I just finished one of my least favorite jobs–cleaning floors. I don’t mind doing laundry, dishes, gardening, even cleaning toilets! But I really hate sweeping, mopping and vacuuming. I put it off, am grateful for our hardwood floor that hides stuff and curse the older kitchen floor that shows everything. When I finally make myself get started and just do it, I realize that it’s really not that bad and am glad to have clean floors when it’s over.
Today as I finished the hated kitchen floor, it occurred to me that this same phenomenon happens with parenting sometimes, especially parenting kids who have needs that go beyond the typical. Here are a few examples:
Establishing a parent as the primary caregiver. It’s hard to shuffle work schedules, put a career on hold, change jobs or start working from home. It’s also hard to settle into change of pace and meet the new demands (and yes, sometimes boredom) of doing the hard work of daily parenting. But, we know it’s so worth it to be there building those important foundational pieces of brain development and accompanying skills like trust, cause and effect thinking, impulse control, empathy, the ability to self-regulate emotions, etc…. I have never met a parent yet who regretted putting in the extra time with their child, just like I’ve never met anyone who regrets having clean floors.
Starting AND MAINTAINING Time In. I’ve talked to many parents in the 13+ yearss since we first started presenting the idea of “Time In” in our live seminars. Once folks understand why it makes sense and that it really does establish parenting authority, competency and boundaries, they are anxious to put it into use in their homes. It’s not much fun to get started and it takes self-discipline and a commitment to see the job through, but it’s so worth it in the end. Much like cleaning floors, only doing Time In halfway just highlights the mess.
Utilizing professionals when necessary. I don’t think any of us intend to avoid using professionals to help our families anymore than we intend to live in a pigsty and yet, when we put off actually making the appointment (or pulling out the broom!) in essence, that’s what happens. Similarly, just as it’s not enough to pull the vacuum cleaner out and then not follow through actually vacuuming, it’s not enough to visit a professional and then not follow through *all the way* with a new parenting plan, therapy or other recommendations they have, provided they make sense given the research and what you know about your individual child.
Being proactive. This is the first piece of the parenting plan we highlight in Because They Waited. It is so, so important! Picture a small sticky spot on the floor. If not cleaned up, it gets tracked around, dirt and gunk sticks to it and before long it’s just a bigger mess! Same goes with issues that our kids have. Most kids don’t come home severely impacted by their early months or years in less than optimal care–they come home with mild to moderate effects. And yet, if we procrastinate parenting to those issues in a concerted manner, those issues usually just get bigger. The look of them may change, but it’s often the same core issue just making a bigger mess.