Famous baseball catcher Yogi Berra played against slugger Hank Aaron in the 1957 World Series. An on-plate exchange occurred between the two when Aaron prepared to bat. Berra chided, “Henry, you need to hold the bat so you can read the label. You're gonna break that bat. You've got to be able to read the label."
Aaron remained silent, but he knocked the ball out of the park on his next hit. After running the bases and touching home plate, he responded to Berra, “"I didn't come up here to read."
In a word, Aaron exuded intentionality. Merriam-Webster defines intentionality as “done by design.” It speaks of the quality of being purposeful and deliberate.
We can approach parenting purposefully and deliberately. First, we can be intentional with time. When my daughter was four, we began going out on dates. Our first one included dressing in our “Sunday best” one afternoon and eating lunch at Dempsey’s Pizza. Now that she is a teenager, I still look for times and ways to spend time one-one-one.
Building the relationship with our children requires time. Don’t swallow the old lie that only quality time matters. In reality, quality time cannot be manufactured. It occurs in the middle of quantity time.
As our children grew into pre-teens, we began taking them on summer overnight father-son and mother-daughter excursions. Last fall my youngest son and I enjoyed an overnight excursion kayaking on the French Broad River.
I know life is busy. I know the months and years clip at a fast pace. So let’s take out our calendars now to plan quantity time.
Second, be intentional with reading. The importance of reading in raising wise, productive children cannot be overstated. Mark Hamby of Lamplighter Books shares that only two natural factors determine how different you are five years from now: the people you meet and the books you read.
We can expose our children to great books from history, great stories from literature, and great attributes from people’s lives. Be careful to not let your children’s repertoire consist only of the latest superhero or potty-humored popular series.
Child-appropriate series abound retelling classic stories like Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, and Little Women. As your children mature, guide them toward good, positive literature that is well-written, thought-provoking, and teaches life lessons. My eighteen year old and I are currently reading Gene Getz’ The Measure of a Man: 20 Attributes of a Godly Man.
We can be intentional with boundaries. Remember, we are not primarily our children’s friends. We are their parents. One seminary professor said leadership means you get far enough ahead of people so they can spot you are the leader – but not so far ahead that they mistake you for the enemy and shoot you in the bottom!
Intentional parenting requires making hard and sometimes unpopular decisions. We set boundaries for our children for their best interest.
Last summer, my wife birthed a marvelous plan. She created a chore chart for electronic time. In order for our children to use their phones, video games, and devices, they had to earn time based on household chores. I’ve never seen them so motivated to clean the house!
And be intentional with family devotions. Raising Christ-followers in our homes necessitates time spent at the family altar. Various methods and catechisms abound. However, I found the most effective approach is to simply open the Bible and authentically share what is on my heart from God’s Word. The genuineness of Dad and Mom sharing from God’s Word out of the overflow of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ leaves an indelible – and intentional - print on the souls of our children.