Nowadays, we expect everything to be fast. Technology has enable us to expect our every effort to be met with an immediate result. And then we become parents.
When we’re raising children, no effort is met with immediate results. Are you working to train your baby to sleep through the night? Several months from now, your efforts will pay off. Have you decided to toilet train your toddler? Hope you’re not planning for dependably dry underwear for a few weeks.
Children are complex creatures who—at any given time—are balancing a number of conflicting agendas. Infants are learning to attach to their parents at the same time their parents are trying to teach them to sleep alone. Toddlers are completely invested in autonomy at a time when their parents want to tell them when and where to potty.
This phenomenon of conflicting agendas continues as they’re growing up in our homes. Through childhood and adolescence, kids respond to our urging at the same time they seek other priorities.
Homework may not rank as high as basketball. A clean room comes in a distant second behind a fabulous social life. Again and again, parents’ pleas seem to fall on deaf ears as children fail to make the progress we wish for them.
A parent was telling me how he and his wife have tried to get their teenage daughter to be more successful at school. He asked what they were doing “wrong” that would explain their frustrating lack of progress.
Listening to this earnest dad, I realized that they’re doing everything exactly right. They just haven’t done it long enough yet.
The truth is that when it comes to raising children, you have to do the right thing over and over again. Then maybe on the 947th time, that same technique will finally work as you see the fruition of what you had hoped for.
There are no “instant” successes in parenthood. Bringing up children is a marathon, never a sprint. It takes dogged determination and grit beyond what many other contemporary tasks demand of us.
My hope is that through the long arduous journey of raising a child to responsible adulthood, moms and dads will not lose heart. Doing the right thing many times over will eventually lead them where we hope they'll go.