Why Winging-It is an Exhausting Parenting Strategy

By Janis Meredith | Posted 1/21/2020

What is your parenting strategy? Are you proactive or reactive? One makes life a huge gamble and leaves you scrambling; the other helps you be better prepared to handle the curve balls that life inevitably throws at you. On top of normal parenting challenges, add in a child who plays sports, and things get even more complicated.

The epidemic of living reactively has infected parenting, and as a result, has made the job of being a parent even more difficult. Maybe you find yourself identifying with actress Busy Phillips: 

“I call myself the all-over-the-place, doesn’t-have-a-plan mom. Is that a parenting philosophy? On a daily basis, I’m just trying to hold it together. Our family has no absolute rules about screen time or sugar or anything. I mean, Marc and I were raised that way, and we turned out fine.”

At first glance, that parenting style may sound fun–just do what you want as a parent, when you want. But the end result of all-over-the-place parenting is most likely not going to make you a proud parent.

In my opinion, as a parent, you can choose or lose. A proactive parenting strategy means choosing. Reactive parenting means losing.

John Maxwell talks about the difference between being a proactive and a reactive leader in his book “Developing the Leader Within You 2.0”:

Initiators (proactive parents):


Plan Ahead

Anticipate problems

Seize the moment

Put their priorities in their calendars

Invest in their families emotionally 

Life is not perfect for proactive parents; their kids still disobey and make poor choices. Financial difficulties, illnesses, and family problems still happen. The difference is that proactive parents have thought about what kind of family they want to have and what kind of kids they want to raise, and they’ve come up with a game plan. They have tools that will help them better face the uncertainties that come in life and in parenting.

On the other hand, Reactive Parents: 


Live in the moment

React to problems

Put Other’s requests on their calendars

Wait for things to happen, instead of planning them

It may seem as if living in the moment all the time as a parent is freeing. And I will be the first to admit that there are times when living in the moment does free you to enjoy your family but depending on a living-in-the-moment parenting plan to raise your family is a dangerous gamble. However, being spontaneous and fun can be part of your proactive parenting strategy!

And here’s another thing about the winging-it parenting strategy: It’s exhausting! Parenting is tiring enough, why not give your strategy some forethought and save yourself some of the hard work of on-the-fly parenting?

In his book, Maxwell asks: Why can’t we always run our lives proactively?

Actually, we can, but it requires a change in mindset. Instead of focusing on efficiency, which is a survival mindset, we need to think about effectiveness, which is a success mindset. Instead of focusing on doing things right, we need to focus on doing only the right things. We need to become fervently and continuously proactive.

I agree with Maxwell. Proactive living beats reactive living. But the problem is that proactive parenting takes more work at the outset.

Think of the hours of planning that go into any big endeavor: buildings, military operations, business development–if those were taken on with a wing-it mindset, there would surely be a disaster.

The saying Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance applies to parenting as well as sports and business.

My challenge to parents is this: How are you being proactive in your parenting? What steps do you need to take to become less of a reactor and more of an initiator? 

Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at rcfamilies.com.