When Parenting Children, Slow is Fast and Fast is Slow

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Patience.

This is by far the hardest thing to learn. And each year with every flashy new trend, the idea of slow grow and patience is steamrolled by the HERE and NOW!

It should come as no surprise that younger generations have almost no impulse control, higher demands and BIGGER tantrums when they hear “no.” By contrast, the older generations are quicker to criticize, label, and dismiss. Something everyone is missing - is the roots. “No fruits without roots.” Thanks for that last one Stephen Covey.

Recently, I’ve been slowly working through the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This book has sat in my audible collection for over 2 years. I have known about the book even longer, but for some reason the idea of listening seemed so boring, dry, and unneeded. I AM HERE TO TELL YOU I WAS WRONG. I was wrong in the biggest of ways. This book got my juices flowing like no other.

I have been slowly listening to it, then rewinding and listening again and digesting - really digesting this book. So much so that I want to incept the concepts into my DNA so that I can cut out all the bullshit and really grow. The idea of what got me here won’t get me there - where I want to go - is something I am fully leaning into. I. WANT. TO. BE. THERE. So I must learn and grow.

Okay, so now this concept - slow is fast and fast is slow.

SO MUCH YES!

Covey explains this concept in relationship to being EFFECTIVE and being EFFICIENT. He shares:

“With tasks and objects, we aim for efficiency. But with people we must aim for effectiveness.”

I had really never heard it framed this way. But as he said it, it became clear. We must practice patience when teaching people - our aim must be focused on becoming effective, not just task completion.

For higher effectiveness and mastery, we must SLOW DOWN. First by taking the tiny baby steps, then strengthen all the stabilizer muscles so we can learn to sprint. This reminds me of a conversation I had just yesterday with a parent coaching client.

She was sharing that she was experiencing extreme feelings of burn out. She was exhausted from all the energy she was expelling doing all the things for her children. She was such a rockstar Mom that she was doing ALL THE THINGS. The dressing, the cooking, the cleaning, the scheduling, the fixing, the talking, the loving, the packing, the unpacking, the planning, the getting, the going, the remembering, etc. She was the one doing it all. No wonder she was so exhausted. She was 1 part of a family of 4 doing it all for the entire family.

The problem she was facing - she was a rockstar Mom who was highly efficient. Tasks were getting checked off, all the jobs were done to perfection, yet she was feeling burned out and resentful that her children (and partner) weren’t helping out more.

“What would happen if you slowed down and had the children do more?”

“It would be messy and not done.”

“And what if you didn’t clean it up or fix it?”

“That would be hard, I wouldn’t know how to get them to do it.”

“What if you just held firm to not moving on until the task was complete? Do it with them, show them, include them - but doing with, not doing for.”

“I think it would work for a bit, but they would learn that they didn’t have to turn off the TV before dinner. So what would I do then?”

“Put dinner out on the table, and then when dinner’s over, pick up the plates and carry on with the evening routine.”

………… “But then they wouldn’t eat.”

“Yes, but would they understand that when you say it’s dinner, they need to come?”

The solution to the feelings of overwhelm is not to do more, it’s to do less. This Mom was such an amazing, efficient Mom that her children were learning they didn’t need to attend, Mom would. And when she felt overwhelmed and burned out - she was expecting her children to sprint before learning how to walk. When facing overwhelm, it’s hard to slow down and teach, aiming for effectiveness, not efficiency. Things will be messy, there will be mistakes - short term. Because long term, things will become more and more efficiant.

There are 4 steps to effectively teach someone how to do just about anything. It’s never too early or too late to teach this way. Let’s unpack this a bit using the example of cleaning up.

Step 1 - Do for them.

In this step you’ll be the one cleaning up, in front of them. This is modeling the process for what “cleaning up” looks like. Children are playing a passive role in watching you clean up. They are absorbing the process simply by watching you do it. You can say things like “Here I am, cleaning up the blocks. Making sure they make it to the box safely.”

Step 2 - Do with them.

During this step, you’re starting to create the bridge to freedom. When it’s time to clean up, you come in and start and then pause and hand them a toy to put away. “Here you go - where does this toy go to get ‘cleaned up’?” Coach and observe as they start to put the blocks in the box safely. Congratulate and possible say things like “Awesome work, getting that block in the box!” Here you’re building their confidence and mastery in the task. This is starting to plant the ideas that they CAN clean up because they know HOW to clean up - and it’s a good thing!

