“Lazy” isn’t a word that is often associated with “better,” but I must confess that I am, and have always been, a lazy father. Sure, I’ve coached a lot teams, driven a bunch of carpools and changed my share of diapers – but I’ve always done it the easiest way possible – MY way.
Doing things my way isn’t as bad as it sounds. I do listen and I am concerned about the opinions of others – especially those of my wife – but I generally have a plan, and having a plan makes navigating the day-to-day much easier.
I consider myself a pretty flexible person. I’m open to new music. I can stop and smell the roses, I can let my kids play with the hose for hours on end. There’s plenty of room for improvisation in our family, but I see it as my job to be sure that we all play at the same tempo and in the same key. In that way there is harmony in our home. By teaching our kids to play harmoniously within our behavioral expectations, JoAnn and I have simplified our lives. Being able to rely on our children, their judgment, and the way they behave has made our job as parents a lot easier.
Here are three tips that will help simplify your life as a parent.
LEAD WITH AUTHORITY
From the start we listened to our children, but we did things our way. Our kids had no choice about bed time, or when it was time to leave the park, or about sitting in their car seat, or about wearing a helmet when they rode their bikes. Those issues and many like them were not open to debate. In fact, in our family “Because I said so!” became “This is not a debate.”
TEACH THEM TO ACCEPT NO
Once your children learn that no means no, you don’t have to expend a lot of energy explaining or debating things. That’s just the way it goes. “No” is often a really good answer.
At some point we all have to learn to live with “no”. The sooner we can teach our kids to accept the tough lesson and move toward “yes”, the less complex our lives will be. We all come up against situations in which we do not get our way. In school, it’s often a teacher who doesn’t cut us slack, or who doesn’t “understand our problem.” Then it’s our boss, or a banker, or whoever is offering pushback and keeping us from attaining our goal. Learning to live with authority teaches our children to operate within a system and to problem solve in order to get what they want. Starting these lessons at home, where the “authority” is also a loving one, is the best way to ease them into a not-so-friendly world.
LET THEM ENTERTAIN THEMSELVES
I’m also not a parent who thinks it’s my job to entertain my kids.
Once I’m satisfied that they are in a safe environment (which might be slightly less safe than the environment JoAnn would call safe), I’m happy to lay back and let them figure things out for themselves. Sometimes acclimation time is required, but my objective is to get them accustomed to entertaining themselves – whether it’s flying imaginary airplanes, conquering dragons, or playing in the dirt.
Being “bored” is a problem that children should learn to solve for themselves. JoAnn’s mother had the perfect solution when JoAnn would mope into the room and say “I’m bored.” Her mom would say “Why don’t you go bang your head against the wall until you can think of something to do.” Quick, efficient, and effective. Translation – your boredom is not my problem. Lazy? Some might think so – but it’s an important part of a long-term plan. The more problems my kids can solve for themselves, the fewer I have to solve for them — and that will be true throughout their lives.
So, yeah… I’m lazy. I don’t want to do more work than is necessary to teach my children how to navigate the world. As I note in my book, “Raising Children That Other People Like to be Around,” being calm, avoiding panic, and having a plan teaches our children that they can rely on us, so that ultimately… we can rely on them.