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What to do When a Parenting Technique Doesn’t Work

In our society, we have come to expect results in an instant.  We love microwave popcorn, instant oatmeal, remote controls, and Pop Tarts.  If a website doesn’t load up within two seconds, we are on to another one.  If someone doesn’t answer the phone within three rings, we hang up.  We want results and we want them now.  Parents with this mindset would be wise to separate it from their parenting.  Expecting instant results in this arena will leave you feeling nothing but discouraged and disheartened.

The Bible says that we are to train a child in the way he should go.  If you watch athletes train, it is not instant success.  They have to work hard at the same thing day after day until they get it right.  Parents get upset when they don’t see instant results from a new parenting tip or technique, claiming “this isn’t working!”  Slow down, stick to it and you, like the athlete, will see results.  Remember, the technique itself is not magic.  Your consistency is what will produce the change you desire in your child’s life.

But what do you do if a technique just doesn’t seem to be working?  Use this checklist to evaluate the situation:

  1. Ask yourself, “Why it isn’t working?”  Are there any noticeable inconsistencies?  Do both parents feel the same urgency to change the behavior in question?  Studies in behavioral psychology reveal that behavior that is intermittently reinforced is the hardest to extinguish.  If both parents are not handling a situation in the same manner or if you sometimes stick to you guns and other times do not, your child will have little success in eliminating the unwanted behavior.
  2. Does the technique make sense for what you know of your child? Not every parenting intervention works for every child.  Removing a prized toy may be very motivating for one child while another child would not change a thing even if everything he had was taken away.
  3. Do you believe in the technique? If you have doubts about the effectiveness of what you are trying to implement, then it will likely fail.  If you question your own authority to make a necessary change, so will your children.  Do not underestimate the power of parental conviction.
  4. Have you given it enough time? It is likely that the behavioral problems you are aiming to address did not happen overnight and therefore will not disappear overnight.  Look for incremental changes as your signposts that you are on the right path.
  5. Pray about it.  Ask God to show you what He wants you to learn from the situation.  Just because you are not feeling successful immediately does not mean you are on the wrong path.  Struggles bring growth.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  However, this “good” that Paul speaks of does not necessarily feel good.  As you try to instill godly character in your children, remember that God is doing the same for you, His child.

About the author

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in children and families. CfP is the place she combines some of her very favorite things: writing, parenting and God’s word. She loves encouraging parents to build their families upon Jesus, the one true Cornerstone. She is happily married to a wonderfully supportive husband and is the mother of two delightfully inspiring children.

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