April 26, 2018
Ever have one of those parenting days. You know the one. The epic day of battle. It usually starts the minute feet hit the floor. Closet doors slam. Indecipherable murmurings fill the bedroom of your precious child and cloud the calm of the house. You quickly realize if you aren’t prepared to bring your A game on days like this, returning to bed is your best option. I recall countless days of parenting that I desired to utter, “Fine. Whatever. Go ahead.”
Think about it. Those four words equal freedom for parents everywhere. “Fine.” The indication of passive acceptance. Devoid of argument or battle. It rolls off the lips with minimal effort. It can even have a flair of deep-rooted sass. When you utter the word “fine,” you simply indicate you accept the decision being made.
“Whatever.” Again, argument-free. Do whatever you want. Your call. I refuse to argue the point with you. Do whatever you think is best for you. “Go ahead.” I consent. Go for it. On days of epic battles, I desperately desire to utter, “Fine. Whatever. Go ahead.” I find it to be the path of least resistance. These words eliminate hours of debate, temper tantrums, and power struggle. Especially in a home filled with three strong-willed individuals.
When I recently suggested that this would become my new mantra, a dear mentor and hero, Wendy Strait, said, “You would never get through the first sentence.” She’s right. I wouldn’t. Or would I? The opportunity to test my ability to truly embrace this parenting mantra presented itself literally 48 hours later after I made my claim.
Maddy called to inform us she did not want to return to NAU in the fall for her junior year. I’m sorry, what? She repeated her statement. Paul looked up from his phone and stared at me. I held my composer because the FaceTime camera held me captive. My every move recorded for her to see. Paul started to respond. I frantically paused the broadcast. I needed to prevent him from losing his mind without tipping our hand.
Crisis averted. I paused him mid-statement and blurted out, “Fine. Whatever. Go ahead.” He looked at me “as though I had lobster’s crawling out of my ears.”
Even Maddy did a double take. “Wait, what?” I repeated myself. “Fine. Whatever. Go ahead.”
“Sure. Oh, and to be clear, by Fine. Whatever. Go ahead, I mean, if you return home, you will get a part-time job, attend Metro State full-time, and pay rent to live at home.”
Interestingly enough, Maddy looks forward to the adventure that awaits her next year in Flagstaff. What could have been a battle of epic proportion quickly dissipated. We did not engage. We did not demand. We simple communicated passive agreement with her and put forth her options.
I truly wish I would have embraced this parenting strategy early on in our parenting adventure. Especially with our strong-willed children. Hours of battle could have been avoided between the three strong-willed individuals in our house.
While “Fine. Whatever. Go ahead” suggests passive, argument-free parenting, I would assert that it actually opens the opportunity to engaged decision making for our children. Wendy knows me well. I could not nor would I embrace the reality of “Fine. Whatever. Go ahead.” Ownership of choices remains too important a role in character development to do so.
However, I can embrace a modified version whereby I empower Maddy and Hunter to make their own decision while providing them the consequences of their choice. Truly, how bad is it to hold our children accountable for doing their homework, packing their school bag the night before, or expecting them to produce quality work in school? The sooner we empower them to choose while providing them the opportunity to understand the cause and effect relationship of choice, the sooner we engage them independence.
Honored to Serve You,