benefits them and us. While teaching them we are reminded of what is important and why.
While this may sound overly preachy and moralistic, fear not. One additional value I teach him is that every day we must make time for laughter and dance. ( And cooking, we’re a family that believes when you love someone, you cook them good food. Like his dad, PJ already loves to cook.)
Whatever one's family values are, they bind us together and forge a common belief system that will determine actions. Actions, in turn, become our contribution to the world and a legacy for the entire family. Although we can’t wrap it and place it under the tree, a clear family value system is a mighty special gift! One might even say it is the proverbial “pearl of great price.