Dream Parenting: Act/React or Act/Counteract?
Parenting can be considered a dance where two people, one big and one little, move in response to one another. Usually, there is one person in the lead and one person who follows. In families, it can be unclear who is leading. At times it is alright if a child leads but in the long run, parents must be in charge if the family is going to get the most out of their relationships. In order to do this, parents may need to redefine how they choose their dance steps.
Try this new step: Instead of act vs react, try act vs counter act. Parents tend to react toward a child’s mis-reaction and this almost always ends in frustrated dancers. Don’t react to a child’s actions. Plan a counter action. Problems are predictable in that they will come up day after day after day. If what you tried to do (react) today doesn’t work, you can plan a counter act for tomorrow because the problem will be ready for you again. Parents can have a lot of practice with their new steps until it feels comfortable and natural.
Parents don’t like the idea of act vs counter act because it sounds like a lot of work. It can be but it isn’t as frustrating as dancing the steps of act vs reaction. Parents will dislike that outcome even more. The key to dancing successfully is to be consistent with your counter action to your child’s action. Don’t fall back into the reaction with yelling, threatening or giving in. Try questioning, letting natural consequences be there own teacher or redirecting the child’s misbehaviors. There are many ideas available for counter action. Be creative. Do the opposite of what you usually do. Let the other parent cut in and take the lead in the dance when on is too tired. Sing your request, say nothing at all or whisper instead of lecturing. Do time in instead of time out. Or, just go walk the dog.