I’ll Do It Later


In a large number of families the phrase “I’ll do it later” occurs so frequently that it is a predictable response for many children. Also predictable are the variety of parent responses to this interchange. “You always say that”, “No, I said do it now”, as well as threats, bribes, arguments, and in many cases parents just doing it themselves. Teaching our children to comfortably and willingly respond to parent direction, while also asking them to understand and accept the ideas of responsibility and independence is a goal that educators and families share. In an optimal, well planned family experience, the foundations of these behaviors are established at a very young age. Age appropriate tasks and responsibilities are “expected” and taught. Modeling; working alongside the child; recognition for responsibility and helpfulness; pride in effort regardless of outcome; predictable schedules and organization; cooperation between parents; sharing activities and responsibilities; recognizing that learning is a process, not an event; and a general attitude that taking care of things is not a burden but comfortably necessary, are all aspects of training. Things get more difficult in situations where we have to “unteach” or replace unwanted behaviors. In this case the probable first step is to observe and in some way measure the frequency, intensity, and types of situations where the child is being uncooperative, as well as record our own feelings, reactions, and behaviors. This “data” will be the foundation for change, as well as the information we need to see whether our efforts are successful. There are a number of parental variables that will potentially be counter-productive to the process of change. These include anger/rage; inconsistency and unpredictability; the modeling of conflicting values and behaviors; over-talking; giving in; impulsive decision making; and a lack of communication between parents, as well as from parent to child. Like most of us, I have exhibited all of the “shouldn’t do behaviors” at one time or another. The real issue is one of proportion. Our reactions should be appropriate to the frequency and intensity of the child’s behavior.

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