Someone commented to me (about our recent changes in daily structure):

“Life is not all fun and games and shouldn’t be treated as such, sometimes there are things that we have to do even when we don’t want to…”

I think this is a little simplistic. I agree that life is not all fun and games. However, my approach has been to try to help my kids look beyond immediate wants to more abstract wants. For instance, Noah wants to be able to play Beethoven, Dvorak and Schubert string quartets, to get the thrill of performing those great works, to experience the joy of working with others on that common goal. Those are abstract, long-term goals. In order to have those ‘wants’ satisfied, that means practicing scales and studies on the viola today, and tomorrow, and every day. And that may not be intrinsically enjoyable. But does he want to become a better viola player? And does he recognize that this is part of that process? Yes! And so it’s no hardship to motivate himself to do the daily scales and studies. He has made the connection and he actually wants to do his practicing even if he doesn’t always feel like doing it.

So rather than saying “sometimes we have to do stuff we don’t want to” I prefer to say “sometimes we have to do stuff we don’t feel like doing because it gets us stuff we really want.” I think that’s a much healthier long-lasting message to get, because ultimately it facilitates self-regulation and doesn’t rely on other people setting rules for us.

Helping kids forge those connections between immediate action and big-picture wants is one of the most difficult parenting tasks, I think. My kids definitely want more balanced lives; they want to be healthy, helpful, good people with strong relationships. They’re just not yet always naturals at connecting their immediate actions to those bigger-picture goals. I think that they needed a little remedial teaching in this respect — someone to forcefully point their gaze at those longer-term goals, and give them a little experience with the habits of behaviour that serve those goals, so that they can re-affirm the connection between them — and strengthen it within themselves.

At least that’s what I’m trying to do. Time will tell.

Not all fun and games

8 thoughts on “Not all fun and games

  • December 16, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Miranda, I have always enjoyed reading your words of wisdom. I have just become an unschooling Mom (from a traditional hs Mom) and I have to say you were part of that inspiration.

    You said what I have been trying to convey to my two sons and have not been able to explain it simple enough for them: “sometimes we have to do stuff we don't feel like doing because it gets us stuff we really want.”

    So very true. Thanks for sharing your family with me.


  • December 16, 2009 at 12:08 am

    I have to clean the toilet on a regular basis – not because I want to nor to meet some long-term goal, but just because it has to be done to avoid disgusting squalor. I am not sure that it IS always possible to connect immediate actions to nice positive long-term goals. Sometimes we just have to do things that we would prefer not to have to do, just because they have to be done…

  • December 16, 2009 at 12:22 am

    See, something I really want is a house free of disgusting squalor. Cleaning the toilet, which I don't much like doing, helps get me there.

  • December 16, 2009 at 7:34 am

    I happened to read this post directly after having read the Onion story on children as sociopaths – .

    As amusing as the Onion article was, these things tend to stick in my head. Your comments were a nice antidote. I wish everyone could've read both lest they become too cynical about kids' behavior.

  • December 16, 2009 at 8:20 am

    LOL Miranda, so true. I can't think of a thing that I do in life, even the most mundane of tasks, that doesn't have some sort of a goal at the end.

  • December 16, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    I totally agree with you – my oldest has all these ideas of what he wants, he's just not prepared to put in the work to get there – yet!
    I'm having a challenging week with my children right now and feeling my doubts – can you tell?

  • December 16, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Thanks for this most timely post, Miranda. We are working on this very concept at our house. I am going to explain it to them in these terms…hopefully it will make more sense.

Comments are closed.