Parenting with Purpose

Parents, are you playing the short-term game or the long-term game in parenting?
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Last Updated
April 22, 2019
posted on
October 29, 2019
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Minute Read

Parents, are you playing the short-term game or the long-term game in parenting? In other words, do you have future goals in mind for your child as you parent him, or are you simply parenting on the fly?

When it comes to parenting, as with most other things in life, you need a plan. When you build a home, you make a plan. When you’re getting married, you plan the wedding. Because what would happen if you didn’t? The home wouldn’t be built well. The wedding guests probably wouldn’t have any food. 

It is the same with parenting. We feel stuck in our parenting when we play the short game. When we react daily with no plan or purpose and, therefore, we see no change in our child or his behavior.

When you parent with purpose, you see the results in your kids. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but trust me, purposeful parenting plants a seed that grows each child into the adult you dream your child will be. 

How do you parent with purpose? 

First, commit to the long game.

Say you and your child are at the mall. He begins begging you to buy him things he sees in the stores. He doesn’t need these things, but if you’re parenting for the short-term, you’ll buy him what he wants just to get him to stop bugging you. 

If you’re parenting with the long game in mind, you’ll react differently. You’ll pause and realize this is an opportunity to teach him to wait for what he wants. You won’t buy him the toy he wants at the mall. He will nag. You will get annoyed, but in the long run, he will learn patience, contentment and how to wait instead of expecting everything he wants to materialize in front of him. We all know this isn't how life works.

Next, focus on character qualities, not performance.

Write down three strong character qualities you want to see in your child when she’s 25 years old. Don’t make these about performance, education, degrees, money, etc. Write down internal qualities that aren’t contingent upon outside circumstances. You’re not trying to build your child’s portfolio. You’re trying to build her character. 

Focus on qualities like integrity, work ethic, and empathy. Then, parent your child towards these characteristics. This will help you avoid focusing too much on your child’s performance and overlooking what might be lacking in her character. When you parent toward your child’s character rather than her performance, you may not put her on every sports team, you may not pay her for making good grades. Instead, you might focus on volunteering more as a family or making sure your child is in diverse settings where not everybody looks like her. This will build strong qualities in your child that will serve her well into adulthood. 

Then, focus on today.

What can you do today to help your child get closer to those three quality traits you listed above? For example, if you want your child to build perseverance you can start working on that now, even if your child is only five years old. Let him struggle with tying his shoes without stepping in to help. Or, you could let him dress without losing your patience and just doing it yourself. 

It may seem small now but letting your child struggle with tasks like these will teach him the value of not giving up when things get hard. The perseverance he learns when tying his shoes today will be the same perseverance he uses when he’s 25 years old and applying for jobs. 

Parenting isn't easy. Especially parenting with purpose. You will be tempted to be lazy, to be reactionary. Some days will just be like that and that's ok. But if you can commit to parenting with purpose most days, you will not only raise a great kid but a great kid who will become an even greater adult. 

I have more tips for parenting with purpose in my free training video that can be found here. Be sure to watch it and find out more valuable ways you can begin parenting with purpose today.

Dr. Meg Meeker, MD

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello @MegMeekerMD

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