Does it sometimes feel like we are making decisions based on the need for respite from our children’s behaviour at the cost of the long-term gains?
We all know what it’s like when our children play up - we can feel the tension of wanting to restore some kind of equilibrium and wanting to do so as fast as possible. Remember the meltdowns in aisle 7 of the supermarket, where we edged away cringing from realising this was our child on the floor screaming for sweets; how about when your teenager is begging to wear those clothes and that make up, go to a party with ‘those friends’ and we are in freaking out in terror of what the consequences could be; or, listening to them begging to get their first phone or a snapchat account?!
No one likes to have the intensity of an acting-out child, it’s hard to cope with and feels SO intense. The longer it goes on the more desperate we can feel and sometimes this means that we give in to the acting-out behaviour in order to ‘restore the peace’. But do we consider the long-term consequences of this giving in, or are we just happy to get the immediate short-term relief?
The trouble is, by giving in to bad behaviour we set an agreement and standard in the family that says:
‘If you act up, I will reward you.’
The knock-on consequences impact every area of life. This child in front of us has learned an ‘if you act up, I will reward you standard’ and will exploit it endlessly and potentially feel they are being victimised on the odd occasion you do not give in. Where are we with this? There is no love in that style of parenting, and we are setting them up for a harder lesson as others bring that lesson with, potentially, much less love.
There are no short-term benefits to giving in to bad behaviour for relief from the tension, only long-term consequences.
Short-term respite is a false promise, nothing is gained and much is lost.
Parenting strategies are needed for the long haul.
Short-term relief is simply not worth it, it debases ourselves as parents and introduces a poisonous cascade of self-doubt and endless searching for answers. We are much more than that.
Parenting can be an amazing process that supports children to learn respectful and responsible forms of behaviour and communication. If we don’t do it when they are young, we teach them that being manipulated is OK and being abusive gets rewarded. That is not it – manipulation is not acceptable in any family home – ever. That is a standard worthy of everyone.
Keep it simple - by holding steady in the face of ‘challenging’ behaviour we are saying that we are not going to reward or be manipulated by any ‘bad behaviour’, and we are not going to react with a quick fix that has never worked. Instead, model respect and decency as the very lowest bar in the home. Appreciate what each person brings to the family and build those relationships with everyone having a voice and thereafter, responsibility.