Would you get a job or move across the world without a plan? Probably not. There would be résumés to prepare and job hours to consider, or language barriers and cultural changes with which to deal. However, all too often parents find themselves without a plan for one of the most important jobs a person can have – raising children. From the nuts and bolts of hours needed for parenting (24/day on-call) to understanding the languages of toddlers and teenagers, parenting needs a plan – a way to reach the goals you envision for your family. Parenting is an enormous, amazing undertaking, and creating a parenting plan helps to keep those of us in the most adventurous roles of our lives (moms and dads), on the right tracks.
Yes – I’m a type A personality planner and list-maker. My natural tendency is to make a plan and a list of the things that I need to do in order to accomplish my goals, sometimes just a collection of mental calculations and supplies needed. Even if you are far from a list-maker and traditional planner, parenting plans are wonderful ways to build strong relationships with your children, and help to understand yourself as a person even better. I’m not asking you to draw up a formal contract with yourself, but just consider a few of the basic ideas for a parenting plan.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is a personal roadmap for you as a parent, developed by you to meet the individual and specific goals of your family. It will help you determine what type of relationship you want with your children, how you hope to help them grow, and specifically what you can do to make those things happen.
It is never too late for a parenting plan.
Whether you are just considering starting a family, are new parents to a precious baby, or are moving through tween years, now is the time for a parenting plan.
Learn as much as you can about parenting styles.
I’m not going to tell you to choose just one specific parenting style. Every child is unique, and parenting styles need to be positive approaches that work for both you and your children. Some of the parenting styles that you might encounter as you develop your plan include:
There is no one right and perfect parenting style, as there is no one right and perfect parent. Sometimes I find myself using certain strategies from one style, but pulling from others in different situations with my children. It is important, however, to remain consistent with your children as they thrive on trusting you and knowing what to expect from your relationship. If you think you are hearing or reading about a parenting style that seems to “click” with you, ask yourself if the methods involved will help you reach your family’s goals.
These goals should be both long-term and short-term, and can include everything from helping your baby learn how to sleep peacefully at night to raising a daughter into a young woman who isn’t afraid of challenges. Brainstorm ideas on any conceivable parenting issue you can imagine:
- Sleep – Co-sleeping, child-directed sleep patterns, and more options await parents. Some parents choose methods and work to find ways to meet these goals, and sometimes there aren’t any goals other than to get some sleep at night!
- Discipline methods – I knew right away I didn’t want to spank my kids, but I still needed to find discipline methods that worked and meshed with my other goals.
- Education – We homeschool, but that wasn’t in our original plans. We had to make sure homeschooling helped us to reach the other goals we had for our children. In our first discussions about it we wondered how we would be able to help our children grow to be outgrowing, independent, confident people if what we heard about the stereotypes of homeschooling were true – thank goodness those stereotypes were wrong!
- So many more options – the list is infinite what you might include for parenting issues, and these issues will change along the way.
Envision reaching your parenting goals.
What do you think it will feel like to reach your goals? If the goal is having your child sleep through the night, 7 hours of slumber can make you feel wonderful! However, if you and your child have to get there by spending 3 months of agony through trying “crying it out” methods, how will reaching your goals feel compared to if you could have achieved it with less stress? What will be the long-term results of using this method?
Work with your partner.
Have you ever tried to walk against a strong current? That is what it can feel like if you aren’t working together with your child’s other parent (whether married, divorced, or sharing custody). Raising children requires teamwork, and wonderfully effective parenting demands a united front from parents. Even if you have the same goals, it can be impossible to reach those if you are aren’t using the same methods – remember – kids need consistency.
Don’t be afraid to change your plans.
Families are unique and we need to honor our individual needs and goals. Some of my personal parenting goals, such as raising emotionally connected sons and an independent daughter do not waiver on my importance scale. Other goals, however, have changed. Before I became a mom, the only consideration I gave homeschooling was a negative one, but now we find it to be one of the best things about our family. When you give yourself room to change with your family, you acknowledge that we all, even parents, have learning and growing to do still.
A glimpse at my plan
This is in no way a complete vision of my parenting plan, but it will give you an idea of how a parenting plan looks.
Goal: Raise children who value learning and understand how to find information and enlighten themselves and others.
- Use ideas from Emotion Coaching and Parenting for Success to make sure that I meld the emotional and the intellectual aspects – they can’t operate well apart.
- Don’t do things for my children that they can do themselves because it will take away their confidence and initiative.
- Homeschool as long as it works for us. This lets our kids have self-direction in their education.
- Work with my kids to help them identify their passions and talents and find ways to pursue those (classes, coaches, job shadowing, curriculum, etc.).
This is just a small portion of even this one goal in my own personal parenting journey. Some of my goals are much smaller, such getting the two older children not to bicker over who gets to sit in the front seat, while some of them are more monumental on ongoing, such as raising children who are compassionate and capable of recognizing and apologizing for the wrongs they do (a wonderful family goal).
If we don’t know what we want, need, and hope for our children, how can we know how to parent effectively? If you haven’t given it much thought, no matter how old your children are, just try to develop a parenting plan that speaks to the heart of your family. When we do this as parents, we give a gift to our children, but also to ourselves.