Intentional Parenting with a Vision for Your Family

Intentional Parenting with a Vision for Your Family

Consider is a word that pops up all over the place in Scripture, and was even on the lips of Jesus as he invited a crowd gathered on a hillside to “consider the lilies of the field.” For most of us, there’s hardly an area of our lives that would not profit from a dose of thoughtful introspection and a few probing questions aimed at the dead-center of our motives and the purpose behind our practices. In First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship, Shelly Hunt Wildman turns a laser focus onto the subject of parenting, inviting her readers into an intentional practice of envisioning the kind of family we want and then, by God’s grace, doing what needs to be done to make that vision become a reality.

Fortunately, Shelly is writing from a place of self-awareness that prevents her from sounding off as a “parenting expert.” With honesty about her shortcomings and failures, she shares her own goal of greater mindfulness with the voice of a fellow-traveler on this bumpy road of parenting.

When we begin asking why, we open ourselves up to a consideration of the purpose behind all the things we do as believing mums and dads. If leaving a Christ-following legacy is at the top of your parental do-list, your family becomes a unique training ground where you and your children together lean in to the demands that are placed upon our lives by the gospel, all the while trusting in the promises for their glorious fulfillment.

Our Charge

“Setting a vision for our family can help us become more intentional about family life.” (Loc 172)

Family devotions in the Morin compound have always been a rowdy affair, and at times it was not obvious that anything spiritual or even educational was happening. There was the howling St. Bernard whenever we sang hymns; there was the odd question posed, now and again, for the sheer joy of derailing our train of thought; oh, and then there was the time the napkin caught fire. And yet, we persevered because, like the Wildmans, we believed, fiercely, that “parents are and should be the primary influence in the lives of their children.” (Loc 243)

Frist Ask Why

However, discipleship that sticks around the dining room table and never finds its way out into the great wide world of practical application is not in keeping with the principles of Deuteronomy 6 which describe a discipleship that happens all day long–a sitting, walking, rising, and lying down learning that takes different forms and looks different in every family.

If our goal is to develop a resilient faith, every thing we do must point our children toward a meaningful and lively relationship with Christ. In doing so, we help them to fulfill their ultimate purpose: to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

Our Challenge

“Heart work isn’t easy, but it sets the course of [our children’s] lives.” (Loc 175)

Therefore, the goal of parental discipline–or, we could say, the why of discipline– is to develop self-discipline or the freedom of self-control in our children at an early age. With this in mind, discipline becomes “training rather than punishment.” (Loc 593)

This mindset requires a marathon mentality, for we’re not simply in the business of extinguishing annoying or inconvenient behaviors. Instead, the goal is to instill a strong foundation of spiritual disciplines (prayer, Scripture reading, service, giving, worship) that are owned by our children as part of that growing relationship with God. The sooner we can duck out of the position as “middle man” in our children’s spiritual growth, the better.

Our Compassion

“As our kids’ love for God grows, so should their love for others.” (Loc 183)

This love will show up in obedience to God and will be evident in our child’s truthfulness, kindness, willingness to serve, and in their stewardship of gifts and possessions.

While integrity is an intangible concept, Shelly’s shared experiences and application put flesh on the bones for parents who need to become role models of truthfulness themselves and who are unclear about the difference between “being nice” and true biblical kindness. After all, there’s a good reason why the word service (or serve) is used over 400 times in the Bible.

Our Contribution

“Strong families can bless this world, and in so doing, bring glory to God.” (Loc 183)

When our crew gathers, the in-jokes fly so fast that at times I wish for sub-titles in order to keep up with the conversational flow. (And I have an inkling that maybe my obtuseness has become one of the in-jokes . . .) Family traditions and shared memories are strong cords that strengthen family ties and the sense of belonging. Road trips, crazy scavenger hunts and elaborately themed birthday parties, beach days, and big, rowdy gatherings around a loaded table are some of the experiences that have shaped our family’s culture and identity.

Having said that, part of our job as parents is also to reinforce the value of diversity, “recognizing that cultural differences between people exist without assigning them a value–positive or negative, better or worse, right or wrong.” Children with strong roots are free to explore other cultures and to step outside their comfort zone through travel, diverse reading and viewing options, and openness to friendships with people of various cultural backgrounds.

Ambassadorial Work

The parenting journey is a mission with the goal of connecting our children with Jesus. Paul Tripp refers to it as “ambassadorial work from beginning to end. . . [P]arenting is not first about what we want for our children or from our children, but about what God in grace has planned to do through us in our children.” And so, we do our best work when we intentionally seize every opportunity to turn their thoughts (and our own) toward Him.

