4 Components of Intentional Parenting


From as far back as I can remember I looked forward to becoming a dad. When I was young, I could regularly be found on the basketball court or ball field, coaching the neighborhood children like a modern-day Pied Piper. I figured that a love for children was the main ingredient to being a great dad and didn’t really think much beyond that. And, then along came our first child—a bundle of joy and energy. And energy. Oh, did I say, “energy?”

But, within three hours of arriving home from the hospital with our newborn son Michael, the thermometer indicated a temperature of 105! Our bliss quickly turned to panic and a little voice was telling me that maybe this dad thing wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Truth be told, it wasn’t.

What have I learned in 25 years of fathering? “A lot,” as our kids will attest! For now, I’d like to focus this post on the importance of having an intentional mindset. In today’s frenetic pace, it’s more important than ever. This is what it looks like…

  1. Understanding and accepting the responsibility that comes with parenting.  

Great parenting isn’t just about having fun or keeping our children happy. We are primarily responsible for loving, nurturing, training, affirming, supporting, and empowering our children to be independent and responsible adults. It’s about helping them develop their leadership qualities and preparing them for life and the key decisions awaiting them, as well as having the courage to show tough love when behavioral modification is needed.

  1. Having agreement on the parenting team

It’s crucial that parents and guardians be on the same page when it comes to goals, attitudes, and methods. Think of it as one team, one dream! Understanding and agreeing on our parenting responsibilities is a team effort where each partner needs to support, encourage, and reinforce the other. To do otherwise will lead to fireworks and to children who will manipulate the “weaker party” on an issue. If you and your child’s other parent are not together, you can still have a unified front on parenting methods. Try to put aside any other differences and find places of agreement on your parenting goals.

  1. Remembering you’re not just raising children—you’re raising future adults

In these days of helicopter parenting, this one is crucial. What incremental responsibilities are you giving them as they mature? What habits, behaviors, and attitudes are they exhibiting today that will need correcting down the road if you don’t intervene now? What praises and recognition can be given for demonstrating responsibility beyond their years? It pays to start early in the process, so fewer corrections will be required in the later teen years, closer to the launch, when they’re exerting their independence.

  1. Recognizing it’s not about you

My wife and I are detail-oriented people who are stable in temperament and lack a creative bone in our bodies. So, wouldn’t it stand to reason that Michael would be a blend of these attributes? Ha! We soon learned that his gifts, interests, and temperament were not from our gene pool. We gave birth to a delightfully creative kid who was nothing like his parents. Not better. Not worse. Just different. And, while it took some time to figure it out, we learned to work with that.

Unfortunately, we see a growing trend of parents putting pressure on their children to be just like them (or someone else—like a successful friend or a “better performing” sibling). As parents, we should be striving to bring out the best in our uniquely designed children—whatever that may be—rather than parenting for performance or replication. That means letting them live their dreams, not ours.

By keeping these four points and our parenting goals in mind, we can enjoy a smoother ride and more reliable outcomes. When we are strategic, and most importantly—intentional—with our parenting, we will give our children, and our relationship with them, the best chances for success.

How do you ensure you are strategically and intentionally parenting your child or teen? What parenting goals have you developed?

This post was adapted from Parenting for the Lauch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, by Dennis Trittin and Arlyn Lawrence, LifeSmart Publishing. To learn more about “parenting for the launch,” or to order a copy of the book, visit the website at www.parentingforthelaunch.com.



When Helping Is Hurting: What NOT to Do for Your Kids

What parents don’t want their children to follow their dreams, land a solid job, have strong relationships and family, and enjoy a great life? We want them to be happy. We want them to be well-regarded by others. We want them to be successful.

But, here’s the rub. In a genuine effort to help our kids be happy and successful, there are some things we parents can do that are extremely counterproductive and actually work against our objectives.

