2016 is the year YOU Parent with Intention
November 17, 2015
The only thing that is constant about parenting, is change. As parents, we have two options: Either be bombarded by the change and parent simply by reacting, or stop, and take some time and energy to plan how to deal with the changes. The book, A YEAR of Intentional Parenting, written by the powerhouse duo of Julie Freedman-Smith and Gail Bell from Parenting Power, helps you do exactly that. They remind us that the beginning of the year is a good time to stop and take stock of what has happened over the past year, and what is coming up. And with the end of 2015 rapidly approaching, this book couldn’t come into your hands at a better time.
In a little over 150 pages, Gail and Julie lay out, month by month, and even week by week, many of the parenting pitfalls that occur throughout a year. They touch on subjects ranging from holidays, mealtimes, bedtimes, backtalk and friendships, cyberbullying and manners. For each topic, they then provide insightful ideas and tips on how to parent through these difficult times with intention and integrity.
The chapters are short and sweet, and very easy to read. Many of them provide 3 – 5 quick fixes, or things to think about on a specific issue. This can be either scripts parent can use directly when talking to children, or steps parents need to take BEFORE reacting. Each chapter is a “week” in a month, and the book is broken up into the months of the year. Each month touches on the things that could be issues for that time of the year. For example, in December, Julie and Gail discuss things such as Reclaiming the Holidays, and Making a Plan for the Year Ahead. The March, April and July chapters are full of brilliant ideas on how to plan for spring break and vacations with children. Spoiler alert, summer days with no planning are NOT the joy we imagine them to be!
As both a parent and a teacher, one of the things I really appreciate about this book is the premise that children are intelligent, capable and resilient. It operates from the position that we as adults need to meet our children where they are at, instead of expecting them to be little adults. Julie and Gail do an excellent job of offering great tips and advice without being judgmental, as well as being very honest! Yes, there will be times when you don’t like your children! Many times over, they reiterate that parenting takes a village, and that we all fall down sometimes. But, they also remind us that we just need the right people, and the right plans in place, to help pick ourselves back up. An aspect of this book that I think will help bring independence and confidence back to children of the 21st Century, is the teaching that; when we do things for our children, we literally demean them, we take away their meaning of self. Instead, they recommend we re-evaluate what our children are capable of doing on a fairly regular basis (Julie and Gail remind us that September and January are two natural times in the year for this), and teach them the skills to be successful. When we teach our children what our expectations are, and then the skills to be able to reach them, we empower them to grow and develop.
Another aspect of this book that I believe is really powerful, is that many of our parenting behaviors stem from the stories we tell ourselves. Before we have children, we have a history of behaviors we have learned and developed. Many of the parenting behaviors we learn as children, both good and bad, rear their ugly heads once we hit the stage in parenting where our children learn to talk back! This is when the “battle between the wolves” (pg. 130) begins. Not only do we need to help our children learn to feed their good wolf, but we also need to feed our own good wolf and teach the evil wolf to get quieter.
From a structural point of view, I would have liked to see an index, broken up into issues, at the back of the book. When we are in the heat of the moment, and take ourselves off for a timeout, being able to find the issue we are dealing with while we cool down, would be quite helpful. For example, Vacation Planning, see page 30, 80 and 86. However, the break down at the beginning of the book allows for a quick and easy glance at what issues are being discussed in a given month, and allows desperate parents a 2 to 3 page quick self-help resource. The scripts, in particular, are very powerful for a parent who simply doesn’t know what to say!
If you feel as though you are parenting by knee-jerk reaction, or are concerned about how to handle the coming years as your children get older and more complex, I would highly recommend picking up A YEAR of Intentional Parenting. It will give you many more tools to add to your toolbelt, and a go-to resource for when things get really tough. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers; this would make a welcome gift for any new, or experienced and still learning, parent.