Whatever you would have your children become, strive to exhibit in your own life and conversation
~ Lydia H. Sigourney
Are you someone who wants your child to have a life centered around more meaningful things? In the busy lives we lead, it’s not a far step to lose sight of what is important to us.
I’m passionate about cultivating the meaningful in my children’s life. As a family of six, this requires a plan! I aim to model this in my own life with intentionality, avoiding excess commitments and the accumulation of too much stuff.
To put the intention into action, here are 7 ways we cultivate the meaningful in our home. We aren’t always perfect of course, but these are the goals.
Make a calendar: Children as young as two years old can learn to use a (picture) calendar to help them see how to manage their time and complete tasks. Working with your child to help her create a to-do list and arrange it onto her calendar helps teach focus and organization skills. It can also facilitate motivation to complete her list as well as accountability. Our children especially enjoy checking off a box for a completed activity.
Don’t Overcommit: Many of us have an overcommitted schedule. I like to think of it as poor limit-setting. We overcommit with many wonderful things—helping our friends, causes, careers, church and volunteering. I’ve had seasons in my life when my schedule was riddled with over commitment—before I had four children that is. I learned that if I wanted my child’s calendar to be balanced, then mine need to be too. Regardless the amazing activities they may be fortunate to participate in—a completely full calendar will leave them exhausted and unfulfilled.
Keep it manageable: When I have too much stuff to take care of it is stressful and time consuming. This is no different for my children. I want my children to have an amount of possessions that they can actually take care of—without me doing it for them. Giving them spacial boundaries for their toys allows them to experience and grow in the process on their own. As I’ve heard Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist say, “they can keep what fits in this drawer or this shelf or that wall.” I am periodically asking them, “how much stuff do you really want to take care of ?”
A giving challenge: Turning the task of parting with excess stuff into a fun challenge is one way I encourage our children to let go of some of their possessions. The challenge is this—I ask them to find 5 things in 10 minutes that they can live without and would be a benefit to another child. I take the opportunity during ‘fun parting parties’ to show them that purging their excess is really to their benefit—when they have less excess to take care of, they’ll have more time to invest in fun and meaningful activities.
Quality time: Investing less of myself in stuff means I can invest more of myself in people. One way this works in my life is by spending at least 10 minutes each and every day with each of my children, one-on-one time. We do an activity of their choice or talk about things they want to talk about—their agenda, not mine. Setting aside individual time for your child speaks love and goes much farther than buying another toy or gadget for them. These moments we share together are usually the golden nuggets of the day.
Spiritual growth: If I want my children to develop a life of faith, I need to help them see the extraordinary in what seems to be only ordinary. Excess possessions and constant noise together create a stream of mental chatter—inhibiting our mind and heart from this gift of seeing the extraordinary in everyday life. We each need a time and space with minimal distractions to cultivate spiritual growth.
Keep a routine: You’ve likely heard that children thrive with a routine, perhaps some more so than others. No matter your parenting style, a routine keeps the goals you’ve set in place, provides structure and helps your child build good habits. Keeping a routine can reduce the need for reminders and foster independence. Helping my children create a routine also makes them (and me!) better able to deal with the inevitable disruptions that life brings.
What are a few ways you cultivate more of the meaningful in your child’s life?