Competing Parenting Priorities
The Pattern of Priorities
In working with families over the years
I have noticed one of the most common
obstacles that people face is
competing or contradictory parenting priorities.
This is when faced with a situation where
2 (or more) different priorities are at play
and we must choose which one to follow.
Often the choice is between priorities that
have been programmed into us
and ones that we have chosen ourselves
through analysis, thinking and feeling.
They usually fall into 2 main categories:
Connection and Control.
Independent Thinking vs Obedience
Speaking Your Truth vs Showing Respect
Deepening Relationship vs Keep the House Neat
It’s not that these things are mutually exclusive.
They can exist together.
But there will be times
many many times
When as a parent, you will have to choose between them.
Earlier today I had an interesting experience
around priority setting with my daughter.
I had plans to clean the baseboards in the kitchen.
This is a job that requires getting right down on the floor
with a bucket of water and a scrubber
and cleaning some grimy stuff.
I went into my daughter’s room to
ask her if she would help me.
She said “Yes, but in a little while after I watch my show.”
Of course I consider this a perfectly reasonable response
and I wasn’t on any kind of deadline so I said that is fine.
An hour went by, but she hadn’t
come out of her room yet.
I poked my head in a second time and
told her that I was filling up the bucket
and getting ready to start,
would you like to join me?
She said yes.
So I went about filling up the bucket,
Pouring in some Mr. Clean,
gathering the sponges and heading to the kitchen.
When I had gone to the kitchen
and she still hadn’t joined me
I knew I needed to make a decision.
Should I go back to her room and I remind her?
Should I let her make the decision
of when to come and help on her own?
The first choice focuses on ideas like responsibility,
respect, behavior and following through on
what you say you’re going to do.
The second choice is about showing her trust,
honoring her independence,
treating her as an equal rather
than as if I’m an authority figure.
If you know me at all
you know I chose the second.
I decided to just relax and
let her come when she felt like it.
I did have both inclinations inside me.
I could feel two priorities
bumping up against each other.
The Pivotal Moment of Choice
This is where I had to choose.
I chose connection.
I chose relationship.
I chose to show respect
rather than demand it.
The wonderful thing is of course
3 minutes later she came out,
hunkered down on the floor and
started scrubbing the baseboards with me.
We laughed, joked around
and generally had a good time.
When she came out she didn’t feel pressured or rushed.
She was able to make her own decision,
choose her own timing and
listen to her own feelings.
If I had pushed her then all of the things
that I would have hoped to teach I would
have actually taught the opposite.
My role as a guide isn’t to choose for you,
But to help you make and implement
When I work with parents I often tell them
that my job isn’t to choose their priorities for them.
My role is to point out the
different priorities that are available
and show them exactly what
they look like when put into action.
Each of us really is responsible for
choosing our own hierarchy of priorities.
Once we do then we have to
go about engaging in the work
of actually following them.
This is when competing priorities
force us to become conscious
and make a choice.
That is why I call this style of parenting
The hardest part about it is
the continuous requirement to stay conscious.
Whenever we act unconsciously
we’re no longer choosing
we are following the scripts
that we are programmed with.
When we write our own script
we are using the power of choice
that we have to direct our
lives and our relationships.
When this happens the experience of
priorities coming head to head with each other
can be seen as an opportunity instead of an obstacle.
It is an opportunity to choose love
Choose connection and