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Parenting for Convenience or Nurturing

By June 30, 2008 - 9:27pm
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I've had the opportunity, in recent weeks, to witness a variety of different parenting styles by watching the interactions between parents and children of various friends and family members. And the thought suddenly occurred to me:

As parents, what is our primary motivation during each parenting interlude? Do we parent, ie. guide, teach and nurture our children so that their behavior and actions are convenient for us, or do we parent our children so that their behavior and actions are good for them?

Most of us, I assume, would prefer to answer the question with the latter statement. But is that how we parent on a routine basis?

And if we parent more in the above, former mentioned style, how is that helping us and our children in the long run? What lessons does the "parenting for convenience" approach ultimately teach our children?

What are your thoughts???

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EmpowHER Guest

Wow, ladies! What great ideas, feedback, suggestions, etc.

Meant to be much less of a lecture or tooting of my own horn, my initial post was intended as a jumping off point, which I think you all caught onto nicely. A couple of the incidents I had recently witnessed to pique my curiosity about this topic were:
1)forcing a nine month old child out of two naps a day down to one per day so that the mother could have more time in her own schedule to run errands, etc.
2) demanding an extremely detailed level of cleaning up by parents of five, and 2-year-old children to ease their own discomfort with a messy house much more so than to teach the lesson of being helpful contributors to the cleanliness of the family household, etc. (For example, when the five-year-old boy put his boxed up puzzle away in the appropriate toy bin, he was scolded for placing the box upside down, rather than right side up.)

3) Sending children to bed early so mom and dad can relax in the evening, not because the children were tired, cranky or had a busy day ahead of them.

The truth of the matter is, as Alison so aptly put it, we all have times when parenting for convenience is what needs to be done. We MUST pick our battles for everyone's well being, and sometimes the convenience factor falls into that category. But, just as we learn to pick which battles are worth the effort, and which simply are not, I imagine we must also choose when the convenience factor translates into "teaching our children for the good of the whole" vs. "training our children for our sole benefit." When is it appropriate to bow to the route of least resistance (convenience) and when must we make the extra effort and make parental choices that, while less convenient for ourselves, are more beneficial for our children?

An example of this last statement might be a scenario during which we discover our child has, in some way, "wronged" another child. We could take the more convenient route and simply talk with our child, demand he apologize to the other child in short order, etc. Or perhaps we could choose to go the extra mile and accompany our child during the apology, or proactively call the other child's parent, explain the situation, and assure him/her that our child will take appropriate actions the next day to rectify the situation.

As I re-read the comments on this post, and reflect on my own parenting journey, I realize this is a tremendously grey-area topic. But I know, as a mom and a childbirth/parenting educator, I am always looking for ways to re-evaluate how I do things...and places and scenarios during which I can do better.

Thanks for your comments, ladies! I look forward to reading more!

Kimmelin Hull
author of: A Dozen Invisible Pieces and Other Confessions of Motherhood

July 7, 2008 - 9:48pm

Very interesting question. I would like to believe that my parenting was geared more toward teaching my children to be good people, rather than trying to manipulate them into fitting my pictures of perfection. I want kids to be kids, and that can be achieved without being uncontrollable brats. I have a habit of asking a lot of questions, and I did that with my kids:

why do you think this...
what do you think would...
what is the right thing...
what happens if...
how do you feel when...
is there any reason why...

I would get the biggest kick out of hearing my little guys turn tables on their peers with the same questions, hehe. I taught them to baffle, not battle.

Instead of "no," I would say, "wait!" I learned a trick from my parents: take the curiosity out of things by making them accessible (teaching them respect for your property, nice things, etc,).

I don't think I would see Alison as being at all lazy. I agree that consistency is very important in how you communicate with your kids.

If you want chaotic kids, raise them in a state of your own confusion.

July 1, 2008 - 6:24pm

This is an interesting question, and I need to put more thought into it...I'll respond again, but my "first gut" reaction is that I do a little of both, honestly! It largely depends on the sitation, but I agree with Kristin: when I am telling my toddler "no" or redirecting his behavior, it is sometimes for me, but that translates often into "benefiting/teaching societal expectations" and "etiquette" that he is too young to understand (or care) about. Other times, I do "parent" with the very conscious decision to teach him something that will help nurture his "self" (can't think of an example right now...)

The other thought I had was on parents "picking battles". I do witness parents at the playground, during playdates, or in a store, who aren't consistent with their kids, perhaps parenting out of convenience in that moment...but we do not know what has happened throughout the rest of the day! I will sometimes pretend I didn't see something my toddler has done, because most of the time it is to get my attention. Other parents who see this interaction may think I am being lazy, but I'm being lazy with a higher purpose! :-)

I would be interested in hearing some specific examples about what you witnessed: that would be an interesting conversation!

July 1, 2008 - 3:08pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hi, Kimmelin!

I've not thought of the parenting for convenience approach before ... you bring up some interesting concepts here. I guess I'd like to think that if I were parenting so that my kids' behavior/actions are good for me, it's with the expectation that it's good for the greater society as well. So for instance if my 7-yr-old is constantly interrupting me while I'm on the phone, of course I'd selfishly like her to stop so that I can focus on my phone conversation, but I also need to teach her to be patient and not interrupt other people.

I'd be really interested to hear what brought this up. What specific parenting interaction did you see that made you think of the concept of parenting for convenience? Could it be translated into parenting for a greater good as well?

Great question,

June 30, 2008 - 9:44pm
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