Every child gives his or her parents multiple opportunities per day to practice wants vs. needs parenting:
I want a popsicle!
I want to take Prunella’s toy!
I want to stay up!
I want to go to the dance!
I want an iPad!
Wise parents hear these wants and send them through their Needs Filter:
I want a popsicle! —————> Needs Filter: dinner in 30 minutes, healthy-food-appetite-training —————> Wise Response: I know your tummy feels empty. You may have a drink of water right now, and then we will have dinner pretty soon. No popsicles so close to dinner time.
I want Prunella’s toy! —————> Needs Filter: You need to learn fair treatment of others, appropriate sharing, ownership, and self-control. —————> Wise Response: You can’t always have what you want as soon as you want it. You need to wait until Prunella is finished with it. Maybe you could ask her, “Prunella, after you have played with your toy for awhile, I would like a turn to play with it.”
I want to stay up! —————> Needs Filter: rest vital; Mommy and Daddy grownup time vital —————> Wise Response: I know you’d like to stay up, but it’s bedtime. Go choose a book for us to read while I help your brother.
I want to go to the dance! —————> Needs Filter: lascivious atmosphere; you need to learn to stand for righteousness —————> Wise Response: I know you want to be with your friends and have fun and I want that for you, too, but sinful things happen at dances in a far more concentrated amount than in many other situations. Let’s talk about that and some alternatives…
I want an iPad! —————> Needs Filter: working for luxuries = good; need discernment re discretionary money and to appreciate belongings —————> Wise Response: If you want an expensive item like that, we can talk together about ways you might go about earning the money for it. Do you want to think first about whether it will be worth it to you to work so hard for it?
Does this kind of thought/filtering and answering take a lot of time? I am sorry to have to break it to you but, yes, it does.
Wise parenting = investment parenting
Every little thing you do and say as a parent is an investment in the future — for good or bad. Think about that for a minute. Everything, really and truly. It kind of makes you want to make an appointment to be sterilized right away, doesn’t it? Just kidding. Sort of.
Thankfully all of the work and investment of parenting doesn’t happen in one day, but here’s the thing that’s easy to miss: the work and investment of parenting does happen every day. Every day matters, every decision matters. Every choice gets added to all of the other choices and snowballs into a path of life, a character, a trajectory.
But here’s the really cool thing: even though the wise way is not the “easy way,” in the end it turns out to be far easier than the “easy way.” So, the hard way turns out to be the easy way and the easy way turns out to be the hard way. Crazy, I know. It’s sowing and reaping, suffering and glory, investing and dividends.
It’s acknowledging wants, but parenting for needs.
For more parenting posts, see the Parenting Practice page.
What about you? Do you find it challenging to look past wants and parent for needs? What strategies to you use to parent as wisely as you can? Please share in the comments!