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, or the teenager begging to go to ‘that’ party, get their first phone or get 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, 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? In 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 too difficult for many. It can be hard work and need some unpicking.
Short-term respite is a false promise, nothing is gained and much is lost.
Parenting strategies can be there for the long haul; we can get support to help with unpicking short-term relief and its’ consequences and have on offer a whole tool kit available to help us along the way. 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 is an amazing process that can support our children to learn respectful and responsible forms of communication and model a way, as a community, on how to raise amazing confident and considerate children. We can all do it, we simply need to be willing to address the issue in the moment and not fall for the short-term respite over the life-long foundation.
In this series of blog posts, you will find articles that discuss foundational practices in parenting. Not just articles on what we do but why we do what we do for a healthy body and a healthy relationship with others.