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Mar
09

The Long Game

By

Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerSometimes as a parent you have to play the long game.

I like expressions, but I realize that I use many of them and don’t actually know what they mean.  Take the idiom, “Easy as Pie.”  Does that mean baking a pie is easy?  Or eating pie is easy?  In this 21st Century I can microwave a frozen pie — that’s easy.  I’m not sure that baking pies from scratch ‘the ol’ fashioned way’ was easy.  Maybe stealing pies from windowsills is easy . . .

Luckily there is Google.  I am currently looking up the expression ‘the long game:’

The Urban Dictionary says the long game is having a long term plan, long term goals, or doing things now that set you up for the future.

That’s what I hoped it meant.  Still don’t know where it originated, but that will be a Google for another time.

I’m using the expression ‘the long game’ with parenting because sometimes we don’t get immediate results from our parenting interventions.  When kids are little there is more of an immediate turnaround on parenting instruction.

 

Me:  Eat your spaghetti-o’s

Kid:  [munch munch]

Easy.

As they get older there is more of a delay in what your kids experience as the payoff of parent instruction.

  • You’re the worst Dad ever!
  • I’m going to do it my way.
  • Dad, let me make my own decisions!
  • I’m going to rent a house and move in with three friends that have no morals.

All the above statements are versions of the same thing.  It’s natural for your kids to want to be independent and find out things for themselves.  This is especially true as they get older.

As a Dad, I can tell my kid not to play in the road.  The immediate consequences are extreme.

As kids get older, I can tell my kids not to try drugs . . .  the mid-term consequences are extreme.

As my teenage kids contemplate moving out into ‘real life’ I can advise them to make a budget, manage their time, to not use credit cards, to not be alone for copious amounts of time with people of the opposite sex (until they’re married) . .

The consequences from these actions might not be immediate or even mid-term . . . but they can have some extreme long-term effects.

A budget is a great example.  Right now, my 18year old son is working at Dairy Queen.  We, mostly my wife, have been stressing to him to build a budget and put money toward the things that are important; like education.

However, he gets paid a pittance at Dairy Queen and doesn’t want to save money.  According to him, he barely has enough money to cover his necessities.

Which, but the way, there is some disagreement regarding the definition of the late-teenage version of ‘necessities.’  Both my wife and I have to frequently restrain ourselves from reminding him about REAL LIFE and bills and mortgage and health insurance.  Right now his necessity is gas for his car and money to frequently go to McDonalds.

So, doing a budget isn’t a high priority to him now.  We stress it for the Long Game; we want him to have a budget in the future when he has real necessities.

 

Future Daughter in Law:  I’m really glad that you learned how to budget from your parents, or else we’d never have money to pay our insurance deductible.

My Son:  Yeah, my Dairy Queen salary really is stretched to the limit.

Ok, that was supposed to be funny.  Dairy Queen.  Salary.  If you’ve ever worked fast-food you might be laughing.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you plan to Dad the Long Game:

Start as early as you can:  How early is too early?

“Look Emily, I got you a cute little budget-shaped pacifier . . . “

Seriously, the things that you want them to know when they are in their 20’s you should start mentioning now.

Here’s a verse from the Bible (Proverbs 22:6) that is comforting to many parents parenting for the Long Game:

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Reinforce Reinforce Reinforce:  I’m sure ‘training up a child’ in the above verse is more than just mentioning it once.  If you want your kids to wait to have sex until marriage, start repeating ‘when you get married’ any opportunity regarding the opposite sex.   Keep repeating the important long-term wisdom you want them to absorb.

The Bible talks about some extreme measures for doing this with the truths in the Bible

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 New International Version (NIV)

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Be patient: – it’s a “Long Game” remember?  This, and the next point are probably the hardest things to do as your kids get older.  You may notice that they are making unwise or even unrighteous decisions as they are becoming independent.  Sure, you can advise them to get back on track, but after that, you have only to wait and . . .

Trust God and your actions.  Every boy and girl can get heady and throw out ALL of our instruction, wisdom and righteousness.  But, through God’s mercy there are times where our training kicks in, or our conscience reminds us of things our Dads taught us, and it keeps kids from screwing up . . . or screwing up so badly.

We just need to do our part for the long game, then, when it’s out of our control, we watch the game play out.  Come to think of it now, clearly this analogy of the Long Game is related to the game of Monopoly.  Have you ever really finished a game of Monopoly? – Especially before EVERYONE got in a fight.  So much like raising kids . . . .

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