Intentional Parenting

Did you know that only about 8% of New Year’s resolutions are actually followed through?

Shocking, right? This is because we tend to make lavish goals that seem farfetched, like exercising 30 hours a week while balancing 2 kids’ schedules or going to every state in the United States this year. These resolutions tend to get thrown to the side to make room for other, every day priorities, like going to the grocery store, or spending that vacation money on your child’s traveling hockey team.

While we tend to make unobtainable resolutions for the New Year, many people still feel like the New Year is a fresh start, whether or not we make resolutions. Researchers call this feeling the “fresh start effect” 1 .  They have found that we tend to motivate ourselves into good habits by using a new beginning (like the start of the week, month, year, season, etc.) as a marker to put past behavior behind us and focus on being better.  It brings opportunity to reflect on the previous year and anticipate what you want the New Year to look like.

Many people make resolutions around their own lifestyle changes that will improve their quality of life.  Try focusing on what motivations the New Year will bring for you instead of an extravagant resolution. Keep in mind these motivations don’t have to be just for you.  Parents and families can benefit from new beginnings.

Six months ago, I returned to my professional career after taking some time off to work in the home full time, which was a big change for the whole family.  When returning to work this year, I wanted it to be a fresh start for me and for my family. We made it a goal to be intentional about the quality of our time together versus the quantity.

For 2018, I have come up with 8 ways to be intentional with the time I have to spend with my family. Try using these motivations in your own household.

  1. Spend 1:1 time – If you have more than one child how can you make them feel special and loved? Spend time with them individually!   Kids crave one-on-one time with their parents.  It makes them feel special, you get to connect and catch up with that child, and it can strengthen your bond.  Make sure both parents take turns.  Some examples: have one child run errands with you, take a walk around your neighborhood, do your chores/projects together, play a favorite game with them, use your time in the car driving your child to activities.
  2. Take time to unplug – When I get home from work I try to put my phone on the counter so I’m not tempted to look at it and can give my family my full attention. Think about when you are out with friends or on a date.  Do you find it rude, or distracting when they are on their phones the whole time?  I don’t want my kids to feel neglected because mom is always on her phone.  It’s also a great way to model good behavior when it comes to setting rules on screen time for your children.
  3. Make self-care a priority – It’s okay to take care of yourself and put your needs first. You can’t pour from an empty tank!  Your kids will benefit from you taking time for yourself because you will be a more patient and energized parent. Try picking one thing each week that is just for you (i.e. working out, eating healthier, more sleep, pamper session).
  4. Date your partner – Most couples know that they are supposed to have regular date nights. I’ll be honest, in this season of life it’s hard to take time to go on an actual date with my husband.  It’s not cheap to go out to dinner and hire a babysitter for three kids every week or month. Put the kids to bed and commit to a date night at home.
  5. Establish routinesRoutines get children involved and give them a sense of responsibility. They make mornings run much smoother and provide predictability for their ever-growing brains.  As your child learns and grows, having a routine they know is in place will help them be prepared for the day. Just like you have a routine every morning on your way out the door to work, your child needs a routine as well.
  6. Spend time together – Life is busy. I have found that as my children get older, the more activities and social events get added to the calendar that pull us in opposite directions.  It is important to make sure you are taking time as a family to enjoy each other, connect, and most importantly have fun!  Spending time together doesn’t have to cost money to create the best of memories.  Remember it is the time together that you will remember. Be creative by having each member of the family make a list of things they like to do and do them together.
  7. Create rituals and traditions – Family rituals are things that you do together regularly so they can look forward to, and expect them to happen.  Our family has adapted to Friday Pizza Night, and then we play Memory after we eat.  Most week nights in the warmer months we like to go on a walk together after dinner.  These activities don’t have to be set in stone if something else comes up.
  8. Eat healthy  – Providing healthy meals is very important to me. This can often seem overwhelming and unattainable with our busy schedules, but when I take the time to sit down on Sunday to meal plan and prep for the upcoming week, we are able to enjoy each other and more varied meals.  I also find myself less stressed and saving money, which is a great bonus!

By setting intentions for the New Year, it takes pressure off of you and your family to accomplish those unreasonable resolutions. Use this year as an opportunity to create a fresh start.  Be intentional with your family.

Remember that these motivations aren’t all or nothing.  Some days you will succeed in some areas and lack in others, and that’s okay. The purpose of setting intentions is to make your goals obtainable for you and your family.


  1.  Hengchen Dai, Katherine L. Milkman, Jason Riis (2014) The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior. Management Science

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