Parenting On-Purpose

Our family2A few months ago our kids got into trouble of epic proportions. With four kids, we’ve had plenty of moments where one, two or more gets in trouble, but for all four of them to go down at the same time — that’s really rare! On this particular occasion, though – they managed to pull off a real doozy. It all started with an epic Nerf battle. Several of their friends came to join in the fun. With ten plus boys running around in battle mode – the testosterone was raging. It went on most of the night and into the morning. My husband, David and I, were pretty tuned in – we ducked into our room for a quiet movie late in the evening and some much-needed R&R; when I went out of my room for snacks or to check on the kids, I felt like I had stepped into a full-out war. I’d hear things like, “where’s the recon”, and “hold your positions, we have an intruder… “, and I’d think to myself, “Are they talking about me?” Amidst all the commotion, we knew they were going in and out of the house, using the front yard, back yard, upstairs and down as they fought on for hours. I have to say it was hard to keep track of who was going out what doors and who was where in our house. It wasn’t until our two oldest got into it (it’s like I always say, it’s all fun and games until someone gets upset) — that it all hit the fan. They literally had a moment where they ended up in a fist fight, one of their iPhones was shattered… there were tears and wounds. It went from epic battle to epic mess in no time.

When we caught wind of it we sent everyone home, and gathered our kids to have what we call a family meeting. As we talked and sorted through the details, we realized that not only did they get in a fight and a phone get broken; they also were going upstairs, out the windows, on to the roof over our bay windows, down my Crepe Myrtle (which I love, all safety issues aside), into the yard and back into the house. All of this was apparently made easier by the fact that our third son took the locks off the windows a few weeks prior, unbeknownst to us, and then knocked the screens out. Not knowing what to do from there and trying to avoid the trouble he now found himself in, he chose to launch them over the fence into our neighbors yard. What a mess! They really did it that time. It was the one time my husband just had to sit at the table, while they stood in a line listening to him correcting each one of them. As he did, with each word, he brought his hand down over and over on the table for emphasis. And I went into my room, closed the door, laid down on my bed and prayed. When he finished he sent them my way and I just looked at them and said, I’m so disappointed in you. Sometimes that says it all! All their heads hanging – they walked off to accept their grounding of three weeks.

Meanwhile, for us it was a great reminder that our kids left to their own can make some pretty bad decisions. They can go the wrong direction – in ways that are not in their best interest or wellbeing! Our kids need us as parents to steer and guide them and teach them what’s right.

Honestly, we didn’t need an epic battle moment to figure that out. We caught on pretty early on. When they were teeny little bundles of cuteness they displayed the very real human tendency to want to go their own way and have their own way. They come out of the womb with the fallen natures that are a very real part of our fallen world! Don’t get me wrong – I knew they were amazing God gifts with great potential, but they were also in need of lots of shaping.

We didn’t get a lot of time early on to think through what type of parents we wanted to be.  We were just newlyweds when we got pregnant. Three months after our wedding, we got the news our oldest was on the way. As we’d been trying not to get pregnant, he was a surprise – or unexpected blessing as we say. David was working; I was in my last year of college and was going to work for a few years to save money for the future– when HELLO! We had to switch gears and go another direction. It was one of those moments I knew God was saying…. Uh – HUH – Many are the plans in a man’s heart but ultimately it’s the Lords’ plan that succeeds. (Proverbs 19:21)

Before I had Russel, God laid it on both of our hearts that I should stay home with him. It rocked my world. I was on a path toward a lucrative career. We didn’t have a lot of money. We had one car — it didn’t make a lot of sense at the time. And I come from a family that prioritized success and personal goals above rearing kids. I didn’t have the greatest examples for parenting well in life. While David couldn’t totally relate to that – he struggled with what a good father should look like, as he grew up in a home with an amazing mom and a bi-polar dad. Neither of us felt super equipped or ready for parenting, but parents we would quickly be!

So we did what many do. We read. We studied. We asked questions. I applied so many things to my  oldest – tips to make him smarter, things to make him sleep better, to excel faster – all pointing toward that same goal of achieving success as I knew it.

Over time we added two more sons and a daughter to our family.  We put them in sports. We ran in many directions. We got on that treadmill of parenting so many get on –running our kids to school, soccer, gymnastics, t-ball, errands, music lessons and more, until we finally looked up and called a “time out.” We realized we were too busy, spending too much money, and our kids really didn’t seem that fulfilled and happy with going all the time. Without realizing it, we had copied what we saw so many parents around us doing. We decided we didn’t want to blindly follow other’s ideas of what successful parenting looks like. We wanted to spend some time figuring out what God wanted for our family.

So, we pulled our kids out of everything and did a little seeking God on our own. We talked to our kids to see what they were really most interested in. We tuned in to what they naturally gravitated toward and where there natural gifting lied. And we asked ourselves some tough questions like – What does being a successful parent look like to us? What values did we want our children to have? Beginning with the end in mind, what do we need to instill into them so they are emotionally, spiritually, and physically equipped to leave our little nest and launch off into adulthood well.

This time was critical for our family. It put us on the path we are now on toward what we feel like our family mission is – to unveil God’s love and glorify him in our everyday lives. That to us is our goal – to raise our kids to live this out in the world. After we established our family mission statement as our compass for parenting, we knew we had to become strategic about instilling it in them so they would know day-to-day what that means and looks like.

We began to have a greater understanding of our role as parents. As Psalm 127:3-4 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior, are children born in one’s youth.”

While I’ve never crafted arrows I know enough to know they cannot craft themselves. There has to be a craftsman making them, shaping them, readying them to be aimed at a target to make their mark. We are those craftsmen for our kids, along with God. He entrusts our children, some of his most prized possessions whom he dearly loves, into our hands to train them up in the way they should go so when they are old they will not depart from it, as it says in Proverbs 22:6. With our focus to become more strategic at Parenting On-Purpose, we knew for them to hit their mark and be effective in this life, they need to be shaped well and know a few very important things!

We will cover those things over the next several blog posts. Stay tuned for four great tips on what our kids need to know as well as some tools to craft your own family mission statement.


Amy O’Donnell



  1. Marisela Carcamo

    That’s a great passage 127:3-4, & great how you put that together on how our children need help shaping like an arrow that’s molded to hit its target. I pray my kids find their target when ready & i’m sure finding a Family Mission Statement will help lead them in the right direction. I’m hearing a family night calling out soon. Thanks for sharing Amy.


    • Amy O'Donnell

      Marisela, I am so glad you were able to make it. I adore you and you have such a heart to honor your family. You are a great wife and mom and a go-getter! Love you


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