Rule #2: Be a Purposeful Parent – Parent With Priorities

Don’t you remember a time when you felt like you didn’t know what to do as a parent?

Perhaps your young toddler, who had always been so well behaved in the past, decided for the first time to have a melt down in line at the supermarket? How do you know what to do when it seems like everyone else in the store is staring at you?
Or maybe your middle schooler repeated something unflattering you said about someone – right to that person’s face! How do you know what to do in the moment when you are feeling embarrassed and mad?

I have had so many “what do I do now” moments that it isn’t even funny! Several years ago, I realized that I was more of a REACTIONARY PARENT than a PURPOSEFUL PARENT. I seemed to parent in response to a current situation without fully thinking through WHY I was doing what I was doing.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I needed to have a parenting plan for my family WHICH I COULD USE TO GUIDE HOW I PARENTED IN ALL SITUATIONS – and I want YOU to stop being a reactionary parent and become a purposeful parent too!  Every parenting plan should include your PERSONAL PASSION, VALUES, AND BELIEFS as the foundation.

Once you identify your family priorities, you will discover the following:

  • You and your kids will become bonded by a SHARED SENSE OF PURPOSE
  • It will provide you with a PARENTING ACTION PLAN that will help you guide your parenting decisions
  • It will become an opportunity for you to take control of your parenting by MODELING this behavior to your children
  • It will provide you with a way to EVALUATE YOUR PARENTING – are you being proactive in meeting your parenting goals?


Shared Sense of Purpose


Identifying your family priorities and sharing them with your kids bonds you through by a shared sense of purpose – a “we’re in this together” kind of thinking.

Think of a time in your life where you belonged to a group where you felt like you shared a common interest or goal?

Maybe this was a Church group where you were passionate about helping the homeless. Maybe you felt a great bond with your college sorority where the members were all going through the same struggle of passing classes and putting up with difficult professors all for the shared goal of graduating from college.

Take the time to establish your family passions, values, and beliefs so that your family can function as a close unit. Perhaps playing sports is an important activity in your family –  then make that a priority in your family when (1) making plans for the weekend (leave time for sports games), (2) when making your grocery list (buy healthy items that encourages successful athletes), and (3) even when socializing with peers (be an example of a good winner or loser for your kids).

If you know your passions, values, and beliefs, then your kids will pick up on these priorities too. Don’t be surprised when you catch your kids living by these priorities when they think you are not watching them!




I don’t know about you, but I thrive when I have some kind of a structure to help guide me (whether it’s a class syllabus that outlines how to pass a class or a theoretical orientation that guides the diagnosis, treatment plan, and interventions I will use when helping a therapy patient). Don’t parent without a plan – use your previously identified parenting priorities as a PARENTING ACTION PLAN!

For example, if you have identified that living the rules of your religion is a priority to you, then keep that in mind when making family decisions. If your child wants to go to a concert on the night of an important Church event and you have identified Church as a family priority, then he cannot go to the concert. If you want to teach your children to be truthful and honest, then don’t lie to their mother/father about how much you spent on the latest purchase!

I find that so many parents don’t know how to tell their kids no; therefore, having a parenting action plan gives parents PERMISSION TO SAY NO. I have found that empowering parents with a parenting action plan based upon their own personal passions, values, and beliefs gives parents the backbone that they once lacked to make uncomfortable parenting decisions. I have seen this technique used with so much success and YOU can use this with YOUR FAMILY too!




One way to teach your kids your family passions, values, and beliefs is to explicitly tell them to your kids. For example, telling a child, “we don’t yell – yelling is against the rules” is one way to get the idea of not yelling across to a child.

Another (and more powerful) way of teaching your priorities to your children is to do so without words – by using your actions to teach your beliefs. Even without realizing it, we model our passions, values, and beliefs to our children EVERY TIME WE INTERACT WITH THEM! For example, we model the family priority of not yelling to our children by discussing disagreements in a calm manner instead of yelling. Remember the old saying “practice what you preach?” THAT’S MODELING!!

As a personal example, one priority that I identified for my family (and one that I have purposefully tried to model to my kids) is academic achievement. My kids got to see me study my way through graduate school. They saw me staying up late studying, writing papers even though I did not want to, and they saw me celebrate when I finally graduated from grad school. I PURPOSEFULLY tried to keep in mind that my kids were learning by watching my own behavior; therefore, I didn’t hide it when I did not want to write a paper, or study for a test, or thought that I deserved a better grade. Instead, I shared with them how maybe I didn’t want to do these things, but I was doing them to reach a long-term goal. I like to think that my kids are such good students today because of the example that I set for them.

(Disclaimer: I reserve my right to not be perfect! There were many times I forgot to model the behavior that I wanted to teach my kids. No one is perfect; therefore, the Modern Family Parent tries to focus on the positive, which in this instance, is that I MOSTLY modeled this behavior – not modeling this behavior was more of an exception than the rule.) 




Finally, establishing your family priorities gives you an opportunity as a parent to evaluate whether or not you are meeting your parenting goals. Use your family priorities as a barometer as to your effectiveness.

Are the children aware of the family Priorities? If not, concentrate on identifying and communicating (both verbally and through modeling) to your children.

Are you forgetting the family priorities during emotional situations? Then memorize that priority list and practice how you would still live by them during many different difficult situations.

Are you catching your kids practicing the family priorities even when they think you are not looking? Then you are doing a great job being a PURPOSEFUL PARENT!

Finally, tell me about YOUR family priorities! Do you have a list in mind? What are your passions, values, and beliefs for your family! Share them with the Parenting The Modern Family Community!

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