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Going the Extra Mile
Written by Linda Williams   
Tuesday, 16 September 2014 23:30

 It happened again. I shopped to the ever-escalating shrieks of a young child sitting in a grocery cart. Apparently his mom and I were on the hunt for the same items. Closeness was not necessary, though. The screams could be heard easily at a distance. 

In addition to the verbal temper, the child kept heaving his playground ball from the cart. Mom, faithfully chasing it down each time, handed it back to the 3-yr-old and repeatedly asked: “Why are you doing this?” More screaming was the response.
 
I wanted to walk up to the mom and answer the question for him: “I’m acting this way because I can!”
 
It interests me that many parents, when faced with crummy behavior from their kids, are willing to “go the extra mile”, in the wrong direction. By that, I mean they ignore outbursts, patiently give multiple warnings and explanations, even reward inappropriate actions. I think they may validate these responses by reasoning:
  • I don’t want others thinking I’m a bad parent.
  • I wouldn’t want to look unreasonable or overly-harsh.
  • I can’t further upset my child and escalate this situation.
  • I shouldn’t injure my child’s self-esteem.
  • I don’t think it’s that big a deal.
  • I want my child to be happy.
Do you see the problem with this type of reasoning? (Did you notice the repeated word in the list?) This thinking is based on the comfortof the parents and not at all on what’s best for the child.
 
Perhaps the ability to rationalize poor choices is accompanied by the ability to rationalize the validity of the non-effective action which ensues: I’m responding this way in the best interest of my child. This is a total misconception, of course. Again, the response is all about the parents.
  • Being authoritative is uncomfortable… for me.
  • Facing a situation head-on and doing something about it is hard…for me.
  • Being consistent takes a lot of effort…from me.
  • Seeing my child unhappy feels unhappy… for me.
  • Taking care of business immediately is inconvenient… for me.
Now I’m not advocating you don’t go the extra mile for your kid. I am saying you need to be sure you’re traveling the right road when you do. It’s the road that ultimately produces an adult who functions well in life.
 
Along this road parents make tough decisions – ones that allow children to experience some “pain” when they choose unwisely. And they hold their ground when the kid complains or rails against their authority to do so.
 
Parenting on this road means you will feel sad for your kid sometimes, you will be inconvenienced on a regular basis, you will live with a kid who hates you from time to time, you will pretty much stand alone from other parents in your expectations. But you’ll do it because it’s not about you or your comforts. It’s about the child you love. And that’s an extra mile worth the cost.
-By Linda Williams