July is National Purposeful Parenting month. Purposeful Parenting is a movement that has gained popularity over the last decade. It is based on the belief that when the parental role is established with proactive intentionality and thorough understanding about child development, the ability of children to fulfill their potential and have more options available to them increases.
Purposeful Parenting has strong roots in the age-old debate between the roles of nature versus nurture in development. Prior to this movement, many parents and professionals viewed growth as a kind of predetermined outcome that naturally evolved. To some extent, this is true. There exists a phenomenon of anything living that even under suppressed or dire circumstances, growth — of some variety — will still attempt to occur. But Purposeful Parenting is about how we can maximize our children’s growth and give them as much opportunity to be as successful as possible, to not only survive, but to thrive.
While there has never been any doubt that a parent’s intentionality with their children’s growth and development influences the child’s success, this influence has previously not been emphasized quite to the extent it is today.
When you think of child development, it likely brings to mind the earliest stages of life. Rightly so, for these are the foundations upon which all other planes of development are built. But parenting is a lifelong relationship. The principles of Purposeful Parenting can be applied to any stage of life between parent and child or even grandchild. The defining characteristic of Purposeful Parenting, no matter the stage, is that it is focused on creating conditions that meet the needs of the child for enhancing growth at an age appropriate rate.
For toddlers, that may mean providing plenty of opportunities for physical movement and exercise as they learn to control their muscles and maneuver around their environments. For an adolescent, that may mean cultivating touchpoints throughout the week where you can make yourself available to listen to whatever your child is experiencing in their social life, without judgment, but to keep the lines of communication open. While the specific practices will depend upon the child’s age and development, the overarching philosophy remains the same: provide a healthy and safe environment for your children that challenges and stimulates their independent growth.
New parents are often inundated with advice and methods for best parenting practices. It can be very overwhelming. Being able to discern what information fits your family dynamic and what doesn’t is another important skill of purposeful parenting. Rather than committing to one parenting method, maintaining a sense of flexibility and adaptability is key to the evolving growth of both parent and child. What may be helpful for parents is to try to position themselves in a way that explores research based information about their child’s development, while considering cultural or colloquial methods of child rearing, but also learning to trust their intuitive instincts for what is best for their own child. This may still seem like a tall order, but it is possible.
Many of the tenets of Purposeful Parenting are not so specific in terms of what action is required, but rather, developing a mindset toward their child’s individual growth. This includes learning to cope with setbacks. Growth is organic and often nonlinear. While a child may excel in one area, they may exhibit serious immaturity in another area. This can be a frustrating reality for parents, but parents only need to examine their own growth to realize, it is part of human development for everyone. We all develop at an individual rate, across multiple dimensions of growth.
As far as parenting goes, there are many types of growth happening at once. Obviously, the growth of the child, but also the growth of the parent — as an individual, the growth of the relationship and bond between parent and child, the growth between siblings — if any, and the growth of the family as a unit. Cultivating intentionality in all of these dimensions of growth can be beneficial, but it is also important to remember and trust the inherent power of growth to persevere and unfold naturally. As parents, if we make this expression of trust part of our intentionality, then we will always be in pursuit of the best possible scenario for our children’s growth.
More in the purposeful parenting series by Bonnie McClure: