Parenting: It’s Worth the Wait!

By: Vicki Bohling

When my kids were toddlers, a firm “no” to a cookie before dinner could elicit a full-blown tantrum. We’d rub our foreheads and wonder how long we’d have to wait for this phase to pass. A year later, we could hardly remember the horrible tantrums that came from our well-spoken, well-mannered preschooler. Back then it seemed like we were waiting an eternity for the phase to pass, and we would have never imagined all the changes that only a year could bring in our child’s development.

Now, fast forward a few years. When our 16-year-old son asks to drive three friends to an out-of-town mall – at night – we say “no” and he stomps, and he shouts, and he slams the door to his bedroom. Yet, we continue to rub our foreheads and wonder how long we have to wait for this phase to pass…

So, wouldn’t it be easier to just give up and give in? It would seem so. Throughout the years, sticking to what we say has gotten so hard! There’s so much drama in every encounter, and so much to potentially say “no” to.

Well, if there’s only one thing I’ve learned about parenting after all these years, it’s that the easiest way to parent isn’t always the best way. But, I’ve also learned that there are essentially two universal truths to parenting that every parent should own, accept, and practice every day—no matter what age, stage, phase, or season of parenting you may be weathering.

1. Parenting is hard. Someone wise once told me that in most parenting situations there’s an easy way to do things and a hard way to do things, and the hard way (usually the most time consuming, most inconvenient, and most emotionally taxing) is almost always the best way, in the long run.

2. Good things come to those who wait. Both research and experience have shown me that parenting is a practice in delayed gratification. It can take a long time to see results, but when we set limits and expect our kids to also work hard and wait for good things, we are giving them a lifetime gift. We’ve learned from research on human behavior that delayed gratification can be a contributing key to success and happiness in life, as results of the famous “Marshmallow Test” have suggested. We all also know (from experience) that waiting is the hard part!

Check out the famous “Marshmallow Test” in the video below:

The brain development expert in the video above is Dr. David Walsh, and in his book, No: Why Kids – of All Ages – Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It, he describes the rub between the unglamorous work and crock pot pace of good parenting, and a surrounding culture that promotes More, Easy, Fast, and Fun. Think about it; when we live with instant messaging, fast food, big box stores and super-sized portions it’s easy to feel entitled to what we want when we want it. Trust me; I love my microwave and my high-speed internet access as much as the next person, but parenting is different. When we raise children with a sense of entitlement, we set them up for a lifetime of dependency. We deny them the pride of earning something they worked hard for and the joy of being self-sufficient and content with what they have. According to David Walsh, saying “yes” and giving in may make life quieter and easier, but in the long run it’s better to hold firm and keep expectations high. Walsh says, “There is nothing wrong with seeking pleasure, but a child who never learns to manage his pleasure drive will be controlled by it.”

And those kids in the Marshmallow Test? In the original 1960’s study, the kids who were able to wait for the second marshmallow as preschoolers ended up being happier, had more school success, and had fewer behavior problems when they became young adults. Waiting is hard, but waiting is good.

So, parents, next time we’re wavering about saying “no” to our kids, let’s remember the research, and stick to our guns. Knowing that we’re all in it together— as we continue to wait, and wait— helps us even more eagerly anticipate the arrival of the day where we (and our kids) will have the luxury of seeing it all so clearly in the rear-view mirror.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sources:

1. David Walsh, Ph.D, No: Why Kids – of All Ages – Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It, 2007, Free Press Publishing.

2. Image via benjaminasmith on Flick'r.

This is true! I wish every parent would read this article. I’m going to send it to all my friends who are parents. Thanks!! ~ Michelle

5

Vicki-as always, you are very insightful. I love your cander and ability to draw
from personal experience… Not speaking to us from an elevated space,
rather as one who has been (and still is) “in the trenches” of parenting.

It is not a glamorous job. But it IS “the” thing we will ever put our time,
energies and resources to with the most significance in the whole of
our lives: parenting and the legacy we leave therein.

That said, I often say that in being a mom, I am “as frequently the student
as I am the teacher.”. The word “humbling” comes to mind. telling
our children “no”... For the purpose of teaching delayed gratification…
for their own good… Well, let’s just say I know a lot of adults who
could stand to learn that lesson (yours truly included).

