six {simple} ways to teach children intentional living

Today I’m sharing six simple ways to teach the idea of living with an intentional heart for kids. It’s easy to get distracted in this saturated world of noise and to move through life lulled asleep putting off things to do today until tomorrow. Intentional living, to me, simply means having an awareness that the time we are given is truly a gift – it’s a letting go of the mistakes while learning from them, pulling up our bootstraps and trying, and celebrating the small moments nestled in the fabric of a normal life.

Here are just six {simple} ways to teach intentional living to kids.

They need time alone.
In freedom, there is often learning, and especially creativity. Watch little ones when they are able to just play, to explore, and to invent – often they don’t follow the rules, the instructions, but instead are able to simply create, to understand life, and to develop independence. It’s quite easy to overstructure our children – providing them with things to do every minute – but we can bless them with the gift of simply being, of playing, in the midst of their days by creating space that is unstructured within their days. They need those moments – those imaginative moments in childhood – as those times teach them to be out of the box thinkers as adults. We need more of those in this culture – people who are willing to dream big, to create, to imagine and then implement and follow through on those big dreams.

Goals, rules, and expectations.
Coupled with space within the day to create there also needs to be a framework of goals and expectations. I like to say that often I’ve given my kids space – like a “fenced in area” that they are free to explore in – but if you break the ultimate rule {the boundary} then there is a consequence that has to be dealt with. Lack of rules leads to a lack of respect for others and authority. Children need boundaries. Work with your children to figure out goals and then work with them to achieve goals. Sometimes in the process of working after goals we find that they need to be revised, changed, or even let go. That’s okay. It’s the target and the constant effort to move towards a goal that matters – it’s that journey to the destinations that matters most.

Not every moment is a moment to be savored.
Several months ago I wrote about the myth of the perfect day {link} and why that simply isn’t a reality. Here’s the deal, when one lives life with an intentional heart sometimes people think that every moment must not be wasted. Certainly it means looking at life with eyes that are aware and awake, but it also does not mean that every single moment things have to be done, used, finished, celebrated, etc… that would not only be exhausting, but would also be incredibly discouraging as life is often far from perfect. There is a good deal of worth in resting and chilling out. That needs to happen and we can bless our children with the knowledge of cultivating this space within their days. Sometimes those tough moments in life are the greatest teachers for our kids. We want to protect them, but they also need to learn how to deal with times that aren’t perfect.

Thoughts matter.
Your thoughts matter, your children’s thoughts matter – thoughts matter. Do you pay attention to the constant dialogue of thoughts that run through your mind? If not – you must. In Dear Mom Who Thinks that She is a Terrible Mom Sometimes {link} I share how you absolutely must pay attention to the thoughts that run through your mind. Teach this to your children as well. You see, you are not your emotion. Your emotions – frustration, joy, anxiety, etc – they all teach us things. But, they don’t define us. Reframe your words from I’m frustrated to I’m feeling frustrated. There is great power in stepping back and restructuring the thoughts that run through your head. For kids it is important to recognize that the emotions that they feel – those worries, not measuring up, anxiety, etc… are not definers of who they are at the core. The emotion can lead us to a solution. For instance, overwhelm is an alert that something isn’t working, there is too much on the plate, etc… when overwhelm hits it’s a sign to step back and re-evaluate. Mindset, to me, is a great part of living intentional. Mindset matters.

Embrace the Gift of Today.
Don’t put off the things that you can do today for tomorrow. Teach this to your children.  Sometimes normal can simply be lost, as we’ve seen again this week withe devastation in Oklahoma, and with that we realize again the absolute gift of normal. Start to live today with an attitude of gratitude for today and work with your children to adopt this as well. It can be simple things – going around the table at night and listing things that you were thankful for – those things begin to force one to look, to seek, to find joy in the normal. Your children watch you, observe you, and learn from you. Teach them to embrace today. But, of course, remember – the not every moment will matter point – it’s not about trying to love every moment. It’s about seeking moments in the midst of life that you are thankful for.

Live boldly.
I want my children to be changers in this world. To me, a changer is someone who is willing to speak their mind, is strong in their convictions, and is willing to give of themselves for others at times. Teach them to hold the door, look at others when they speak, express gratitude, and fight for what is important. There is power in raising a generation of people who are willing to live boldly. Living boldly doesn’t mean being arrogant, but honestly, to me, means seeing others in this world beyond oneself and living for the dreams that one is gifted with- to go after your dreams, use your talents, care for others. You as a parent have the awesome gift to be the one to hear them express those dreams, those goals, and expectations. Listen to them, support them, and encourage them – and you’ll often find that their energy and zeal for life inspires your own outlook. Teach your kids, and remind yourself, to believe in those dreams and live a life of boldness

Six simple things that embrace the intentional mindset. It’s not about pursuing a life of perfection, but rather is about living a life grateful for today, with hope for the future, recognizing that there are so many moments where life is about pulling up the bootstraps and trying again, and yet underneath it all being willing to live with a deep posture of gratitude for joy and good nestled within the normal.


Images and original content are sole property of Rachel Martin and may not be used, copied or transmitted without prior written consent.

7 Responses to “six {simple} ways to teach children intentional living”

  1. May 23, 2013

    Lani Reply

    Such a great list of simple reminders of things to teach our little ones. Thanks for sharing. I hope you and your family have a lovely and safe weekend! đŸ™‚

    ~ Noelani

  2. May 23, 2013

    emily anderson Reply

    this was a great post. i’m always striving to live intentionally with my kids. such good ideas to introduce it in their lives.


  3. May 24, 2013

    Lynn Reply

    Praying right now!
    Psalms 71:1-3 In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion. Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me, and save me. Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.
    My email address

  4. May 24, 2013

    Alicia Reply

    Play with a Box- a big one can be a car, a plane, a house, a wagon. A small one is a hot wheels garage, a fairy tea party.. you get the idea. I NEVER throw away a sturdy box until it’s been transformed into something marvelous! (Need inspiration- read these two precious books for little ones: It’s a Box! and The Birthday Box). Love your ideas, Rachel. Thanks for the reminder to savor the simple things. Of my five kids, only one is still under five.. never thought I’d say it, but oh, how I miss having a house filled with little ones.

  5. These are such great ideas! Intentional living is so important. Thank you for sharing.

  6. May 31, 2013

    Laurena Reply

    I have understand it now! Thanks for the information! Got some intentional living ideas from my child’s preschool. I recommend this one

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