Intentional Parenting:
Practical Planning for Productive Results

Connie Hammer

by Connie Hammer, MSW
PCI Certified Parent Coach®

Expecting your first child is a very exciting time in your life that comes with an assortment of ideas to ponder, topics to discuss, and decisions to make. As a first time parent, you may find yourself overwhelmed by all the alternatives presented to you. Choosing the color for the baby's room, deciding between cloth and disposable diapers, finding a doula, or selecting a name are just a few of the items that might be on your to-do list. It is important to remember, however, that much of the preparation and planning that needs to be addressed goes beyond nursery colors or breast feeding versus the bottle.

Some of the most important decisions about becoming a parent are often overlooked until they are staring you right in the face. Before that stork arrives, have you seriously considered what type of parent you want to be and what type of child you want to raise? Besides being a patient mom or a caring dad who brings up a healthy and happy child, what more do you want for your emerging family? Most of us fall into parenting by default, relying on our intuition and the role modeling we received from our own parents. Having arrived at parenting with no further training than this, the majority of first time parents function rather well at their job. Asking yourself what kind of job performance you want to achieve as a parent before starting the position, as well as what kind of product you want to produce, will reap many benefits. Reaching beyond adequate to your optimal best requires a mindset that is intentional, a conscious and deliberate approach to raising your child thoughtfully. Taking the time to truly examine how you want to parent carries the added benefit of alleviating some of the anxiety that exists for most soon-to-be parents. Giving your approach to parenting some careful forethought will facilitate a more comfortable and effortless glide into parenthood.

Have you ever purchased a tree? Once acquired, you plant it with the knowledge that you will be responsible for its care until it matures. You recognize that as long as you meet its basic need for water, sunshine and fertilizer, it will grow into a tall, strong adult. If, on the other hand, you acquire the same tree with a very special vision for its adult years, you are inclined to be more intentional about purchasing, planting, and nurturing it. You would not only provide for the tree's basic necessities, but your approach would be more attentive and deliberate about the environment it was to inhabit. You would give careful consideration to the planting of the tree to ensure that the roots establish a good foundation. Knowing the end result you are striving for in advance would keep you conscious of when it needs to be pruned and how. Your relationship with the tree would be pro-active, preventing potential problems and intercepting haphazard growth before it firmly establishes itself. All of which would result in a hardier, more vigorous and durable living specimen.

Choosing to parent intentionally will also produce a stronger, healthier, and more resilient human being. Intentional parenting means considering every aspect of your child's development in the context of today's environment. Planning ahead and creating a realistic vision for the family of your dreams will serve as a valuable guide you can constantly refer to along the way. The ability to anticipate the challenges associated with parenting in our current culture will help you maintain a permanent advantage. The more you can anticipate, plan for, and address your future role as parent, the closer you will be to achieving your dream.

Consider the following suggestions to assist you in cultivating a mindfulness and intention about your parenting.

  • Take time to sincerely examine the values you hold near and dear to your heart and determine which ones are most important to instill in your child. This will help you make value-based decisions that are derived from a position of confidence and clarity.
  • Reach deep inside yourself and get re-acquainted with your authentic self. One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is to share your true and honest self. Getting in touch with your inner self means that part of your work as a parent is to keep growing in self-knowledge and awareness.
  • Spend some time clarifying how you want to interact with your child, physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and cognitively. Contemplating this ahead of time will enable you to interact pro-actively rather than reactively.
  • Give some thoughtful consideration to the parenting challenges most parents encounter in today's world. How do you plan to manage media and screen machine (TV, computer, video games, and movies) use for your child? How do you propose to build strong character and create a positive sense of self in your child? What is your strategy to discipline, teach, and guide your child?
  • Communicate and discuss your thoughts, feelings, and discoveries with your spouse, partner, or secondary caretakers. Understanding where everyone is coming from and what they are striving for helps to prevent conflict and enhances the supportive atmosphere you are able to provide for one another.
  • Reach out for support from other like-minded parents if possible. Surrounding yourself with such a group will help keep you steadfast in your beliefs and focused on your goal if you should find yourself wavering from the force of opposing pressure.

The more clarity you can achieve about your motivations, desires and dreams, the more prepared you will be for the unexpected which occurs daily in the world of parenting, as every day proves to be a new and exciting adventure. Designing a basic yet flexible plan for the immediate and distant future will boost your self-assurance and mark your parenting path with purpose, meaning, confidence, and joy. What better way to launch your parenting career!

Connie Hammer is the owner of The Progressive Parent, LLC, a parent coaching business. As a PCI Certified Parent Coach®, Hammer helps first-time parents adjust to the most important and most difficult job of their lives. A licensed social worker, certified step-family counselor and founder of Healthy Kids!—a Family Resource Network, she has more than twenty years of experience working with families. For additional information and access to a free e-course, Booster Kit for New Parents, visit or contact her at

Copyright © 2009 Connie Hammer, all rights reserved. Used with permission.