Short-term respite vs long-term gain

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 of ensuring a steady and clear set of boundaries that give us a long-term settled family life? Do we go for the quick fix and short-term respite over the long-term gain?

​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, the teenager begging to wear those clothes and make up, go to ‘that’ party, 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 what the long-term consequences of this is, or are we just happy to get the short-term relief? 

​No one wants to be ruled by a four-year old, nor a child of any age, but this can easily happen if we fall for the short-term solutions. We end up being manipulated by our child for them to get their own way in life. If we look at what this looks like, we can see how we give food or sweets to a screaming toddler, pacifying with food. We can have the same response to a stroppy adolescent, buying pizza or a take-away, a new pair of shoes, a game, jacket, or whatever the price is to win peace from the onslaught. The trouble is, we set a standard in the family in this way, that says ‘if you act up I will reward you.’ 

​The knock-on consequences impact school life where the same tactics are often repeated because they too want peace, or even in social settings with our children’s friends or within our local communities. The child has learned the ‘if you act up I will reward you’ standard and will repeat it endlessly. Where are we in this picture? We have got ourselves into a place we struggle to get out of. 

To reward poor behaviour in a child of any age is setting ourselves up for a real pickle. There are no real short-term benefits, only long-term consequences that need solid consistency, and that can be a difficult task to turn around and may need some unpicking. 

Short-term respite is a false promise, nothing is gained and much is lost.

Parenting strategies are needed for the long haul; we can get support to help with unpicking the consequences of short-term relief strategies and have on offer a whole tool kit available to help us. Essentially, short-term relief is not worth it, it debases our authority as parents and that is not something we should so easily sell out on.

Parenting can be an amazing process that supports our children to learn respectful and responsible forms of behaviour and communication. We can model a way of life that demonstrates how to raise amazing confident and considerate children. We can do it, we simply need to be willing to address the issue we are facing immediately, in the moment and not fall for the short-term respite over the life-long foundation of sound and secure boundaries children need.

Further reading

Rules, standards and boundaries


Space for parenting