Step 3 - Do watching them.

After step 2 is mastered, here’s the exciting part. Your presence is near them when they are cleaning up - but it’s their job to do all the heavy lifting. You are still in the room to give pointers and refocus as they get off track, but this should be where you see the work shift 95% to them. They have the confidence, the knowledge and the skill mastery - now they are just practicing the system over and over again. “Great job cleaning up the blocks! You’re doing such hard work with ease!” I love praising the effort and saying things like “You can do hard things!”

FINALLY THE BEST STEP OF ALL!

Step 4 - Do for themselves.

This is the golden destination! The time where you can say “Time to clean up before dinner” and they KNOW and DO exactly what you say! It’s a feeling that is so freakin’ amazing it’s worth all the investment! You will feel like literally high-fiving yourself at your voodoo kickass parenting magic! You will feel like you have tricked the matrix! It’s an amazing feeling. You have successfully passed the torch to your child - #winning!

Recently, I felt this feeling myself. I have been watching two siblings for 2 years. The youngest is in 2nd grade, and we’ve been working on these steps for when there comes a transition to an activity. Like we gotta get out the door and I need you to get your stuff. The first time I said “What do you need for soccer?” she said “I don’t know?!” I took her at her word and walked her through the steps, creating a list of things she needed to take.

  • Uniform - shirt and shorts

  • Socks

  • Shin Guards

  • Cleats

  • Water bottle

  • Snack

  • Sweatshirt, if cold

In the beginning, when it came time to get ready for soccer I would ask her if she had her list. She would respond yes, and I would ask “what’s first?” then she would take action going down her list. At first, this process took 30 minutes to complete. It was slow, and sometimes painful, but I knew with skill mastery it would get faster. And that’s where I put my focus.

Week after week she improved. Until about 6 months after we made the list, there came a time where she couldn’t find her cleats. It was time to go to practice, and she was running around the house searching for her cleats. What I imagine happened is that she gained lots of confidence in knowing how to get ready, that she started to take the process for granted and got a bit sloppy in the organization of it. So, I waited. By the front door coaching her with questions, but I was resisting the urge to fix and rescue. We were most certainly going to be late - but my job was to not add any more drama to it. Just support her through it. I knew she needed to have this safe failure.

After 10 minutes of searching, she gave up.

“I can’t find my cleats, I don’t know where I put them after the game on Saturday.”

"Well, what can we do?”

“I can just wear regular shoes.”

“Okay, if you’re good with that, let’s go,”

Well, we were late to practice. As we walked up her coach commented on her shoes and then looked to me and said “You couldn’t find the cleats?” and I commented back “I have my shoes, she was not able to locate hers, you are correct.” He laughed and said “Come on, let’s go, good thing this is practice - but next time please find your cleats.” This was an important day. A day that opened up the conversation that she was responsible for her belongings, and her time, so she can go to soccer prepared.

The next week, she was ready right on time. She told me proudly that after her game on Saturday she put her shoes back in her soccer bag, because last week they were left in the car. Which is why she couldn’t find them. After that day, getting ready for soccer was never an issue. It was an investment worth made.

Now the real “trick the matrix” feeling didn’t come then. It wasn’t until this week - almost an entire year after that moment. But let me tell you, I felt like I won the lottery! I was helping her older brother with homework when I cued her to get ready for gymnastics. I asked her to meet me by the door all ready to go in 5 minutes. When my alarm went off, I was still helping with homework (dividing mixed numbers with improper fractions - uhhh…wtf!) when I rushed to grab my keys and go. We got about 10 minutes down the road and I realized I didn’t do an item check. “Hey girl, sorry I forgot to do the checklist.” Get ready for it.

“It’s okay. I brought my water bottle, grabbed my snack and even brought a sweatshirt for my legs so I wouldn’t be so cold. Since I don’t like to wear pants to gymnastics and layers feel uncomfortable.”

There it was.

The moment I was waiting for.

I was overwhelmed and rushed and scattered - rushing to the next activity. And because I had slowed down and invested where I could, she had fully mastered what she needed to do to “get ready”.

It was amazing.

To do more, first we need to do less.

Efficiency for tasks; effectiveness for people.