Those who commonly work with young adults (e.g., teachers and administrators from high schools and universities, employers, etc.) report growing issues with this younger generation, four of which are particularly troubling: disrespect for authority, lack of social skills, apathy, and an entitlement mentality.  Guess where these particular issues generally originate–in the home! And, they are worsening, according to organizations receiving and trying to work with teens and young adults. The effects of media and culture aren’t helping either!

We can’t point the finger at anyone else on this one. It’s our job as parents to do our part and to help reverse this course, and the younger we can start with our kids, the better. From a parenting perspective, consider this scenario:

Say two-year old Joey is hungry.  Mom says, “Joey, do you want a banana or some grapes?” Joey doesn’t want a banana or grapes. Joey wants a mango. Mom tells Joey he needs to eat what is offered to him. He pitches a fit.  What does Mom do next?  She sends Dad out to the store to buy a mango.  Mom and Dad are happy because Joey’s happy.  Everybody’s happy, right? Wrong.

If this style of parenting continues throughout Joey’s life, as it does for many, what do you think Joey will grow up thinking?  How about:

–       he will always have choices

–       his happiness and satisfaction should be priorities to the people around him

–       he doesn’t have to comply with what he is told to do

–       Mom will always advocate for him to get his way and come out on top

–       other people are there to serve him, not the other way around

Granted, this scenario is overly simplistic, but here’s the point we want to make: Out of our desire to provide the best for our children (and keep them happy), some of our parenting methods may be contributing to their perception that the world revolves around them. If this is the case, they’re in for a rude awakening when they leave home and find that the world owes them nothing. And this is exactly what is happening—in astronomical proportions.

Do you see how this can translate to their life after they leave our home? To their experience in college or the workplace? To interpersonal skills with professors, coaches, and other superiors? To a marriage?  Not very well! Here’s what it can looks like, now and later:

  • Parents doing their children’s homework, chores, etc.
  • Parents defending unacceptable behavior of their children in meetings with school officials
  • Parents complaining to and threatening educators, coaches, and employers when their children aren’t receiving their desired rewards
  • Parents whose lives and schedules are dominated by their children’s activities and wants
  • Young adults who call in “sick” at the last minute because they’ve found something better to do
  • Young adults who don’t take responsibility for their mistakes and shortfalls or show respect to others
  • Young adults who expect teachers and employers to accommodate them instead of the other way around

Entitlement is what we call this attitude, this sense that other people owe us something—that we are deserving, regardless of whether we have done anything to earn it. It stems from the parenting style just described and some undesirable consequences of the “self esteem movement.” As a result, children feel entitled to get their way, viewing rules as arbitrary and voluntary, their needs as paramount, and other people as existing to serve them. And parents, unwittingly, are generally the ones who are cultivating this mindset.

In order for us to give our young adults wings on which they can really fly, we can’t coddle or cave in to them. If we’ve been doing it up to this point (as revealed in our children’s behavior), we need to turn it around fast, before they get out into the real world.

We can’t set our kids up as the center of our universe and let them think the planets revolve around them. It may seem a short-term solution when they’re pitching a fit as a two-year old, or even as an immature teenager. But in the long run, it will come back to bite us—and them.

Dennis_Arlyn_smallerAdapted from Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, by Dennis Trittin and Arlyn Lawrence, available through LifeSmart Publishing and Atlas Books.


Give Them Wings, Not Strings (Part 2)

There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.

~Hodding Carter, Jr.

At a recent educator conference, a college professor lamenting the lack of real world readiness among many students confided that teens aren’t the only ones unprepared—often it’s their parents, too. She pulled out her tablet and opened an email from a student who was failing in math and science. In it was this heartbreaking sentence … “I really want to be studying fashion design, but my parents won’t let me major in that.” This student had the gifts, creative temperament, and passion for design, but her parents were footing her college bill and had their own expectations and agenda.

Were they giving her wings? Or strings?

