, Salem, MA


April 25, 2014

Dr. Kate's Parent Rap: FAST parenting: the value of flexibility

I have developed a FAST parenting model to help parents be more effective problem solvers in real time. The FAST model emphasizes four essential parenting components: flexibility, authority, structure and transition. FAST teaches parents how to incorporate real time, effective parenting into the fast-paced lifestyle of today. The model also teaches parents how to manage parent-child interactions quickly while promoting a strong parent-child connection. This week, I will discuss the first component, flexibility. Subsequent columns will address the other components.

Flexible parenting is imperative in today’s world where the parenting moment passes in a flash, interrupted by technology, the next place to be, or an overdue assignment. Being flexible within an existing structure and with an authoritative mind-set allows parents to maximize their effectiveness while living in a shorthand world. Flexibility is the antidote to parent-child power struggles that zap hours of time and energy once they ensue.

Flexible parenting encourages parents to use their discretion and judgment in daily decision making, while adhering to necessary structure and routine.

So, for example, if your child takes a nightly shower, and they get home late on a certain night, parents can decide that on that night, their child doesn’t have to take a shower; in other words, it’s OK for parents to decide that on any given night, circumstances and their authority as parents trump routine.

That’s correct, routine can be interrupted by parenting discretion. I can’t tell the number of parents who are fearful of using their discretion to modify the routine that’s working under typical circumstances. They tell themselves, “It’s the routine, and if we break it once, then it will crumble.” An effective routine does not disappear if it’s modified appropriately.

The importance of being flexible in any given situation is to avoid power struggles that can erupt when the established routine is unrealistic because of unforeseen or changing circumstances. Because a nightly shower is part of the routine, does that mean if their child is vomiting or has a high fever, they have to take a shower? It probably wouldn’t be good for the child and actually might make them feel sicker. Where do parents draw the line?

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