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Pre-empt the future for your kids

12 November
Posted by:
Michael Grose
Often we spend a great deal of time in reactive mode as parents. We react to children’s poor behaviour to get some change. We react when children have social problems to help them get by. We react when there’s a poor school report so that learning can improve.

This is the way of parenting.

But there is also a time to be pre-emptive as a parent, when we look ahead and prepare children for the future.

Parents of three or more kids tend to be more pre-emptive as experience has taught them what to expect and how important an ounce of prevention can be.

There are three ways to be pre-emptive, that we can miss when we become pre-occupied with the present or the past.

1. Pre-empt problem behaviours: You know that your child is likely to behave poorly in certain situation (in supermarkets, birthday parties or other social events) so you either avoid these situations, or simply grin and bear it. Alternatively, you can pre-empt these situations with strategies such as behaviour rehearsal (find out more in Behaviour), talking through the situation first, or shortening attendance times (get good at short shopping trips then extend them).

2. Pre-empt new situations: Perhaps your child is getting to the age when he is about to start dating, going to movies on her own, using Facebook or whatever. These are times to talk calmly about the rules and expectations and get suggestions from your child, so you can reduce the likelihood of future demands. Also, children are more likely to stick to the rules when they have had a say in making them so it’s a wise idea to consult (For more ideas on giving kids a say without giving up your power check out One Step Ahead and Family Meetings).

3. Pre-empt the next developmental stage: Effective parenting is all about preparing children for the next stage of their lives. These stages include starting school, starting secondary school, starting go outing on their own, starting work or tertiary education.

As your kids approach each stage ask yourself this question: What are the three skills my child needs to develop to handle the next stage of his or her life WITHOUT me?

HINT: Don’t think too long and hard about this. For starting school, it can be how to unwrap a lunch, how to sit down alongside others and share, and how to ask for help politely. For starting secondary school it can be how to read a school map, how to ask for help and how to use a bus schedule.

They need many skills, but start by identifying just three and you’ll find that plenty more will be uncovered along the way.

To become more effective as a parent start the habit of pre-empting. Try to stay one step ahead of your child by looking ahead as best you can. You won’t always get it right but the pre-emptive mindset will help you build more confidence, character and resilience in your children over the long-term. That’s what Thriving parents aim for.
  • behaviour
  • confidence
  • parenting
  • resilience
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