Ultimately, raising young adults and releasing them prepared for the real world is not supposed to be about us (i.e., parents) and our identity, interests, or agenda. It’s about doing what’s best for our kids—giving them wings, not strings. Here’s what strings and wings can look like as we relate to our teens:


  • helicoptering (hovering, orchestrating, interfering, nagging, meddling)
  • performance-driven (excessive pressuring for achievements and accomplishments, often because of how they reflect on the parent; valuing the performance more than the person, from the child’s point of view)
  • vicariousness (living life through the child; glorying in his or her successes and agonizing in his/her defeats as if they are the parent’s own)
  • enabling (not letting him/her fail and face consequences and take responsibility)
  • overprotection (being overly fearful of outside influences and perceived dangers; not allowing kids to experience enough of the real world to make informed choices; restricting them from meeting different people/navigating difficult situations and making their own decisions)



  • healthy separation (understanding that teens are their own persons separate from their parents and incrementally giving space and respect)
  • trust and grace (granting incremental freedom as it is earned through responsibility and integrity; making allowances for immaturity and lack of experience, extending forgiveness, and taking steps to re-establish trust when it is broken)
  • equipping (strategically training them to handle real world responsibilities and situations)
  • empowering (letting them make their own decisions and experience new/different kinds of people and challenging situations with trust and guidance; appreciating their unique design, gifts, and interests)


Granted, it’s not all about us and what we do or don’t do. However, the way we train our children has a significant influence on their readiness for independent life. By the time children reach the teen years and parents need to start letting go, the indications should suggest we’re raising—and releasing—mature, trustworthy, well-adjusted, and motivated young adults who are ready to tackle the world. If they’re otherwise, parenting methods might be playing a role. It’s never too late or too early for some mid-course corrections where needed.

Can you think of other examples of wing versus strings? If you are an educator, how do you see this impacting the students in your classrooms and how have you dealt with it?


Let’s Reclaim Our Innocence

Like most of you, my heartache from the horrific news of Sandy Hook lingers unabated. When the unthinkable happens, your emotions run the gamut, and aside from praying powerful prayers, you feel so helpless…especially when you live clear across the country. Connecticut holds a special place in my heart, having lived in Rowayton for two wonderful years in the 80s. And, as someone whose first career desire was to be Santa Claus, and who lost a three-year old nephew to a tragic car accident, you can understand why anything that takes away the innocence of childhood just rips me apart.
Now that my emotions have swung from anger to profound sorrow, I’m asking whether it’s possible for something good to come out of this tragedy. I’m wondering if, to honor the victims, families, friends, and caregivers, we can band together and heal our nation and our culture. Let’s not simply say, “enough is enough.” For once, can we actually do something about it?
What exactly is “it,” you ask? “It” is reclaiming the childhood innocence that has been gnawed at and chipped away with each passing year—a loss that is devastating our families and our nation.
What does that involve?
First, it means we demand better from those who influence the lives of children through their messages, their lyrics, their images, their advertisements, their products, their movies, their TV shows, their video games, and their laws and regulations. I grew up during a time and place when most entertainment was family friendly and parents didn’t need to have their finger poised to the off switch of the TV, radio, and turntable. Back then, mature adults seemed in charge of the cultural messages and content sent to our children, and we all survived just fine! In fact, the statistics on divorce rates, children born to unmarried parents, dropout rates, teen suicide, gang violence, unplanned pregnancies, abortions, STDs—you name it—were a whole lot better.
Can’t we just acknowledge that today’s sexualized and violence-obsessed culture isn’t working? And stop the denial?
Second, it means our culture drivers and schools promote honorable and universal values that are celebrated for their virtue. Values like modesty, kindness, generosity, respect, and dignity are the “new cool.” That what’s on the inside is emphasized more that what’s on the outside. That the voices demonstrating the courage to stand up to immorality are honored and respected. That those defending irresponsible messages to children as “simply reflecting culture” are rebuked for the lie they are perpetrating. That those who want to voluntarily pray are not discriminated against. And, that those influencing our children start putting their content and messages through a “child innocence filter.”
This is not meant to take away from the national conversations we need about our policies and regulations regarding mental illness and weapons. They, too, are deserving. But, on this day, I can’t seem to get out of my mind the image of a child from the great place of Newtown asking of us, “Can’t we be kids for just a little while longer?”
They deserve better. And, I pray we have the courage to deliver it.
With Love and Blessings to the People of Newtown,
Dennis Trittin

GUEST POST: A Call to Invest Wisely

Note: This post was writting by Noel Meador, Executive Director for Stronger Families in the greater Seattle area (www.strongerfamilies.org). 


