Thursday, September 22, 2011

Oil tankers and parenting...

Returning once again to the evening drama of Sally and Mom, we last witnessed Mom stopped dead in the water as she realized she was in a power struggle and needed to change direction.

"So when you find yourself in a power struggle, the first thing to do is to stop going in that direction.... But Jack, are you saying just let Sally disobey? Of course not."

But that doesn't mean you find some other way to pursue the wrong goal of getting her to obey. So what does a parent do in a situation like this? Well, sometimes it's best to just accept that the fact that you missed the mark. And that would mean choosing to now handle the situation in a way that is not yet another strategy to still get Sally to obey. I know, this sounds backwards, but hear me out.

First, that wrong goal to "get Sally to obey" is more embedded in you as a deeply felt commitment than you may realize. And why is it a wrong or bad goal?  Because Sally can effectively block it.  So, it's necessary to begin, if you would, putting that thing to death. Second, by following this advice you won't be going in the wrong direction. You'll be turning around. An oil tanker out in the ocean needs to travel as much as five miles in order to make a 180 degree turn. That takes time. If you were to take a snapshot of that tanker at different points during its course correction, it would appear as if it was going in the wrong direction. But actually, it's going in the right direction as it reverses course.

So there you are, dead in the water wondering what to do next. One way to handle this would be something as simple as: Go into the living room. Gently take Sally by the hand, letting her know that you're both going into the bedroom to get her ready for bed. Leave the toys. Continue with the normal bedtime routine, no recriminations, no reminders. It will likely feel like you're not doing what is best (getting Sally to obey), but it will be consistent with a godly purpose, which is what we want to be led by.  Kiss her goodnight and know that tomorrow is another day. This evening you're changing direction (which will likely be repeated again... and again). Success for you at this point is defined as choosing a goal that is responsible which doesn't seek to go back and get Sally to obey the original instructions. Helping her to get ready for bed fits that bill as a godly purpose. And, young children often simply need to be led in the direction that they ought to go. It's part of that "train up a child in the way they should go" thing by sometimes just leading your child in the right direction.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Laura said...

I'm tracking with you...riveted, waiting for the next installment in the misadventures of Sally's mom.