First Ask Why is not a do-list to stimulate parental guilt. It is an invitation to consider the uniqueness of each child, who they are becoming, and how they can best fit into the plan of God. As we ask ourselves the all-important why questions about our parenting practices, and as we consider the growing and the learning and the letting go of the parenting journey, let us first consider Jesus, for He alone can enable us to make our parenting vision a reality.

Many thanks to the author for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship, simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

63 thoughts on “Intentional Parenting with a Vision for Your Family”

  1. Sounds like a much-needed resource for parents, Michele. Our family devotions sound a lot like yours! With three sons, it was always a challenge to get them to be serious and sit still! I love the points about having a persevering attitude as well as getting out of the teen or child’s way once they gain spiritual traction. They really need time to own their faith. Thanks so much for this and I’ll be pinning!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and I’m a bit suspicious/cynical about parenting books, particularly when the author’s voice is strident and the advice is formulaic. Shelly’s book has a lovely tone. Very reassuring and realistic.

      Like

  2. It’s such a marathon indeed. Even with our kids out of the house, I still want to do “intentional parenting” with them, and now with grandkids. The journey isn’t for the feint of heart! 🙂 Thanks for sharing about this resource, Michele.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This sounds like such a great read, and one that I would have appreciated when our kids were young. We spent vast hours asking God to help us with the “whys” and then the “hows” followed soon after. Thanks for your encouragement to continue the family bonding, even as the nest grows smaller, but the circle grows larger! Blessings to you and yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your St. Bernard howled while your family sang hymns? I love that, and the idea of discipleship that goes beyond the kitchen table. Thanks for your wisdom today and for sharing this valuable family resource. I hadn’t heard of this book! Always love coming to your blog here. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and he still does! We’ve never been able to figure out if he does it because he’s trying to join the pack . . . or if somehow our singing bothers his ears in a way that trumpets, saxophones and piano never have.
      It’s always good to hear from you, Betsy!

      Like

    1. Shelly comes from a very humble stance in sharing her own experiences, and she’s also got some really great insights. I’m pretty careful about reading parenting books, because they can send me into overdrive on guilt and insecurity. First Ask Why is very reasoned and redemptive.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Michele,
    This is a book I could have used 30 years ago. I look back and think I did too little “intentional considering” and too much “reacting”. There is no parent’s manual so I used the Bible as my guide the best I could. Did all the precepts stick? No. Did my kids turn out perfectly? No. I did the best with what I had. A book like this should be a must read in a parenting class!!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This was a good read. Parenting is no easy feat and unfortunately also doesn’t come with an instruction manual but being the primary caretaker of my son I believe that God knew what he was doing when he gave me my son. While I struggle to keep a straight head at times, I always have faith that the Lord gave me all I need to handle any and every situation so long as I believe. For that, there’s always room to grow and always great to hear about what other parents experience.

    Maureen | http://www.littlemisscasual.com

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Michele, just found your post on the Teaching What is Good link up. This is my first time participating in this or any other link up! I’m excited.

    Your post comes at a particularly relevant time for me. I just finished a series of posts on my blog where I explored what I called A Parenting Fail – namely my inability to control my temper when in difficult interactions with my children. I fear I am focusing too much on the negative and on “extinguishing annoying or inconvenient behaviors” as you put it and not enough on “connecting {my} children with Jesus.” I have to constantly remind myself that my goal is to point them to Christ and to do that I have to show them Christ every day. I don’t believe I am doing such a good job at that, but I am supplementing my shortcomings with fervent prayer that God will fix what I have screwed up and will fulfill His purpose in their lives despite all the things I’ve done wrong.

    Thank you for your insight and for sharing your review of this book. It sounds like something I need to add to my reading list and get my hands on ASAP.

    By the way, these passages really caught my attention:

    “This mindset requires a marathon mentality, for we’re not simply in the business of extinguishing annoying or inconvenient behaviors. Instead, the goal is to instill a strong foundation of spiritual disciplines (prayer, Scripture reading, service, giving, worship) that are owned by our children as part of that growing relationship with God. The sooner we can duck out of the position as “middle man” in our children’s spiritual growth, the better”.

    “The parenting journey is a mission with the goal of connecting our children with Jesus. Paul Tripp refers to it as “ambassadorial work from beginning to end. . . [P]arenting is not first about what we want for our children or from our children, but about what God in grace has planned to do through us in our children.” And so, we do our best work when we intentionally seize every opportunity to turn their thoughts (and our own) toward Him”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So glad to connect with you here, and praying right this minute that God will honor your desire to be more intentional with your parenting. I also struggled with controlling my temper when my kids were little. It was a daily battle. We’re on a journey of spiritual growth just as surely as our children are!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Funny I heard much of this in an audio by Jim Newheiser yesterday, not about this book, but many of the same truths. May we be full of God’s grace and wisdom in our parenting and grand-parenting. Thanks for a great review, as always.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This book is right up my alley. Our kids are still pretty little, but we are developing our family culture already, whether we are aware of it or not. It sounds like this is a great read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I think family culture is one of those things that can just happen if we’re not careful, and we discover ourselves living in a house with people who are doing and saying things we can barely believe. Good that you are aware of what’s happening around you with your sweet family!