“Before you criticize the younger generation,
remember who raised them.”
-Unknown Author


We live in a culture that sees more screen time than family dinner times, that talks more through text and Facebook than eye to eye, and that praises performance and “beauty” over the heart and soul of a person. We have some big problems on our hands.

But take heart: tonight you will have the opportunity to change the world.

You can invest in the stock market, have the best house and car, and know great success, but when you die, it will all die with you. All that hard work and dedication, good stewardship, understanding of investment will be gone.

Sure, you can pass on your monetary inheritance but, if it is to a generation that hasn’t been taught responsibility, it will be squandered.

If it is to a generation that hasn’t been taught the value of family and investment in others–a heritage will fade.

If it is to a generation that is self-focused and distracted–your generosity and kindness will end.

So, how can we ensure our heritage will live on?


If we want to invest in something that will live beyond our time and have the ability to change the world, let’s sit down at our table tonight and look at the faces of our children. Take time to talk, listen and teach.

They are it! They are the change we hope to see in the world! The future of this country and our families. I hope and pray I’m investing wisely.

Noel Meador is the Executive Director for Stronger Families in Bothell, Washington and the author and creator of the Oxygen for Your Relationships seminar. Noel has a passion to see families and relationships revitalized and srengthened. He resides in Woodinville, Washington with his wife Karissa and their two sons.

Have Children When You’re Married AND Ready

Over the past year, I’ve had many unforgettable opportunities to speak with school counselors/faculty and students about work and life. It’s been a joy to hear the dreams of our young people and the life-changing impact of their teachers and mentors.
It’s also been gut wrenching to hear educators relay what’s happening in the home lives of far too many students who are living without the stability and support of married and loving parents. It’s arguably one of the major social justice issues of our lifetime.
Children are the most vulnerable members of our society. They enter this world with no control over their genes or the parents who brought them into being. They live the consequences of their parents’ (and others) decisions and actions every day.
Over the past 20 years, a body of research has developed on how patterns of family structure, in particular, affect children. Most researchers now agree that children do best when raised by their two married, biological parents who have mature, stable relationships. The poverty, dropout, and yes, crime statistics are irrefutable.
So, if this is true, wouldn’t we want our most vulnerable creatures to be born into this world with loving, married parents who intentionally created them into existence? Where they can grow up in a secure environment with the unique perspectives of loving, married parents who are mature enough and financially capable of raising a child? In short, shouldn’t they be given the best chances to succeed in life?
I grew up in a time when this view and message to young people were the cultural norm and most people acted accordingly. However, with many culture drivers sending conflicting messages, the numbers of children being born to unmarried and young parents continues to rise. This trend is wreaking havoc on the academic success, values, and emotional maturity of our younger generation. Ask any experienced school counselor and they’ll tell you that the lack of a mature and stable support structure at home is the most common issue they wrestle with daily when working with students. We owe it to future generations to reverse this course.
I want to challenge us, the adult generation, to consistently communicate this message to young people:

Hold off starting a family until you’re married and ready to have children, not only for the sake of yourselves and your future dreams, but especially for the sake of your future children. You deserve the best chances to fulfill your dreams and be a great parent, and your children deserve the best chances to grow up in an emotionally and financially secure and stable environment. If nothing else, do it for them—after all, it’s their life you are creating!

What are your thoughts and opinions? Do you agree we can make a better life for upcoming generations if we commit ourselves as a society to the message of being mature, thoughtful, and intentional about when and how we bring children into this world? Young adults: For the sake of yourself and your future children, are you prepared to wait until you’re married and ready to have children?