Mother doesn’t always know best

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One of parenting’s greatest challenges is learning to trust and have faith. 

We all have very different working styles. Rationally we know this to be true. We have dealt with colleagues and with enough work teams to know individuals have their own way of delivering outcomes. Somehow this rational understanding flew out the window when I started to coach my children through their homework.

“Get your stuff done before you go off to play.”

“Are you sure you’ve finished everything? Show me!”

Rewards of outings, play, relaxation or any other activity deemed to be non-productive could only happen after they got through their list of responsibilities.

For years this was the modus operandi in our home. Some quickly fell into line and operated effectively under this regime. Others however, struggled and there we fought endlessly. Being ever persistent, I pushed on, even harder. Feeling utterly convinced in my heart that an integral part of my role as a parent was to impart best practice in managing work & deliverables so as to form good habits: an effective work ethic that will take them from the age of 6 to adulthood. It had to be one of the most critical KPIs for me in this role a parent.

We would kick off each after-school afternoon with each child writing up a “to do list” on the whiteboard, prioritized in order of what was due first or tomorrow. They would tick that list off on completion and only have free time to chill and play afterwards. The team outlier however, for years was a reluctant participant and challenged the effectiveness of this system. We had many calm discussions – me espousing the importance of this full proof method and her nodding in agreement. At other times we yelled at each other disrespectfully, threatened each other with extreme forms of “You will never ever…” and “I don’t care…”. Sometimes there would be quiet pleas of “But mom, I promise …” and on days when these promises weren’t kept, I would either respond with the silent treatment or explode in uncontrollable rage.

This year I made a decision to let my child lead. She is at the cusp of middle school and this just was not working for her and for me. I took a deep breath and let go. It has been several weeks and I was curious to find out her perspective. Last week I found an opportune moment to ask. This was what I learnt. She appreciated the power of choice and preferred to decide if she would start her work, even if it was after playtime, an outing or activity. Enjoying these rewards first then meant she didn’t spend the time dreaming about it, distracted and slowing her down while at her task. Delayed gratification is not for everyone. It was at times, counterproductive, as was my nagging or reminding albeit with the best of intentions. Apparently my “gentle reminders” created anxiety.

We have our good days where work is diligently and enthusiastically completed and other days where I bite hard on my lip and not comment on the items left unfinished on her list. Instead I remind myself of these wise words:

“At the center of your being

You have the answer;

You know who you are

and You know what You want.” Lao Tzu

Mother doesn’t always know best. Time for me to step away so that self knowledge can shine through.

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