the blog

3 [Daily] Parenting Habits That Made All The Difference

If you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m all about intentionality. I love living intentionally, especially when it comes to my marriage and parenting! There are three habits that Mark and I intentionally do EVERY DAY that we feel has made all the difference in the family we’re creating and the children we are raising. Here they are:

  1. Reading aloud
  2. Family dinners
  3. Praying with them
Intentional Parenting Habits

Reading aloud.

I could go on FOREVER about how much I love reading aloud with my kids and how important it is! I’m super passionate about this topic!

I credit my dad that gave me a love of reading. I remember him reading to me when I was a little girl and him coming into my 2nd grade class to read a story to us. A regular gift we got from him was a special book he picked out just for us and I remember many trips to Borders at the mall and he’d always let us pick out a book to bring home! Some of my favorite memories was getting my Goosebumps books from my Scholastic book order, racing home, and reading them all in one night.

Read aloud family, reading aloud with kids
Repeating the tradition of going to a bookstore to get a new book with our kids!

When our kids were born, I knew reading aloud to them was something I really wanted to make a priority. And I think I’ve done a pretty good job on it! It also helps that I’ve read a few books on the topic and those have motivated me to keep at it while also giving great suggestions on books to try. Check out these books for more information:

Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie

Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook Eighth Edition Edited and Revised by Cyndi Giorgis

How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo

Going to the library and getting a new stack of 30 pictures books (30 because that was the limit per card at my library!) was my go-to activity when the kids were really little and we would spend time every morning reading aloud together. It’s so special to cuddle up together under a blanket and get lost in stories together. I loved finding books that would make the kids laugh and others that would pull on my heart-strings.

read aloud with kids, intentional family
Easy activity any time of the year

There are SOOO many amazing benefits of reading aloud to your kids, ranging from building a physical and emotional connection with them, to introducing them to abundant vocabulary, talking about important life lessons that different books touch on, to increasing their own reading skills. The list goes on. Reading aloud to our kids is an amazing gift we can give them!

If your little one is reluctant to sit down and read with you, keep at it! At first, my son never wanted to sit down and read with me and my daughter. He’d often ask or whine about wanting to do something else. I simply told him over and over again, day after day, that it was reading time and I’d just sit there and continue reading with my daughter. Eventually he realized that I wasn’t going to change my activity and he’d come and read with us. And start small! Start with one picture book. Next time stretch it to two. Just stay consistent with it and try a variety of different books! By the time Xander was 2, he could sit with me for 2 full hours reading books when it was difficult for him to sit through 1 or 2 books only a year earlier.

Intentional family, read aloud family
2014 – Reading aloud before bed

Now, at ages 10 and 8, reading aloud with them is STILL something we do consistently either one on one or as a whole family! The time it allows us to spend together and the books we’ve read together are something I will absolutely cherish for a lifetime.

Intentional family habits
We love reading the Vanderbeekers as a whole family!

Here are a few really fun picture books that can be enjoyed at ANY age that’s a great place to start:

If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen

The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman, Illustrated by Marla Frazer

The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak

Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds

Family dinners.

Ahh. The traditional family dinner. I totally underestimated these before we had kids. Looking back on our pre-children days, I never cooked. I honestly don’t remember what we ate. We went out to eat about 2-3 times a month. We’d make homemade pizza (with a dough mix), meatball subs, tacos….honestly I can’t remember anything else I would cook. I didn’t know how and it was such a low priority for me.

Then the kids came. I started to care a lot more about my health and taking care of myself once I had them. Taking care of my body FOR ME hadn’t been enough, unfortunately. But once I fell in love with two amazing babies, I suddenly had a motivation to take of myself FOR THEM. I wanted to stick around for a long time to see as much of their lives as I could. And nourishing them also became a priority. Thus began my journey into cooking.