We live in a culture of “muchness” and “manyness”... And while it’s
not easy? I am striving to learn MYSELF, not only the value of… But the
freedom that can be found in telling oneself “no.”.

“No, I don’t really NEED that grande latte from Starbucks right now.”
“No. We don’t have to go into debt in order to live well.”
“No. A bigger house is not the entire goal of my life.”
“ No. My marriage and family come first, so I cannot commit to every
invitation to ‘be involved’ that comes my way…”

It’s not easy. This business of saying no. Sometimes I, at age 31, would
like to stomp MY feet and slam some doors as well. The difference (the “auto-filter
if you will) that we carry as adults which our children do not yet have, is the ability
to edit our reactions/emotions because we can see the bigger picture
or at least vaguely sense it.

No is a discipline. And as a favorite book mine says,

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Thank you, Vicki, for being you and for drawing
our attention to the most unpopular two-letter word
in the English dialect. We could all stand to undertake
not only for our children, but for ourselves, the discipline
of “no”.

...now, off I go to cancel the order I just made
at the Starbucks drive-thru. ;-)

5

Vicki-as always, you are very insightful. I love your cander and ability to draw
from personal experience… Not speaking to us from an elevated space,
rather as one who has been (and still is) “in the trenches” of parenting.

It is not a glamorous job. But it IS “the” thing we will ever put our time,
energies and resources to with the most significance in the whole of
our lives: parenting and the legacy we leave therein.

That said, I often say that in being a mom, I am “as frequently the student
as I am the teacher.”. The word “humbling” comes to mind. telling
our children “no”... For the purpose of teaching delayed gratification…
for their own good… Well, let’s just say I know a lot of adults who
could stand to learn that lesson (yours truly included).

We live in a culture of “muchness” and “manyness”... And while it’s
not easy? I am striving to learn MYSELF, not only the value of… But the
freedom that can be found in telling oneself “no.”.

“No, I don’t really NEED that grande latte from Starbucks right now.”
“No. We don’t have to go into debt in order to live well.”
“No. A bigger house is not the entire goal of my life.”
“ No. My marriage and family come first, so I cannot commit to every
invitation to ‘be involved’ that comes my way…”

It’s not easy. This business of saying no. Sometimes I, at age 31, would
like to stomp MY feet and slam some doors as well. The difference (the “auto-filter
if you will) that we carry as adults which our children do not yet have, is the ability
to edit our reactions/emotions because we can see the bigger picture
or at least vaguely sense it.

No is a discipline. And as a favorite book mine says,

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Thank you, Vicki, for being you and for drawing
our attention to the most unpopular two-letter word
in the English dialect. We could all stand to undertake
not only for our children, but for ourselves, the discipline
of “no”.

...now, off I go to cancel the order I just made
at the Starbucks drive-thru. ;-)

5

As a first grade teacher I wish this could be mandatory reading for all parents. I see too many parents giving in to their children’s wants no matter what the cost. It is hard to use encouraging words and stickers to reinforce positive behavior in the classroom when children are receiving flat screen TVs for their bedroom and iPhones at home. Great article!

5

As a first grade teacher I wish this could be mandatory reading for all parents. I see too many parents giving in to their children’s wants no matter what the cost. It is hard to use encouraging words and stickers to reinforce positive behavior in the classroom when children are receiving flat screen TVs for their bedroom and iPhones at home. Great article! I can’t wait to read more!

5

Excellent article by Vicki.
I’m writing this comment while flying home from speaking to hundreds of 4 H volunteers at the Western Region Leaders Forum in Cheyenne, WY where the topic Vicki writes about was on everyone’s mind. If we parents and grandparents keep Vicki’s advice in mind we can counteract the DDD virus (Discipline Deficit Disorder) that afflicts many of our kids.
Dr. Dave Walsh

5

I aways applaud my daughter when she says,“no,” because children need to hear it now and then. This entitled generation has a tendency to take many things for granted. It’s not easy to parent, but the rewards of developing open parent-child communication and balance in their daily lives will most likely produce independent, young adults who will make good choices.

For parents of children ages 3 to 9, you may be interested in the Kelly Bear Feelings book that serves to lay the foundation for building an open, positive relationship with your child.

For sample pages, see: books, found under resources on the Kelly Bear site.

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