Find what works…

Posted by Samantha on April 18, 2011 in Thought for the day |

Life is intent on finding what works, not what’s “right”.

Margaret J. Wheatley


Being an effective parent is all about finding what works for your family.  So, your aunt is adamant that you just need to present yesterday’s uneaten dinner again and again and eventually your child will eat when they’re hungry.  Maybe this worked for your Grandmother.  But it might not work for you.

I want to encourage parents everywhere to really go with what works for them and let go of what their parents or their in-laws or their neighbours or society in general thinks is “right”!

For instance, a lot of parents express worry about a 3 year old coming into Mum’s and Dad’s bed again at night when they had been happily sleeping alone.  These parents are often worried about letting their child sleep in their bed because they don’t think it’s “right”. 

Actually this solution can work just fine for lots of families.   Allowing a young child the comfort they need for a few nights or even a few weeks (for our daughter it was a few months!) will not cause lasting problems.  When your child is ready again, they will leave your bed once more. 

I also remember the first time I participated in a parenting course and encountered the topic of Rules and Consequences. 

Previously our Family Rules had been more of what you might call guidelines.  And while this irritated my husband – he’d long been asking for some more explicit rules – I was the one who generally had to deal with rule-infringement and I found flexibility important.  But I was willing to try this new approach.

I duly came home and called a Family Meeting to create some important family Rules and the Consequences for infringing those rules.  I followed the suggestion of choosing just a small number of important Rules (we picked 6).

The result?  Within days our home-life was in disarray. 

I now noticed instances of rule-breaking where before I hadn’t been bothered.  Tale-telling increased exponentially.  My precious time diminished as I was regularly summoned to hear about rule breaking I’d missed and enforce the appropriate consequence.

My head began to hurt as I grappled with issues such as: if a rule is broken and a parent is not there to see it, should the consequence apply?

I could see that this supposedly helpful tool was swiftly leading us down a road towards greater sibling tension and rivalry.  And furthermore, was potentially sowing the seeds for problems we’d not even experienced such as fibbing.

Plus, I was cross and angry MORE OFTEN than before.

Around three days into the great Rules and Consequences experiment those blasted rules were torn down. 

Harmony (more or less) was restored.

I’ve been told by some parents that they don’t find it helpful to hear that a particular tool won’t work for their child or for their situation.  They want solutions that work ALL the time.

I’m afraid those solutions don’t exist.  That’s why it’s important to have lots of tools up your parenting sleeve. 

And never be afraid to ditch something that you think is “right” if it quite clearly doesn’t work - for you, for your child, for your family.


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