Parenting is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Today I want to talk about what is arguably THE MOST important component to good parenting (of which there are many different types)… 

Consistency. 

Let’s take a look at our culture for a second.  

Instant gratification society 

We live in a culture of instant gratification. Want to get in touch with someone right now? You no longer have to walk three miles to their house, or wait days for them to receive your letter. Just send a text. Want something to eat? Don’t worry about making a fire, drawing water from the well, waiting for the pot to boil… No, no, no. Just stick it in the microwave for a minute. Or drive down the street to the closest McDonalds.  

Now, there are many criticisms out there about this aspect of our culture, but I don’t intend to do that today. In fact, I’m really thankful for the ease modern technology allows us. It would be hypocritical of me to critisise what I happily use every day.  

So this is not a question of right or wrong, but we do need to take a look at how the instant gratification culture affects us. And, in particular, affects the way we raise our children.  

See, we like results. When we post a new picture on Facebook, we spend the next half hour checking out phone regularly to see all of the new likes and comments (…or at least, I do. Anyone else wanna confess?)  

We expect instant results from parenting 

Similarly, when we start a new sleep routine or discipline strategy with our kids, we expect immediate results.  

Sometimes we get them, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes, the results seem to change from day to day. “Tommy slept well on Monday and Tuesday, but then he was up all night again Wednesday. Is the sleep training working? Did he just have gas? Should we change the routine?” 

Here is the biggest thing to remember about raising kids: 

Parenting is a marathon, not a 100 metre dash.  

Parenting doesn’t always yield instant results 

You’re not always going to see immediate results. In fact, you frequently won’t. It’s easy to get frustrated and assume what you’re doing isn’t working, that you need to change it and try something else.  

Be patient. It takes a long time to change behavior. Each child is different and some will respond quicker than others. But just because your child isn’t responding in the first week or two doesn’t mean that your actions aren’t having an effect. 

The most important results take time 

Let’s talk mindset for a second. A while back I wrote a post on why a mindset of success is imperative in parenting. It’s tough to do anything well if you expect to do poorly at it.  

You are capable of exceptional parenting.  

Remember that when you’re discouraged, when you feel like you’re failing, when it seems like nothing is working.  Put on your big girl panties and stick with it, because one bad day is not going to ruin years of hard work.  

Plan on success, and accept nothing less.  

Thinking long term, what are your goals for your child? Do you want them to be kind? Do you want them to be successful? Do you want them to enjoy good relationships with the people around them? Do you want them to be confident? Healthy? Happy?  

Don’t be afraid to literally make a list, if that’s going to help you. I’m a list person, and I believe in practical application of things that I learn.  

Do you have some goals in mind? Great! Now, what can you do TODAY to help THEM attain these goals (because at the end of the day, it’s their life after all)?  

Back to the idea of the instant gratification culture. The things that matter, I mean really matter in the long term, are not going to give you instant results. Just because you take your preschooler with you to the soup kitchen to help the homeless doesn’t make her an instant humanitarian. Just because you’re teaching your 8-year-old how to empathize with others doesn’t mean he’s going to be the most popular kid on the playground.  

Patience and consistency are key 

Don’t be discouraged. Be consistent. 

Because one day, you will see those results. And all of the hard work will be worth it then.  

Isn’t that one of – if not THE – most joyous moments of parenting? When you realize that the child YOU raised has become a thriving adult with admirable character?  

Don’t get stuck in the here and now. You may be frustrated by the fact that you’ve told your kid 20 times to use his fork, not his hands. But one day, that son is going to go have dinner with his future in-laws, and he’ll be thankful for all the effort you put into cultivating his good manners (and so will they).  

What happens if you jump around? 

Children thrive on routine. That is one of the most basic truths of parenting. If you are constantly switching up that routine because something “isn’t working”, you’re going to have a bad time.  

If children come to anticipate that you won’t stick with your new discipline strategy or routine, they will have little motivation to adapt their behavior. After all, they know you’ll just try something else in a few days.  

Now, I’m not saying that there is never a time to change your strategy. Here are some situations in which you SHOULD change it.  

  • You have tried for several weeks to change a behavior, and you have seen no improvement.  
  • You have completely extinguished a negative behavior, or formed a positive habit, and your child no longer needs help with it. You can move on to something else.

  

Here is what long-term parenting looks like, and why it's so important to keep the end goals in mind. | Mom but not a Mom

So, to recap: 

  • Parent with the end goals in mind 

  • Be consistent with the application of your parenting strategies 

  • Don’t jump from strategy to strategy – try every new method for at least a month before deciding if it’s working or not 

  • Remember that some results won’t be seen until children are much older – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important! 

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