Mary Jane was the first person I ever hired, and I vividly recall her response to my question about her greatest accomplishment:

“Raising my two sons to be responsible adults, both out of college with meaningful careers, considerate of and generous to others, and one now married and expecting his first baby.”

It wasn’t the rehearsed answer I anticipated, and it set her apart from the other less mature applicants. Like two strangers at a wedding, it was an exchange that began constructing a framework for my parenting philosophy when my babies were merely eye twinkles:

I now knew my end game.

You don’t raise your little children to become bigger children, you raise them to become adults. I’d wager the majority of parents agree with that sentiment, but realizing it early on and allowing it to inform how you parent is key.

There’s a constant parenting push and pull—eagerly anticipating and celebrating markers and milestones, while resisting time’s swift flight.

Focusing on the bulls eye makes a difference in hitting the target.

In your children, you have opportunity to shape the future. Your goal isn’t to build automatons who merely parrot your views because they think that’s what you want to hear. When you reach the heart of a teen and…

  • teach him to consider others with his choices,
  • impress upon her that there are consequences to actions,
  • and train your children to respond reasonably rather than react emotionally to challenges

…you’re raising a responsible adult who will contribute to culture and community.

If you’re a long-time Simple Mom reader, you’re already familiar with her suggestion to write a family mission statement. Although that thought never occurred to me when our children were toddlers, it can apply to parenting, too.

• Decide with your spouse those qualities and character traits most important to you both. Be sure your parenting choices are consistent with those qualities.

• Emulate the character you’d like your children to exhibit. More is caught than taught.

• The devil is in the details, so don’t get bogged down with anything formal or confining. Be flexible to accommodate change of circumstance and conviction.

• Open communication with your spouse and children is essential. No one is a mind reader.

Photo by Erin MC Hammer

All this can be put another way: how do you know you’ve arrived if you don’t know where you’re going?

While that might be an oversimplification of parenting “success,” and I don’t think you’ll ever “arrive” because parenting, in some capacity, never ends, I do think it’s beneficial to the family and society to have goals in mind as you parent.

Parenting with intention means you’re aware of the motive behind your choices and you’re leading rather than reacting; parenting with an end goal means you’ve determined a measure for success and your decisions support that goal.

Success defined by America’s standard is largely material. But to me, parenting “success” is much more important. I’m thankful Mary Jane seeded that thought.

It’s important to add that you can do everything “right” as a parent and still have children stray; likewise, you can be a miserable excuse of a parent and have your children turn out wonderfully. Nothing is certain. But because I think being a mom is the most important job on the planet, I’m going to do everything I can with what I’ve got.

Last month, I wrote a series called 31 Days of Parenting Teens and Tweens. If you’d like to read more, click the button and scroll through the entire series.

Your turn: What is your definition of “successful parenting”? Would you say you’re parenting with that in mind?