Children are emotionally charged little beings. As a mom of 3 kids, there always seems to be someone upset over one thing or another in our house. It is beyond me how a tv remote control can bring about such strong emotions… I’m sure I’m not alone here!
As a mom who finds herself responding emotionally first to stressful situations, I can understand some of where they are coming from. (Still, the remote baffles me!) But as a mom who has also learned the magnificent emotional release that living with intent offers, I long to pass this on to my children. Choosing to live with intent has made all the difference in my level of peace and happiness, and I can only hope to pass this along to my kiddos.
How do you teach your kids to live with intent? Here are a few pointers to get you started.
- Learn to live with intent yourself.
The first step to teaching someone something is to have experienced it and practiced it yourself. When you find yourself emotionally charged over something, ask yourself ‘What is my intent?’ You will be amazed at how it puts your emotions into perspective and can change how you respond to a situation.
Here is a recent example of my needing to respond with intent. My 8 year old son broke his arm this past weekend. I am not the type of person who gets too excited when one of my kids gets hurt. I find that I need to intentionally stay calm in order to calm them down, and even though we have had some major accidents this year resulting in stitches and now a cast, I’ve found that I can usually stay pretty calm if I remember my intent. When my son came to me holding his arm and crying, I could see that it was visibly broken. I’ve gotta admit, my heart jumped to my throat and I started to feel pretty emotional. But I kept calm and focused on my intent of keeping him calm and getting him to the hospital.
That was a pretty exceptional example. But think of this. Have you ever found yourself getting overwhelmed by the constant needs of your kiddos? Maybe your daughter has asked for the fourth time in a row without giving you time to respond for cereal. Maybe you haven’t had your coffee yet, and it’s starting to wear on your patience. When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, no matter what the reasoning is, stop and ask yourself ‘What is my intent?’ Do you intend to respond harshly like you may feel a part of you wants to? Or do you intend to teach your child patience and how to wait for a response before asking again?
Next time you are faced with an emotional situation, no matter how large, take a deep breath and ask yourself ‘What is my intent?’ You may be amazed at how it can calm your inner butterflies and change how you are able to respond to the situation.
- Explain what intent is.
Kiddos need to learn what a word means before they can start to understand what it can do for them. Teach your kids that their ‘intent’ is what they ‘mean to do’. Some synonyms for intent are ‘purpose’ and ‘goal’. Discuss what it means to be intentional, and what others see our intent as being by the how we respond to things. If we become upset and say hurtful things, others might believe that we intend to be hurtful, and therefore not want to be friends with us. Remember to use language your kids can understand.
- Give them some examples.
Talk to your kids about behaviors that need changing, and situations that might come up and how they would usually respond, and how they can choose to intentionally respond. An example would be when big brother takes the remote control and changes the channel from what little sister was watching. Little sister usually will get upset and yell and fuss over her show being changed. Instead she can intentionally explain how she was watching the show still and how it makes her upset that he changed the channel. You can use this example for big brother too. Instead of taking the remote, he can intentionally explain that he wants to watch a different show than what is currently on. Talk to them about how their actions show their intent. Taking the remote and changing the channel when you know someone else is watching a show already isn’t a very nice thing to do. Explain to your children how their actions have consequences, and by responding with intent they have power over how others might see them. (Kids love the idea of having powers!) Use examples that they can understand and relate to. Feel free to be creative!
- Help them by reminding them in the moment.
If you see your child get emotional, ask them ‘What is your intent?’ If you see your child react in an unfavorable way, ask them ‘What was your intent?’ Another thing we say is ‘Was that helpful or hurtful?’ It helps them categorize their behaviors and take another look at how their actions are affecting others. Kids are quick learners, and they also learn by watching us. Don’t be surprised if you hear your children start to question each other on what their intent was if they feel hurt by one another’s actions. You might even find yourself being asked if they don’t like how you are responding to a situation!
- Model living with intent every chance you get.
It takes a lot of self discipline to live with intent when you are an emotional person. I speak from experience. I still automatically can feel myself responding to stressful situations with emotion first. But teaching yourself, and your children, to take a breath and ask ‘What is my intent’, will make a huge difference in how you feel and approach emotional situations. Be a living example to your children. Visit with them about how you have approached a stressful situation and how your response changed after choosing to respond with intent.
Living with intent is an amazing gift you can give yourself and your children. They are always watching you, learning from you, and modeling your behaviors. Living with intent and parenting with intent is something that will greatly benefit you, and them, in relationships and life in general. Find peace, find happiness, remember your intent.