Stop Quick-Fix Parenting and Connect with Your Kids
In the last post, we uncovered the answer to an age old parenting question: HOW DO I GET MY KID TO DO WHATEVER I WANT?
The answer, in short was:
However you want- with a variety of bandaids and temporary quick fixes. These might get the job done for a moment but they don’t work well or for long.
You see, slapping a bandaid (a bribe, a threat, a timeout, etc) to GET MY KID TO will only masque a deeper bulletwound – a problem rooted in a lack of training or a broken relationship. Both are worth fixing and yes, both are in mom and dad’s court to mend (not the child’s).
Slow Down, Toss the Bandaids
1. Slow Down to Show Them
Creating healthy habits takes time. Training kids takes time. Be intentional. Go step by step. If you want your child to learn to do laundry, you must slow down to show him how to sort, carry, load, turn on the washer, the dryer, add soap, etc.
Each step takes time to master. We often rush kids, set our expectations too high, get frustrated with them and reach for a bandaid (bribe, timeout, punishment) because they didn’t get it done (hitting turbo mode once again).
Be patient and see errors and setbacks as positive- kids will be far more willing to cooperate when accepted, encouraged and invited to participate (vs. steered and managed).
2. Slow Down to Let Them Learn (and Practice)
Since the goal is NOT to have a clean room but INSTEAD to train the child to care for his room, focus on teaching a process vs. demanding a final result.
Think about it. If you’ve recently learned something new, you get that mistakes are part of the learning. Slowing down gives kids space to:
- mess up (oops, I didn’t put enough food in my lunch, next time I will)
- (gasp) do it “half-assed” (how does that usually work out as adults- you end up doing it again, right?)
- put it off for way too long (and discover for themselves how fun it is to do all the laundry at once…on a Saturday afternoon).
- find their rhythms (I can’t stand missing out on play time after school so I’ll do my contribution before school).
Trust they’ll learn more if you step out a bit.
3. Slow Down to Say I Think You Can Handle Your Life
Nothing says, hey, you can handle your life more than trusting a child to well, handle her life. And for a child, her life is her room and all her “stuff” like: homework, lunch, backpack, wardrobe, music, and more. If you’re rushing to get out the door, you miss not only the opportunity to let her practice but the chance to build trust and in turn, strengthen the relationship.
4. Slow Down to Uncover Solutions
“You can’t think of solutions while you’re nagging.” Meghan Leahy.
There are many ways to solve a problem – consider using roadmaps – trying and failing until you move toward a sustainable solution. There’s value in discovering, together, that the first few ideas didn’t do a bit of good. But that third idea? Whoa. It was the keeper.
Once you play around with HOW to solve a problem and let the kids participate, you’ll discover there are more solutions to try (not all will work!) than there are bandaids in the quick-fix box.
5. Slow Down to Notice and Monitor Progress
If you’re zipping everywhere, with the focus on getting things done, you won’t even notice all the tiny shifts that happen when your child progresses toward independence. You don’t want to miss how far they’ve come because you’re looking three steps ahead!
6. Slow Down to Identify What Matters
Maybe it’s not such a big deal that her clothes match or his notebook is signed. Maybe what matters is she’s willing to get dressed on her own and he’s learning to get the reading done on his own. When you slow down, you quickly realize most of the stuff we think matters right now this second doesn’t matter. Cleaning up the “it has to be like this” or “it must get finished now” brain clutter will diminish power struggles and make the everyday flow much easier.
We are a culture obsessed with outcomes and this kind of thinking keeps children from learning to use the “process” as a teaching tool. So choose carefully what really matters to you – the outcome or the child.
7. Slow Down because Parenting is about the Kids, Not the Parents
Stop worrying about how perfectly you do this or how well your kids behave or how quickly they listen when you say boo. Try, instead (and I know this is tough) to turn away from the snarky folks at the check out line who are giving you the hairy eyeball as your child s-l-o-w-l-y counts through her money bag for the exact change to purchase a plastic toy that will not last the car ride home.
Nothing is as important as ensuring our children are moving toward independence, self reliance and are engaged in all that life has to offer. It’s not that a bribe to get through the checkout quicker (and keep everyone else happy) is the end of the world- it’s just that the child has missed another opportunity to practice moving toward independence. When parents make this the “norm” they are (often totally unknowingly) thinking of themselves as “good” parents, and not parenting in the interest of the child.
We’ve all been here. Next time you find yourself here, remember to let go of the drive to be a perfect parent and trust that you are indeed the perfect parent for YOUR child. Do this, and you’ll free up space to move forward in other areas.
8. Slow Down because this Won’t Matter in 3 Days, 3 Weeks or 3 Years
Do you even remember what you were rushing around for three days ago? I don’t. We get so caught up in the GOGOGO that we don’t realize we’re trading valuable training time for nonsense that will be forgotten in a matter of hours. Nobody will remember if his socks matched or if her hair was in ponytails or braids. Just remember that “This too shall pass” and I encourage you to find some mantra that allows you to take a breath, slow your heart and your mind, and leverage your own experience so that you can stay present in the moment ensuring that you are parenting from a place of intention and love.
9. Slow Down to Support the Learning
As nice as it would be to think that teaching our child to get dressed once, would end all further getting dressed scuffles, but the truth is, every moment of the 18, 19 or 20 years we are living in the same home as our children, is a time of learning for them. If you can surrender to this fact, if you can embrace that you will have to teach a skill many times over the course of many years, you can begin to focus on the progress and the improvement you are all making and not on putting a bit red CHECK next to a particular task. As I like to remind myself, Life is Practice.
10. Slow Down to Connect with Your Child
All any of us want, is to feel a deep connection with those we love. We yearn for connections that make us feel loved, whole, accepted. We dream of quiet moments, and shared secrets, and private jokes that lead to giggles and memories that keep us warm and safe during scary moments. It isn’t the “doing” that makes our children feel a deep connection with their parents – its the moments in between, when no one is looking that build the kind of connection between parent and child that last a lifetime. So find time to connect to yourself, your spouse, your children and your life. [hr]