Why Prevention is a Powerful Parenting Tool. Prevention is a great way to avoid parenting problems and pitfalls.
Prevention is talked about it the Babywise series, but I wanted to heavily reiterate it. One ability I naturally have is the ability to really grasp consequences far into the future. I am always thinking about how my actions (or lack thereof) today will affect tomorrow, next week, and five years from now. My husband has often laughed at things I have asked him. While about 15 weeks pregnant with Brayden (our first) I asked him one night what our policy was going to be on our children finishing their food. I think he thought I was joking at first, but I wasn’t. I wanted to know his thoughts so we could be prepared and be a united front when the situation presented itself before us. It was that moment that he really understood how far into the future I plan, and I really understood that maybe my planning tendencies weren’t so normal. I thought everyone thought the same way I do 🙂
Quirky, different, and even strange as this practice is, it has proven to be invaluable to me as a parent. As I have thought it over, I think that practice and ability has had a huge impact on how well-behaved my kids are (knocking on wood 🙂 ). Knowing my husband, I know that this is not something that comes naturally to all people, and can even be kind of difficult for some. I would say it is well worth any effort you need to give to accomplish this ability.
As I touched on in It’s All About Perspective, foreseeing effects of behavior becomes much easier as you have subsequent children. As they say, hindsight is 20/20. Moms with experience really have a better grasp for how much early behaviors affect behaviors down the road. As a seasoned mom, you have seen it happen first hand. It really is surprising. First time moms can only go by faith that what other moms say is true–that is until their child becomes a toddler and they witness it first hand.
A bit of advice I would offer is to not allow behavior you can see yourself taking away several months down the road. That is the point of parenting in the funnel as discussed in the Babywise series. When a 6 month old blows raspberries for the first time, it is really cute. Even when you end up wearing the food all over you, you still want to laugh and smile. Picture that behavior at 12 months. It isn’t quite as cute. Allowing behavior you know you will later deem as inappropriate will not only make it more difficult for you to train your child, it is really unfair to your child. No one likes having privileges taken away, and you really can’t miss what you never had. Remember that teaching your child today makes it so you don’t have to re-train tomorrow.
As an illustration, I will share something interesting about Kaitlyn’s training times. With Brayden, it seemed I really needed to think about what I wanted to be okay and what I didn’t. It also seemed like I did a lot of training while he was young. By the time he was a year old, he responded to my voice commands really well, but I knew I had put the effort into those results. As Kaitlyn approached a year old, I started to realize that we hadn’t put a lot of effort into training her. I thought over the situation and saw that she just didn’t do things that I didn’t want her to do. I made it my mission to get working and worried about how this lapse in training would affect our upcoming toddler years.
Turns out I was wrong. The first time I consciously told her “that’s a no” over something, she immediately left it alone and went to something else. I eyed her suspiciously. Upon contemplation, I realized we had been doing training all along. It has just become natural for me, so we had started it as soon as she started to do things she shouldn’t. I never let behaviors get too far. I stopped them immediately. It is just part of being a mom with more experience. She has been easier to train simply because I started earlier and it is natural for me. Don’t get me wrong, she tests her limits. She has those moments where she thinks it is really amusing for me to tell her no, and she wants to see if it is still a no (even though it was a few minutes ago). But our training journey thus far has been more effortless than it was with Brayden.
As I also said in the Perspective post, I absolutely love toddler years. Yes, we have had our moments of misbehavior that have left me frustrated, but overall we have just really had a great time. We have a lot of fun learning. Brayden (almost 3) helps so much around the house. He actually helps do chores (when he was younger, he tried to help but it was usually more of a hindrance to my progress. He now really contributes to the cleaning). We have as much fun as we do for several reasons, and they are all linked back to the training we did in our younger years. That doesn’t mean training is over, not even close. We get to focus on matters of the heart and morals rather than worry about sleeping, eating, etc. Childwise really stresses putting in the effort and work early so you can relinquish that control to your child and let him govern himself. The longer you let mis-behavior go on, the harder it will be for you to correct it in the future.
I heard from a friend that in the Growing Kids God’s Way classes (established by the Ezzos) they compare this idea to “credit card parenting.” It is allowing misbehavior happened now that you will have to retrain later, but this retraining will be much more difficult because of the ‘interest’ that has accrued.
What is misbehavior? That is for you to decide. You make those decisions based on your morals, your culture, your values, your religious beliefs, your local law, etc. You decide what you do and do not want to allow. Chances are these decisions will be modified as your child grows up and you have more children. Your definition of misbehavior and freedoms allowed can and should be modified regularly as you evaluate how things are going and how you think they will go in the future.
Preventing misbehavior now is far easier than fixing it in the future. Just as we put effort into preventative maintenance on our cars, like oil changes, and our homes, like fixing potential roof problems before they become major issues, we want to put the effort into preventing large catastrophes with our children in the future.