Parenting is a Process

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Children are always changing; it’s what they’re supposed to do. Just when you think you have this parenting thing figured out, they’ll change.

You finally get the baby to sleep through the night. Then they start teething.

You finally figure out how to handle your toddler’s rigid expectations for the morning routine. Then they decide they want to do everything, “By self!”

You finally get your 9-year old to keep their room clean. Then they hit adolescence.

This is the nature of parenting. Children change, they need to learn new things in new ways, they need to learn old things in new ways and we’re feeling like complete failures because everything is upside down again.

I tell parents to build change into their expectations. When things are working and then they stop working it means it’s time to adjust. Adjust what you expect, adjust what you’re bringing to the relationship, just adjust.

The process, this parenting gig we’re working, is by definition unfinished until they are off and out on their own (and sometimes past that). Children are not grown; they’re growing. Which means that supporting them, reminding them, guiding them, discipling them, getting frustrated with them, hollering at them, feeling DONE with the whole thing is part of the job description. Because they are in process, it’d be a mistake to assume that the messy child will be a messy adult (they might be, but that will be on them because they’ll be living in their own house and they can live however they want even with dishes in the sink and dirty socks all over the bedroom floor). Most picky toddlers grow up to eat vegetables. Most mouthy fourth graders learn not to go off on their boss. Even the teenager who can’t be bothered to renew their library book in time to avoid a fine will figure out how to pay their bills on time. Really. They aren’t great at these things right now because they’re in process. And you are part of that process.

When you are staring at your 4-year old wailing on the floor because you won’t let them keep their Legos out in the middle of the hall where everybody’s walking or you’re contemplating the clean clothes shoved into the laundry because you told your 10-year old to clean their room and you think, “What am I doing wrong?” I want you to stop a minute and ask yourself how realistic your expectations for parenthood were?

Did you expect your child to respond to reason at every developmental stage? Because that’s not realistic.

Did you expect your child to be able to empathetically take your point of view? Because that’s not realistic.

Did you expect your child to put aside their emotions to listen to what you have to say? Because that’s also not realistic.

So you’re likely not doing anything “wrong,” you’re just in the middle of process. Maybe there are other things you can try to help them gain the skills to move to the next stage but the fact that you haven’t figured that out yet doesn’t mean you’ve failed or that you’re failing, it means that you are in process, too.

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