Intentional Parenting

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Capt.) Jerry Stout
  • 93d Air Ground Operations Wing Public Affairs

If you’re a parent, my guess is you’ve thought about what it’s going to be like when your child leaves home one day. And if you’re a parent during this quarantine, that day can’t come soon enough (just kidding… but seriously). Many of us have exhausted our weekend routines over the past months as we’ve been quarantined to our homes with our little ones. We’ve played the board games, watched the movies, sung the songs, chalked the driveways and re-organized the closets. Right about now we feel like college freshmen who walked into the neuroscience lecture thinking we signed up for home economics. What did we get ourselves into?!

Perhaps some expert wisdom could provide us with some guidance as we slowly exit our homes and reenter our communities. Doug and Cathy Fields, experts in marriage and family matters, provide helpful tips on creating positive and fun memories. 

As a parent, you’re building memories whether you’re intentional or not. So here’s the question, are they going to be good memories or bad memories? Now, when I mention memories, your buttons may be pushed because you don’t have good memories of growing up. Maybe there was some pain or abuse in your past and the childhood scenes that play through your head are not good. For that, I’m terribly sorry. I don’t know what you’ve been through, but I do know that you understand the power of memories. Here’s the good news: we can all redeem our childhood memories by creating new ones with our children.

Let’s start with family traditions. If you don’t already have one, make one up! Traditions add to the flavor of good memories. Ice cream sundaes, scavenger hunts, coaster catch at restaurants… these little things are remembered for decades! 

My boys’ first trip to the ocean was a hoot. Having grown up in the upper Midwest, they hadn’t experienced sand, waves, seashells and ocean breezes. In typical boy fashion, they bolted into the ocean only to get rocked by an inbound wave. As they tirelessly tried to head back to shore, they struggled to get their short legs over the water’s edge, so I yelled, “High knees, boys, high knees!” Unfortunately, with the sound of the waves they misinterpreted my instruction.  The intensity in their faces strengthened as they ran ashore yelling, “Chinese, Chinese!”  We’ve been to the beach every year since, and you know what we boys do as soon as we hit the water? You guessed it, the good ole Stout Chinese water drill!

Once you rekindle or create a tradition, make sure you capture those memories. It’s 2020 folks! All of us have cameras in our pockets, including most of our kids! A buddy of mine has a great family photo where they’re circled around the table and there’s a circular cake being held by his mother. However, there’s a flat edge on the bottom of the circle, which most certainly catches the viewers eye.  His mom makes this cake every year to remember when they got the flat tire on their vacation and everyone made fun of dad for kicking and swearing while he changed out the tire! That photo sits in his living room twenty years later. 

Another thought about making memories: You’ve got to work to create adventures. If you live near water, go fishing at night… in fact, do it at midnight! If you live in the city, I don’t know, go rat hunting!  Take those fancy DoD headlamps out for a night hike around the neighborhood. Mix up the activities, surprise them with the timing, and loosen the rules for a change. Create opportunities that would normally go against some of the house rules (rebels!). Parents are stressed out these days and our children are no different. Having adventures with mom or dad helps them release anxiety, diminish their fears and lessen their hostility and anger. It’s a myth that the fun goes away as you mature. In my humble opinion, that couldn’t be farther from the truth! Ancient wisdom literature assures us that a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. The opposite of fun isn’t serious. The opposite of fun is, well, not fun! 

Which brings me to my final point, you want to try and be a parent who emphasizes fun. If your kids don’t have fun at home, I promise, they’ll look for it somewhere else. To make fun happen you have to schedule it. Dads, sit on the floor and play Pretty-Pretty Princess. Moms, pull that hair back and start a Nerf war. Parents, stop buying boring bagged popcorn. Get an air popper and make it on the living room floor!

Let’s be honest, nothing said here is rocket science. But many of us lack confidence in parenting because we simply don’t have a plan. We’re winging it! Regardless if you have toddlers or quaran-teenagers, it’s never too late to change the trajectory of whatever your child needs. You are the single greatest influence in your child’s life. Your actions, values and beliefs determine who your child becomes more than anything else. The only time someone else gains that influence is when we, as parents, check out. My friends, you don’t have to be a perfect parent to be a good parent. 

Reread the first line of this article again and imagine standing on the front porch, waving goodbye to your kids. What I should have asked was, what will your children be thinking about YOU? My hope is they’ll be thinking that their parents loved them so well. Wouldn’t that be great? Remember, you’re their hero, and this crazy culture has nothing on you! My friends, we’re in this together, and we’re going to have the hap-hap-happiest time ever.    


Chaplain Stout