Parenting for the Short Term and Long Term Goals

Sometimes I parent for the short-term goal. I have a doctors appointment. We are running late. We have to go. Now.

Other times I parent for the long term goal. I am taking the kids to the playground. There’s no rush to get out of the house. We can spend two hours learning about all the different steps along the way. About cooperation. About getting our clothes ready. About what happens when we leave later in the day vs leaving earlier in the day.

I’m not parenting for short term compliance. I don’t want to be able to say “SIT!” and have my children sit.

I am parenting for cooperation, not compliance. For compassion, not for dominance. For a natural understanding of the laws and rules, not a fear of the punishments or penalties.

Often what a child learns from an experience is more important than them doing EXACTLY AS I SAY RIGHT NOW.

I find it painful to parent in tandem with people who follow an authoritarian approach because inevitably they interrupt with a punishment or a command.

The WHY is usually more important to me than the HOW.

Why do we get ready? So we can leave. Why do we leave? So we can go someplace. Why do we need to cooperate when we are getting ready to go? Because when we cooperate we are able to leave more quickly. Why do we want to leave more quickly? So that we have more fun doing the fun thing and less time lingering between places looking for our socks. Where are our socks? In our rooms. Can we find our socks? Why can’t we find our socks. Oh. Right. Why do we pair our socks and put them away? So we can find them when we want to leave so we can get ready quickly so we spend more time doing something fun and less time looking for our socks.

When we snap commands we keep all that stuff in our own adult heads and just command our kids to jump.

Honestly it’s really freaking hard for me to slow down and explain everything. It takes a lot of thinking and a lot of practice to remember why we do something. “Because I said so” is a really terrible reason when you’re speaking to a young child who sees everything as completely arbitrary.

But I slow down.

I remember the reasons.

I take the time to teach when I have the time to teach.

So that my children will understand that I always ask them things based on reasons.

So that when I say “I do not have time to explain right now, can you please do it and I promise I will explain later?” they trust me and listen to me and jump a lot faster than they do when a command is used.

What happens when a child is used to being commanded all the time? Honestly they understand nothing. They make a ton of mistakes. They have to guess how to do the things that the adult expects them to JUST DO. They learn to play guessing games where they guess, are wrong, are snapped at, guess again, are wrong, are snapped at, etc.

How do I know this?

Because adults ask my kids to do things ALL THE TIME.

Things that they then turn around and ask me how to do.

And I teach them.

Repeatedly.

While they strive to master things that an adult already decided was “common sense”.

Look. Common sense is LEARNED. It’s not innate. Kids learn common sense by learning the reasons behind things. By guessing at them. By having them discussed and confirmed.

So if you want a child to know something? Teach it. Repeatedly. Over and over and over. Patiently. Step by step. And if they don’t understand a step, figure out how to teach them that step.

If you have a hard time remembering how to do this, teach them to ASK YOU. Teach them to say “Mommy, I do not know how to do that yet. Can you please show me how?” and when they say that, even if you’ve shown them a million times, show them again.

Life takes a lot of practice. Think about the things you learn as an adult. How many times you have to practice something to get it right. Think about the first time you learned how to operate a combination lock or drive a car.

None of that was “I will tell you once and then punish you every time you make a mistake”.

Behavior is learning. Not a series of personality flaws you have to punish a child out of, and not a series of commands that a child should just jump to follow.

They are people.

They deserve the chance to understand and agree with the why.

If you disagree, that’s fine. You can do what you want with your children.

But.

Do. Not. Interrupt. Me. When. I. Am. Explaining. Things. To. Try. To. Get. My. Kids. To. Listen. To. My. Request. Faster. Than. They. Are.

Please. Just let me do what I am doing. Don’t jump in. I don’t need backup.

I am more than capable of demanding immediate compliance if I need to. If I haven’t, it is INTENTIONAL. For a reason. Don’t interrupt me without asking me first if it is okay.

See? I explain first. Then I ask. Then once I’ve explained I expect you to remember that I have explained it. But if you forget I will repeat myself. Unfortunately if you interrupt me in front of the children I will repeat myself in front of the children. Please don’t create a situation where we are both undermining each others authority.

I won’t punish you for forgetting, though. Even if you do sometimes insist that punishments are necessary.

  3 comments for “Parenting for the Short Term and Long Term Goals

  1. May 26, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    Your words inspire me to parent better on a day by day basis. Thank you.

  2. Laura
    May 29, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Yes, beautiful parenting, but maybe this one came a bit at the expense of another parent’s feelings, too. We’re all working toward the same goal (we conscious parents). So many of your posts are simultaneously awe-inspiring and leave me as an adult feeling inept, clumsy, afraid to put a foot wrongly, shamed…judged.

    It’s interesting to me the gentleness of tone that you use for children takes on a harder edge when addressing parents themselves.

    Just a thought…

    • sarah
      May 29, 2016 at 2:07 pm

      I agree 120%. This post has more than an element of venting and snark. It isn’t directed at another parent, though. It is directed at people who attempt to use an authoritarian parenting style with my children when I am actively parenting them and they decide to jump in to try to make a child “obey” my “commands”. My partner generally isn’t authoritarian and he and I can communicate.

      It is a reaction to the idea that it is okay to jump in and try to bark orders at another person’s child when the child has not responded to them immediately.

      When dealing with a specific person who has done this? I’m much much much nicer and more understanding and able to recognize their motivations in the particular situation. Even on the occasions when an adult has tried to use my hearing loss to have a private conversation with my child in front of me and then refused to tell me what they said.

      The IDEA of it, on the other hand, makes me very very cranky.

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