The short answer is, “Yes.” By nature, we are all drawn to the familiar. That also holds true regarding our parenting style. However, there is more to it than that. We are drawn to the familiar, even if it is unhealthy. Change in parenting style occurs when we acknowledge our familiar habits as unhealthy, take a step toward healthier habits, and stay there long enough for the healthy habits to become familiar.
Mary was washing up dirty dishes at the kitchen sink. She looked through the window above the sink and saw her little Alice playing on the swings in the back yard. “She is so darling,” Mary thought. “I really should go out there and swing with her.” She hesitated for a moment and concluded, “but these dishes won’t wash themselves, and if I don’t do them, who will?” She sighed and then kept washing dishes.
What didn’t come to mind to Mary in the moment was her memory of her mama choosing chores over time with her. Her growing up time was not at all bad, certainly not abusive. But her relationship with Alice’s grandmother, her mom, even today is still a little on the distant side.
Alice felt the wind in her hair as she swung back and forth on her swings. She glanced up at one point and saw her mama looking at her through the kitchen window. She waved excitedly to her mama, almost losing her balance on the swing. She laughed to herself as she regained her hold, not even thinking about mama joining her for fun on the swing.
Mom doing chores and Alice swinging were the normal in their home. Most children do not put together their “if only’s” and “what ifs” until they are grown and look back on their childhood. Mom kept doing the dishes because that was familiar to her. It was what she did. At the time, however, she chose chores over a teachable moment with her daughter. Such teachable moments will be forever lost if parents don’t first choose to venture into the unfamiliar, because they know it is healthy, and continue to capture teachable moments there until they become familiar. And guess what, once you choose quality time with your children, they will be forever blessed by your healthy choices.