Intentional Parenting: Preparation for the Unknown

postit-scrabble-to-doWhen people hear the word preparation, they think “to do” lists, college degrees, or perhaps “Preppers” who store supplies for disasters. None of these are inherently bad or foolish at all, but preparation for being an Intentional Parent and raising another generation of Intentional Parents is a bit less straightforward than writing a grocery list or taking a class.

One of the best ways to prepare for Intentional Parenting actually begins with strengthening marriage first. We are told many times in the scriptures: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” It is necessary for a husband and wife to learn to work together as a team. This is a much better option than each doing their own thing, opposing each other, or competing with each other. Couples won’t always see eye to eye or completely agree on many issues, but trying to work together and appearing in agreement in front of their children is the important part. Kids need to see mom and dad as a united front.

As a couple decides to start a family, they should discuss parenting, rules, discipline, holiday traditions, etc. If these things are decided ahead of time, the actual transition into parenting can be much easier. As the children grow, parents need to keep communicating and working together. Those who don’t will be pitted against each other. As children get older, they quickly figure out which parent is more lenient or easier to manipulate and exactly how to get away with it. Working together, parents can strengthen each other as they stay united. If children know that rules and discipline are consistent with both mom and dad, the challenges of parenting will decrease dramatically.

family-prayer-mongolia-1154465-galleryWhen parents keep close to the Spirit and each other, the answers will come when they are needed most. Taking a leap of faith will sometimes be a necessary part of Intentional Parenting. Sometimes preparation means preparing for those times when we don’t know what to do, but that’s how parenting works.

There are examples of excellent family relationships in good books and in the scriptures as well as in society. Watch how other families work together and find good ones to emulate. It’s amazing what can be learned just by watching and being aware, but anything can be improved with enough time and effort. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; good parents rarely refuse to answer honest questions from people seeking help.

Testimony, obedience, charity, faith, and understanding, the same traits which help us return to our Heavenly Father, will help prepare us for Intentional Parenting and for raising the next generation of Intentional Parents. Like Nephi, parents working on these traits will be prepared to follow the guidance of the Spirit in all different circumstances.

A good example of teaching correct principles is Jacob, Nephi’s brother. When his son Enos was ready and open to it, he remembered all that his father taught him. He had already prepared for this moment long before as a young man learning from his father:

Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it—
And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.
Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.
And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul. . . .

Illustration by Harry Anderson 1906-1996

Illustration by Harry Anderson 1906-1996

Intentional Parents can have this same effect on their children even if it appears they’re not listening. Later on at the right time, these children will remember what their parents taught them.

Whenever I feel like I finally have a handle on being a mother, something unexpected happens. Without fail, life is always changing which means new challenges, difficulties and concerns all the time. I wish I knew how complicated motherhood was before I had kids. I think I would prepare differently if I had known. I would try to prepare more for change: to look ahead, and know what’s coming while praying for patience, faith, and guidance. Being a parent is the greatest—and the hardest—thing ever!

The story of the Army of Helaman is a favorite for most children. Their military success along with not one of them getting killed wasn’t just a random coincidence. They were prepared with the faith necessary for this great responsibility by their parents who taught them and cared for them:

Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.
And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.
. . .
And now it came to pass in the second month of this year, there was brought unto us many provisions from the fathers of those my two thousand sons.

Would it have been possible for them to be so greatly blessed without their parents teaching and guiding them? Probably not; they would not have been prepared and the outcome would most likely have been drastically different. Their parents prepared them to face life’s challenges. Their fathers were providing and exemplifying while their mothers were nurturing and teaching them.

Whatever life hands out, whether it’s building a ship or raising the next generation of Intentional Parents, preparation leads to more success with the challenges of life.

By Jennifer Jensen, author of “Raising Intentional Parents