The following post is from Amanda of Not Just Cute:
My husband has a lot of tools. Zip saws, drills, 47 different screwdrivers, and a whole host of tools I don’t even know the names of (or, quite frankly, what we’ll ever use them for). They’re tucked away in our garage, ready for any need.
Ironically, with all those tools around, I am notorious for grabbing whichever tool is closest and trying to make it do the job. More than once, I’ve been toiling away at something (making it much harder than it should have been) when my husband has walked up behind me and gently said, “You’re using the wrong tool.”
Maybe it was the Flathead screwdriver when I really needed the Phillips. (The Flathead was already in the house, and mostly fit in one half of the screw head…) Or it might have been the scissors I tried to make due when wire cutters were in order. (I think the wire put a bigger dent in the scissor blade than the scissors put in the wire.)
More times than not, I know there’s a better tool out there in the garage, it’s just much easier to grab the one that’s already in the house. At least it seems easier, until I start using it. After a few minutes of extra work, and perhaps some stripped screws, I realize I could have saved myself a lot of trouble by taking the extra time to get the right tool.
Using a Parenting Toolbox
Unfortunately, sometimes we find ourselves as parents doing something similar.
We jump quickly to use worn parenting tools like time out, when another tool may be better suited to the task. Or we cling to tools of intimidation, like anger or harshness.
Just as I have often grabbed the closest tool when I knew that a better tool was only steps away, we sometimes reach automatically for the parenting tools that come to us most easily. Whether they are a part of the parenting script we learned in our own childhood, or simply those we’ve become comfortable with through habit, when we look more closely, we realize that a better tool lies nearby.
Sometimes, when we step back and analyze, we see that with the right tool we could have saved ourselves a lot time in the long run. Other times, we see that forcing the wrong tool, as in my experience with the screwdriver, not only doesn’t work well, but causes harm instead.
Why the Right Tool is Important?
Frederick Douglas once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
That isn’t to say that raising good kids is easy. But the work of repairing an entire childhood of broken trust, missed opportunities for guidance, and forceful coercion is much harder.
Raising good kids is hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing something wrong just because it’s hard.
But that hard work can begin to feel easier, when we implement the right parenting tools. And the best part is, by reaching a little farther for the right tools, and teaching our children for long term growth, rather than controlling them for short term results, they become increasingly capable of monitoring their own behavior. And as a bonus, your relationship isn’t stripped of its strength.
Step Back and Choose Carefully.
Part of what we have to remember is that you can’t approach every parenting challenge with the same tool.
Just as we can’t use a hammer for every household problem, we can’t approach every behavior challenge with the same technique. It’s like trying to get a screw to go in by hitting it with a hammer. So often we catch ourselves saying, “But it worked with ‘this child’ or in ‘this situation’ or for ‘this parent’, why doesn’t it work now?” Or we find ourselves responding to every misbehavior with the same tool: Always a time out, or a spanking, or “the glare”. It’s consistent, sure. But is effective? Not necessarily.
To do the hard work of building strong children we have to fill our toolboxes with all the best parenting tools, and we have to take the extra time — and patience — to reach for the right tool at the right time. Maybe we need to take a minute to connect before we correct. Maybe we need to phrase our expectations more clearly and positively. Perhaps it’s time to redirect. Or maybe it’s simply become time to disengage. When we are prepared and intentional with our tools we can work more efficiently.
So the next time you find yourself in a crisis and reaching for a parenting tool, ask yourself, “Is this the right tool, or is it just the closest/easiest/familiar one?” When we take an extra moment to choose the right tool, we’ll be better equipped for the task of building strong children.
What is the most effective tool in your parenting toolbox?
Amanda Morgan writes about whole child development at her blog, Not Just Cute, and is the author of the Ebook, Parenting with Positive Guidance: Tools for Building Discipline from the Inside Out. She has also recently opened registration for a Parenting with Positive Guidance Ecourse, which teaches about the philosophy and tools of positive guidance, and how to implement them successfully in your own home. Check out the details here — and be sure to take advantage of the $25 TEAM discount!