The Power of Focused Parenting through Literature
“Just remember – we have about 18 glorious years with our children. How do you want to cultivate them?”

Though arguably the most important aspect of parenting, teaching and shaping our children into good human beings is often outshined by the more pragmatic, instantly gratifying tasks (like caring for our childrens’ basic needs).

It’s easy to get lost in the daily “grind” and routine of parenting …

… ensuring the laundry list of to-dos gets marked off (beds made, teeth brushed, fed, bathed, etc).

Carving out intentional family or teaching time can often fall by the wayside – I think we have all been there at one point or another – especially because it can seem overwhelming.

However, this is one of our most important duties as a parent.

With only so many hours in the day, how can we possibly fit in all of those must-be-done’s along with the shaping of our children and the instilling of a solid moral compass?

The answer is focus.

Essentialism: focus on what’s most important

The idea of essentialism has come to my mind now more than ever – as I balance and wear many hats (wife, mother, entrepreneur, software developer …insert yet another role here).

Essentialism is simplicity at its finest – it’s cutting out the noise and focusing on what is essential or vital in your life, instead of all the things, all the time.

There are some great resources to check out for a crash-course in essentialism:

In parenting, essentialism and focus looks like clarity in your message to your children and in what you want to teach them.

Truth be told, this method of teaching your children in a focused, intentional way is absolutely not for the faint of heart. This type of parenting is extremely purposeful and requires both commitment and a certain level of thoughtfulness.

It means sitting down and making decisions about what kind of children you really want to help grow. It means reevaluating your children’s level of understanding about what you’ve been teaching them from time to time and adjusting your focus accordingly.

It sounds incredibly overwhelming, and I get that.

Not only do you have to teach your children to be good, wholesome people – but to also do so in a systematic, focused way? That sounds nearly impossible, right? Wrong.

My tip: incorporate focused lessons into your daily routine through reading.

Through my experience, research and passion, I have learned that children’s books supply a clear answer for my problem of “too little time, too much to teach”. They are short, clear and simplified versions of our messages.

I have often said that children’s books explain some of the most complicated, convoluted and abstract ideas to our children in a way they can relate to and understand…in a far better way than we could explain to them with our words. They are concrete, definitive stories to cling on to and they help make sense of sometimes confusing lessons.

I’ve written extensively on the value and purpose of finding children’s books that address your family’s core values and the qualities you are refining in your children in my book The Intentional Bookshelf.

Simply put, when we find the books that address what’s essential to us as a family, we get the opportunity to continuously reinforce that message to our children through the books we are reading to them day after day.

This curating of “ideal books” for your family is something I call building your Intentional Bookshelf – a bookshelf filled with nothing but books that have meaning and purpose to your family.

How focus comes into play

It’s easy to see the idea of The Intentional Bookshelf and think, wow, I have 20 different topics and categories that are important to teach my child – I have to find several books in all those topics?! Overwhelm, much?

No. Sit down and focus.

Focus on just 4 or 5 most important things to your family, the essentials. That’s where you start with your home library: you start by finding books that speak to those values, and you read them with your child, you do related activities together, and you discuss the lessons and message until they start to get it.

Then you read more. And more.

Keep reading books about these 4 or 5 topics until their understanding begins to grow and they begin implementing it into their lives. You stay focused and clear in your messaging as a parent so they can stay focused, too.

If this still seems overwhelming to you – if you love the idea of using books to teach your children, but you need a little help figuring out what’s most important to you, and then finding books that actually relate to those focused topics – you should check out the Intentional Book Club.

We’re a membership space for families who want to learn together through children’s literature, who want to focus on a few goals and themes at a time, and who want to do more with books as family. You can start a free 7-day trial in the club right now, but be warned: you’re never going to want to leave!

Your action steps now

To really find focus in your parenting, even in those fringe moments in between the madness of the routine, start with these quick action steps:

  1. Set aside some time to sit as a family and discuss your values, interests, and qualities to cultivate. (If your kids are young, this might be something you do alone or with your spouse. If your kids are older, invite them to be a part of the conversation). Write down everything that comes to mind.
  2. Circle 4 to 5 of the most important items you wrote down.
  3. Make a plan to find children’s books that relate to these topics (and join the Intentional Book Club if you need some help there). Map out a plan to focus on one or two of these topics at a time – maybe dedicate a whole month to just one. Create activities, lessons, discussion questions, and trips that apply to these topics and will help your children begin to understand them.
  4. When you as a family are satisfied with your current understanding of a given topic or value (this doesn’t mean you will ever stop learning about it!) you are now ready to add another one onto your plate and shift the attention there. Then repeat step 3.

*Note: these steps seem like they could take a lot of time, but they don’t have to. Using books to start the conversation and to inspire projects or trips will take the extra overwhelm off your plate. We as parents don’t have a lot of time as it is – it’s all about using the time you do have with purpose.

Following these steps will ensure you give every important thing you want to teach your children some space. Instead of overwhelming them with hundreds of lessons and teachings, your focus in parenting will encourage their focus in learning.

Just remember – we have about 18 glorious years with our children. How do you want to cultivate them?


Samantha Munoz is a mother, wife, engineer, bibliophile and avid coffee drinker. She is also the expert kid’s lit curator at Addison Reads and author of The Intentional Bookshelf. Sam helps parents as they search for the perfect books for their little ones and helps moms and dads build a library with a purpose. Once a seriously overwhelmed and stressed-out parent herself, Sam turns to children’s literature for the answers to all of her parenting dilemmas. She loves when it rains because it gives her an excuse to stay inside and read with her daughter! Get her master book list – a free resource for parents with book recommendations in more than 25 different categories – here, and follow her on Instagramand Facebook

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