We can take two approaches to anything that we dedicate ourselves to maintain in our lives: proactive steps to avoid emergencies and reactive steps to handle the emergency when it occurs. Let’s examine our health. The proactive steps, or what I call preventive measures, are exercising regularly, implementing smart eating habits, and getting regular check-ups with our primary care physician. When we don’t do this on a regular basis, we risk a health-related emergency that could cause us to have to take reactive actions, or what I call firefighting measures — drastic means to bring our health back or to just stay alive.
In our world of finance, we know that we should be using preventive measures by making regular deposits in our various financial accounts, paying our creditors regularly, and keeping a watchful eye on our credit. When we let it all slip and a financial emergency occurs, we must react with a fire fighting solution to find more money, seek financial assistance, or sell our possessions.
We could not exist in this world without our relationships. We need others to care for us, to love us, to work for and with us, and to help us achieve our objectives and goals. Preventive maintenance of our relationships means checking in with people, providing things for others, letting them know we care, mentoring, and so on. But, when we get too busy and don’t use the preventive measures that keep us connected, we may see emergency situations occur in our relationships such as backbiting, avoidance, sabotage, or abandonment of the relationship. This could require firefighting actions to save the relationship such as making amends and apologies to others, or finding replacements and having to start over.
Have you noticed that the actions are different? Preventive discipline action items are completely different from firefighting discipline action items. The actions you would take as preventive measures on your car, such as regular oil changes, tune-ups, and gasoline fill-ups, are not the same actions you would take to implement firefighting measures if it stopped running.
Understanding and using this preventive vs. firefighting approach to anything in life, results in action plans for preventive management. This reduces the chances of more costly and difficult firefighting actions required to save or repair what we have.
Raising and disciplining children requires the same approach. Firefighting discipline methods are actions a parent takes when the child is misbehaving and uncooperative. At this point, we are at our wits’ end, ready to call for help, send our kids to the zoo, or find a parenting class. Preventive discipline methods are actions a parent takes the rest of the time; when the children are NOT misbehaving. It is difficult because it requires proactive measures when the kids are behaving well. Usually when our children are cooperative and calm, we use this time to avoid disturbing them and to get things done. But the fact is, if we spend more time using preventive discipline methods, we’ll spend less time using firefighting methods.