      Like

    1. I recently heard a quote (I think from Kierkegaard) who said that we understand our lives in reverse, but we can only live them going forward. (That’s extremely paraphrased!) And I think parenting is one of those areas in which this is really proved.

      Like

    1. “Lively” is a word that has often been used of our family. “Energetic” was another one!
      I still love the energy when we all get together!
      I’ve felt sorry for son #4 this week as both his dad and I have been down with a stomach bug, and things have been pretty subdued here!

      Like

  10. Michele, this sounds like a great book. As a mom who knows we haven’t don’t a lot of things we probably should have, it’s good to know we’ve done some things right. We have been intentional about creating memories and traditions iwth our boys. One of our guys will still say, “Remember when . . . ?” I love those! We talk about God, and try to point the boys to Him in decisions they make, in conversations we have, and definitely in praying for and with them.

    I so appreciate your book reviews. They’re always so insightful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jeanne, for this encouraging word.
      And, yes! It’s so good to hear from an author that there are things in our parenting past that have been well done.
      Blessings to you as you reap the spiritual benefits of that sweet relationship with your boys.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I love that this book is full of personal examples of parenting gone wrong which makes the author more approachable. Parenting is a journey where we sometimes make mistakes but the important thing is to learn and improve so that we set a good example to our children. Thanks for linking up to #globalblogging

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I definitely agree that “discipleship that sticks around the dining room table and never finds its way out into the great wide world of practical application is not in keeping with the principles of Deuteronomy 6.” This is where I’m struggling right now.
    It’s easy (in a relative sense, anyway) to read to my kiddos from the Bible each day, to help them memorize Bible verses, and to pray before meals. However, I tend to compartmentalize these activities. I’m not so good at modeling how to live out my faith moment-by-moment.
    Perhaps I need to see more of what this book has to say!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, me too, and maybe that’s the same problem the people of Israel had as they put down roots in the Promised Land?
      Praying along with you, Shannon, for wisdom so that we respond in the moment with the Truth we’ve been trying to teach around the dining room table!

      Like

  13. Mindful parenting is what I practice. Parenting isn’t easy in whatever way we choose to parent but leaving a long lasting impression on our kids that they eventually will take out into the world and into their own lives is essential. #ABloggingGoodTime

    Liked by 2 people

  14. With our large family, we had some pretty rowdy family devotion times, too. 🙂 The parenting journey is oftentimes very hard, but God will give us strength and grace. We try to point them to Christ, to encourage them to have their own relationship with Him, but sometimes they choose otherwise though they may return to Him. We still need to go to Jesus in prayer for our children even after they are grown, because He is the one who loves them more than we do. Thanks for reviewing this book. It sounds like it has some very good advice in it. Blessings to you, Michele, and thank you for linking up with us at the #LMMLinkup!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I so appreciate this thought: “We try to point them to Christ, to encourage them to have their own relationship with Him, but sometimes they choose otherwise though they may return to Him. We still need to go to Jesus in prayer for our children even after they are grown, because He is the one who loves them more than we do. ”
      YES!
      I’m glad you said that because so many parents really need this encouragement, and you’ve framed it so perfectly.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. So many good points here, Michele. I especially love the quote by Paul Tripp and the observation about how children with strong roots are equipped to step outside their comfort zones. Helping our kids develop faith that is their own is a challenge, especially when their learning styles and ways of verbalizing spiritual things are very different from one another and maybe even from us! I’m always comforted by the reminder that God is my girls’ heavenly Father just as He is mine, and He knows exactly what they need to grow in every area of their lives. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I appreciate your observation about different styles of expression among our kids. Some of our boys have been more forthcoming in sharing their lives, talking about spiritual truth, etc. I have a harder time with the more reticent . . . and that may be because they take after their mother. 🙂

      Like

  16. This sounds like a great book! I’ve found so often since we began homeschooling that I have begun to question the “whys” a lot more. So often my responses become knee jerk but in stopping to think and parenting with intent it has helped me be a better parent. Thanks for sharing at Love to Learn. Pinned.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I probably should read more books about parenting, but I find myself so busy… parenting… that I never seem to get to it. This one sure looks good though! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com!
    Tina

    Liked by 1 person

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