The Role of Pruning in Parenting

Recently, I splurged on nice gardening pruners.

I had an old pair, maybe from a garage sale or purchased 15 years ago, but they were worn out and dull and didn’t work quite right.

Pruners a tool I use in the garden every day. When I walk around my garden they are either in my hand or on my hip. When I see something I don’t like, such as a weed or something overgrown, “snip” I cut it and toss it over the fence to a waiting chicken. Usually this is Sweet or Sour, who both love devouring cuttings.

Here’s the thing about pruning in the garden: You aren’t really gardening if you aren’t pruning.

When you prune you are shaping the plant. You’re getting rid of overgrown stuff, things that have disease, or have been eaten by bugs, or even just growing in the wrong direction. This morning, I heavily pruned my cherry tomatoes because they’d grown out of their space and were choking out my watermelon and lettuce. (And we’re kind of sick of them, too.)

It was time.

Today’s harvest is the result of months of doing small things like pruning right.

Pruning leads to abundance. When you prune things well you are actually helping the plant produce more fruit, grow in a healthy direction, and properly develop into maturity… the plant does the growing but you’re helping to shape it along the way.

When you don’t prune you get unpredictable results. Plants might produce fruit all at once or not at all, you might never see the fruit because the plant is so overgrown, disease might take over, weeds might take over, bugs might take over. Things might turn out just fine but you’re taking a big risk that they won’t.

Pruning takes guts. In the past, I really struggled with this idea. I didn’t like to cut things back… and I have a tendency to try to save a plant that’s not doing well rather than just pulling it, putting it in the bin, and moving on. This year I gave myself permission to be more aggressive in my pruning (and culling of struggling plants) and the results have been great.

The Role of Pruning in Parenting

Kristen and I have been parenting now for 16 years. We’re not experts but we’ve learned some lessons along the way.

Just like in the garden we have a naturally tendency to let things go. Sometimes we’re too patient and let things build up.

I would argue that until you’re willing to prune things in your child’s life that aren’t good for them you’re not really parenting, you’re an adult who has children. 

We’ve had to give ourselves permission to prune. It’s hard for us and I have a feeling it’s hard for a lot of parents.

Just like in the garden you need to learn when to be patient and when to pull out your pruners and snip something. You need to be willing to make a mistakes  by pruning too much sometimes.

But it’s the difference between abundance in your kids lives and not.

It’s the difference between bearing fruit for a lifetime or just for a short season.

It’s the difference between your child developing bad habits and letting those bad habits overtake your family.

It’s the difference between casting your children– your offspring— into the hands of fate or helping to shape them into a happy, healthy adult.

But it takes guts.

And it takes having the right tools.

And it takes giving yourself permission to prune when you need to.

Those are three good places to start….

Published by Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

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