Good parenting is an artful mix of loving, responsive, sensitive caregiving on one hand, and discipline, raising expectations and teaching new skills on the other. Both are needed.
Many of our stuff ups as parents can be understood as getting the mix wrong. Maybe we realise that we expected far too much of our child far too young in some way and now our child is emotionally needy or our relationship is compromised. Maybe we realise that we’ve been too quick to see a particular issue as a behaviour to be corrected when, actually, we needed to think more about the emotions behind the behaviour. Or maybe we’ve been so focussed on loving responsiveness that our child’s growth and development isn’t being fostered. Or perhaps we are responding with care and concern to crocodile’s tears, accidentally teaching our child to whinge, sook and whine to get their way.
So, how do you correct the mix? In particular, how do you correct mistakes that are already made?
There’s no undoing the past. But the mixture can be saved.
I think of it like mixing cake batter or biscuit dough. The responsiveness is like the ‘wet’ ingredients, the butter/oil, eggs and milk, and the discipline is like the ‘dry’ ingredients, the flour and sugar. Even when you follow a successful recipe to the letter sometimes the mixture isn’t quite right. Sometimes it is too dry and sometimes it is too wet.
When this happens, you can’t change the amounts that you’ve already put in. You can’t remove some of the milk or the flour. And you can’t travel back in time to change what you put into the bowl. But the mixture can easily be saved.
If the mixture is too wet: add some flour.
If the mixture is too dry: add some milk.
Time travel? Not necessary.
Apply it in your life: Have you ever discovered that you got the mix wrong? How did you correct it?