According to the Parenting The Modern Family Rule #2, it is important for every family to have a plan – otherwise you are a REACTIONARY PARENT instead of a PURPOSEFUL PARENT.
A REACTIONARY PARENT is one that parents based on whatever crisis is exploding at the moment. A reactionary parent’s go-to parenting skills are typically yelling, overreacting, threatening unrealistic consequences (i.e. “I’ll throw ALL your toys in the trash if this room is not picked up in 5 MINUTES!”), and/or belittling. This type of parenting might get the crisis solved in the short-term, but it is ineffective when trying to teach kids how to be great people in the long-term.
Reactionary parents tend to use the same unsuccessful go-to skills again and again because they have not taken the time to plan ahead. In psychology, we use a term called a HEURISTIC to describe a mental shortcut that is useful in allowing people to solve problems and/or make judgments quickly – but not necessarily effectively. A reactionary parent develops heuristics based on emotions and past experiences.
For example, let’s say a reactionary parent asked her teenager to do the dishes and, when this parent checked the kitchen an hour later it was full of dirty, smelly dishes. The feeling of anger starts to explode inside of this parent. Emotion starts to rob her of all of her clear thinking abilities. Her rule-of-thumb heuristic (based on past experiences when her teenager did not do what she was asked) is to yell at her kid and make her kid feel bad until the kitchen gets cleaned. So, she yells and/or belittles her teenager until the kitchen is clean.
In contrast, a PURPOSEFUL PARENT is one that has planned ahead and parents based on the family priorities that are important to him or her. When a crisis happens, the purposeful parent chooses to use the appropriate parenting skill that promotes the development of the family’s priorities. THIS IS HARD WORK!
It is ALWAYS HARD WORK to push emotion aside and, instead, think calmly and rationally. Let’s face it – It FEELS GOOD to get that emotion out in the moment, right? But a purposeful parent knows that this is not the best thing for their child, so they have planned ahead and they PURPOSEFULLY CHOOSE TO PARENT WITH A PLAN! This plan is based on the core principles that they want to teach their child, and teaching moments happen during good times, bad times, and all those times in between.
In the example above, the purposeful parent would strive to put emotion aside and use this moment as a way to teach the family priorities. This parent would take the time to find out why the task did not get done. If it did not get done because the child lacked the skill necessary (i.e. developmentally, they did not know the steps involved in getting the task done), the child lacked the necessary supplies (i.e. the family is out of dish soap), or the child lacked the necessary motivation (i.e. the kid couldn’t tear themselves away from the latest episode of their favorite TV show), then the purposeful parent is better prepared to handle the situation.
So, now you know that you want to be a purposeful parent and NOT a reactionary parent, but how do you start to create YOUR FAMILY PRIORITIES? I believe that every family should have their own family priorities based upon their individual and unique PASSIONS, VALUES, AND BELIEFS.
First of all, identify what makes you passionate about living life. What is it about life that makes you excited to get up in the morning and tackle all of those difficult tasks every day? Some categories of passions include:
- Animals, etc.
Once you have identified your passions, start to integrate those passions into your family life. Are you passionate about helping the homeless? Then volunteer regularly at a homeless shelter and take kids with you. Do you want your children to learn the core principles of your religion? Make a point to bring them to your place of worship and try to involve them in developmentally appropriate religious activities (i.e. if they are toddlers, then expose them to these services slowly, but if they are teenagers then you can expect them to join religious classes and activities).
Remember – your passions don’t necessarily HAVE to be your child’s personal passions, but you want to teach your children to start developing there own passions so that they can live with purpose when they are adults.
Next, identify core values that you feel is important to live by. You can teach your children values by telling them what they are, but they will definitely learn values best when you MODEL this behavior for them. Some example of core values can be:
- The importance of family,
- The principle of maintaining a healthy work/life balance
- The standard of using environmental resources wisely
- The value of being a trustworthy person.
For example, if one of your core values is to maintaining a healthy work/life balance, you can teach this to your children through your words as well as through your actions. When you use your words to teach your children your values, you can explain why having a healthy balance between work and family life is important. You model this behavior to them when you turn down a work trip in order to be at your child’s important school play.
The final point that I challenge you to think about when developing your family priorities is to identify your beliefs. How are beliefs different from values? The website www.defintion.com defines beliefs as “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.”
Essentially, a belief is something that you believe is true TO YOUR CORE! Beliefs can be different from person to person. Something that YOU believe to be true might be something that your neighbor does not believe to be true, but this core belief serves to guide you in many of the decisions that your make each day.
For example, one of my core beliefs is that most parents WANT to do their best. This core belief helps me everyday when dealing with parents where I work. I know several of my colleagues who don’t share this belief; instead, they believe that modern-day parents are basically lazy, selfish, and/or stupid. I agree that some modern-day parents are lazy, selfish, and/or stupid, but I still maintain that most parents want to do their best – but at times they don’t have the skills or confidence to parent with purpose. If I did not have this core belief, then it would be very difficult for me to help parents at work and on this blog.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
So, I challenge the MODERN FAMILY MOMS and MODERN FAMILY DADS out there to start making a family priority plan that takes into account your personal passions, values, and beliefs. Start identifying these areas in your life, discuss them with your wife/husband/partner/co-parent and get on the same page with each other regarding the family priorities. Once you both agree, start implementing these priorities into the way you interact with your children.
Remember, MODERN FAMILY MOMS and MODERN FAMILY DADS strive to do what works best for their family by blending traditional and modern parenting techniques.
I would love to know what you identified as your family priorities. If you would like to share your thoughts, please put them in the comments section below.