In this two part article, MCC Counselor, Lisa, talks about those “quick fixes” every parent uses to keep life moving smoothly day in and day out and how, by setting long term goals, parents can use those “quick fixes” to better their children’s lives in the long run.
Living in “survival mode!” That’s what my husband was doing after starting his new job. Traveling and learning the ropes was taking all of his time and energy. So, when I told him I thought the garbage disposal was not working, he was, shall we say, less than thrilled. I was less than thrilled when he turned it on and announced that it was working “just fine.”
I continued washing dishes day in and day out with great annoyance as the water would go from one side of the sink to the other and I would have to (Warning: Don’t do this!) push food down into the disposal with my fingers to get it to work. Each time I would (not so nicely) mention it to my over-stressed husband, he would turn on the disposal, see it was working and say something back that was…not so nice.
Weeks went by, and then I smelled it. What I thought was one of my boys “toots,” just didn’t go away. I told my husband when he got home. I said, “Ha! I knew there was something wrong.” He smiled, got under the sink, grabbed a “lemony fresh” odor eliminator ball, dropped it down the disposal and to my chagrin, the stink went away… for a few days. Then it came back. He dropped another one of those balls in again. Oh, the fresh air.
A week later, after a party, I was cleaning up dishes. The water started rising in both sides of the sink, higher and higher. Even when I tried my dangerous hand in the disposal maneuver, it didn’t help. To top it off, it was a smelly mess! By then the problem was obvious. As most of you had already figured out, it was clogged pipes, not the disposal, and we had a mess on our hands. Almost $400 later, I had a sink and disposal that worked. When I saw the smelly goop those plumbers took out of my pipes, I really thought I got the good end of the deal by only having to write a check. Months of “quick fixes” had created a ticking time bomb and a stinky one at that.
Why did I tell you this? Because this same analogy is played out over and over each day in our homes with our children. Often we seek “quick fixes” hoping our kid’s misbehaviors, attitudes, or other problems will just magically go away. We are overworked, in “survival mode” and we just want things to be “O.K.” Whether our kids are going through “phases” or they have just learned a new behavior that makes us want to pull our hair out, it is tempting to try quick fixes, like ignoring, yelling, threatening, punishing, warning, making excuses for bad behavior or just sitting back and hoping the bad behavior will go away. This in essence does the same thing as forcing food down a disposal, covering up the stink with a “lemony fresh” odor eliminator ball or just plain fighting back and forth on whether the stupid thing is really broken.
Focusing on long-term goals rather than short-term fixes can help families keep everyone going down the right path. What are the long-term goals you have for your child? Do you dream of them being a valedictorian, pitcher for the Royals, playing piano at Carnegie Hall, or being the next American Idol?
These may be realistic or imaginary possibilities for our children. It is natural for parents to see great things in their child. However, when we think about it, what do we really desire for our children 10, 20, 30 years down the road? What are our real dreams for our precious kids? Do we want them to have a personal relationship with Christ? Do we want them to have a caring, healthy relationship with their spouse? What about responsibility, character, happiness? How do we see our child’s relationship with us? The first step in looking past short-term fixes, is to identify the long-term goals.
When we are able to look into the future and identify the destination (goals) that would really make us feel like accomplished parents, we are better able to set the road map to get there. If my husband and I had looked at the long-term goal of keeping our drains working properly and avoiding large fix-it bills, we would have changed how we acted on a daily basis and how we viewed maintenance and upkeep. In the same way, our long-term goals for our children can guide us as parents to plan, act, and react in ways that are much different than if we are just trying to fix it quick.
At this point, parents may be screaming, “I just want my five-year-old to get on their shoes and get in the car! I don’t care what they do in ten years!” I get that! And really, sometimes, we just have to use quick fixes! Our jobs, spouse and sanity depend on it. However, if we are using quick fixes all of the time, they will add up and cause problems. When focusing on long-term goals, we still have to have tools to help us get there. Just like sinks need Drano, parents need tools to keep things running smoothly on a daily basis. If we identify our long-term goals, then we can use short-term fixes that help us work toward the long-term goals we desire.
To identify long-term goals three things are helpful:
- First, focus on no more than three to five specific goal areas. Examples might be Faith, Relationships, Character, Responsibility and Health. These areas should match the values you hold as a family.
- Second, set aside some time to think and pray about each area. Write down some key words and/or statements that describe what you want to accomplish. For example, if the goal area is faith, I might have, (1) has a personal relationship with Christ, (2) attends church as a priority, (3) has Christian friends, (4) values reading their Bible. Again, these thoughts or words are personal and unique to what you and your spouse view as important.
- Last, be mindful of these goals. Think about them, write them down, place them where you will see them (mirrors and refrigerators are excellent for this) and revisit them often to see how your daily parenting helps move toward these goals.
When we view everyday life as a part of the long-term goals we have for our children we are able to focus on the real, heart of the issue at hand and not get bogged down by always trying to fix it quick. In the following article, Quick Fixes-2, I will share more thoughts on how to keep our families running smoothly.
– Lisa, LPC
Lisa is a Licensed Profession Counselor for McGuire Christian Counseling and the creator of Positive and Powerful Christian Parenting, a curriculum that provides practical parenting skills to effectively handle day-to-day struggles, while focusing on the long-term goal of raising mature Christians. To find out more about Lisa or to schedule an appointment or find out more about Positive and Powerful Christian Parenting classes, call 417-866-7773 or write to us on our Contact Us Page.