It took me a couple of years of many failed recipes, once setting a pan on fire, and endless Pinterest searching to finally figure out how to cook. Also, at the same time we had really young kids, we also had very little money. There was no way we could afford going out to eat. Pair my attempt to find and cook healthy meals for our family and the financial need to eat at home, we naturally started having family dinners together.

The actual family dinner wasn’t something I specifically set out to be intentional about from the beginning. They just kind of naturally wove their way into our daily lives and now they are a central part of our time together as a family. Now, we enjoy a phone-free, tech-free dinner together as a family 7 nights a week (maybe 5-6 nights a week when it’s coaching and or wedding season!) full of conversation and sharing about our days.

But you DON’T HAVE TO COOK in order to have family dinners!! I have truly come to *enjoy* cooking and it lends itself well to have a family dinner but you could just as easily have a family dinner if you grab takeout or go to a restaurant. I would just recommend keeping the phones away and keeping the TV off to be fully present at the meal. If you’re not sure what to talk about here are some conversation starters you can try out (and I actually use these!):

  • Rose, bud, thorn (what was the best part of your day, worst part of your day, what are you looking forward to?)
  • Who did you sit with at lunch and what did you talk about?
  • What was something you learned today?
  • If you could visit any state right now, which one would you choose?
  • Reminisce on some recent events (vacation, weekend shenanigans, last Christmas)
  • Share a memory from when the kids were little – something they probably don’t remember!

Praying with them.

(If you’re not a Christian and don’t believe in prayer, stick with me, because I’ve got something for YOU too!)

We have prayed for our kids every night before bedtime for as long as we can remember. Kenzie and Xander certainly don’t remember anything different. Bedtime routines have evolved over the years and fluctuated from us saying goodnight all together as a family to individual goodnights, but praying over both of them every single night has remained constant.

Now, at the ages of 10 and 8, Mark and I each take turns saying goodnight to each child individually and we both pray for each child. I know that this tradition is very important to both of our kids, but especially our son as he’s the one who verbalizes how important it is to him. Or if we’re coming home late from being out, he’s the first to make sure we still give a proper goodnight hug, kiss, and prayer.

Being a Christian family, prayer is really important to us. These aren’t just well wishes and good vibes that we’re sending out into the universe hoping they’ll come true. But these are actual conversations with God where we thank Him for the blessings He’s given us and also ask for guidance, direction, healing, protection, deeper faith, etc. for our kids. From a Christian perspective, it’s important to me that our kids see and hear us regularly talking to God. And I also think it’s valuable that the kids hear what we have to say about them. Think about how wonderful it feels when you know that someone is praying for YOU — now put your mind in the perspective of a child and being able to hear your parent pray on your behalf is even more special.

If praying isn’t your thing – consider how you can still wrap your children up in a soft blanket of your words of encouragement and hopes for them. You could fill them with positive affirmations, tell them something good you noticed about them that day, or why they are a valuable member of the family. I try to sprinkle these conversations in along with my prayers as well! And you can tell how special it makes them feel! When you tell your child “I’m really glad you’re a member of this family because _________,” and you see them blush and smile and know that their heart just filled up a little bit, it’s an amazing feeling as a parent!

If this feels weird for you and you don’t really know where to start here are some starters that you could try:

“You know what I love about you? I love…”

“I noticed that you did ________ today, I thought that was really awesome because…”

“I love that you’re part of our family because…”

“I pray/hope for your future…”

Just watch their love tank fill up and your heart will be pretty full too! šŸ„°

Thanks for reading, truly! These are things I’m really passionate about as a mom and love to share about them! If you’d like me to dive into any of these topics in more details, be sure to select an option in the little form above!

love, your reading, cooking, praying mama,


Books, Intentional Living, Parenting




3 [Daily] Parenting Habits That Made All The Difference

  1. […] something that we’ve enjoyed together since he was born. As I mentioned in my previous post, 3 Daily Parenting Habits That Made All The Difference, reading aloud is a big, big deal to me. We started reading aloud to our kids the day our daughter […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *