Kids are hard. Don’t I know it. It’s not just the constant need, the bathing and feeding, the sleeping and snuggling, that wears on you. They require so much attention! They have so many wants. Honestly, the fact that anyone survives parenthood to see old age is a miracle.
I get it. We are often in survival mode. And ya know, if that’s all you’ve got in the tank, good for you. Way to go on not quitting. It’s a hard job and you are surviving it. Pat yourself on the back and go eat a cookie or get a pedicure or watch an episode of some waste-of-time show. You rock.
But keep reading.
Because I know a secret.
And you will want to know it too.
It’s not an easy secret but it is miraculous. And that makes it worth it. (Sometimes I have to remind myself of this fact.)
I named my secret Consistent Parenting. I bet this term is used by others though. I’m not always that original.
In the short run, it is hard. It is a lot more work than letting your kids run wild. But in the long run, it is SO MUCH EASIER.
Basically, my idea of Consistent Parenting is this:
Whatever you say, you follow up with.
When you tell your child they will get put in the corner if they keep yelling, you must put them in the corner as soon as they yell.
When you tell them they get ice cream after they eat their dinner, you give them ice cream once they are done. If they don’t eat it, then no ice cream…no matter how sad or sweet they seem.
When you promise that as soon as you put this load of laundry in, you will play with them, you better dang well go play.
This also means, if you threaten ridiculous things like, “I’ll make you wear your underwear on your head if you don’t pick them up,” then, well, be prepared to put underwear on your child’s head.
Living by this method means you need to really think about promises and threats you make before saying them out loud. For instance, while driving, if your children are screaming in the back, you can’t very well say, “If you don’t stop it, I’ll throw you out the window” or “Noisy kids will be tied to the roof and have to ride up there.” These are obviously not punishments that you can really enforce. And once you start with those types of threats, your children learn that you won’t follow up on them. They then begin to doubt that you will follow up with ANY threatened punishments.
Same is true for promises.
If you promise to play as soon as the bread gets in the oven but stop to clean up first, they will begin to doubt that you really will come to play. If the promised dessert isn’t given after they valiantly struggle through a helping of broccoli, they will fight harder next time to resist eating it.
The biggest benefit of learning to parent this way is more respectful children. If you have followed through on everything (good or bad) that you said you would do, they know when you say something, you mean it. My children never run away from me anymore. They may scream and cry the whole way back to me once I call them but they have learned that running away when I ask for them to come back will result in being escorted to the area they left by their ear. This is generally undesirable.
Besides more obedient/respectful children, you will also have more confident children. They will know their boundaries. They will understand that the world has boundaries. It teaches them to trust the word of people they care about. They will learn to say things they mean and follow up on their promises.
Lastly, at some point, you won’t have to fight for every second of sanity. It’s hard in the beginning. I started my children this way and they still took quite some time to learn. (Of course, they are learning an awful lot in those first few years so I cut them some slack.) Other (older) kids that I have had over to our house get a lesson in this as well and usually, it sinks in fairly quickly. Sometimes, it takes several displays of following through before they realize that yes, I really mean it. But without fail, with every child, once they understand this rule, life becomes a thousand times easier – for some kids, maybe even a million times. They don’t push the boundaries. They stop throwing the tantrums and fits. And maybe best of all, they don’t act out for attention.
Something about consistent parenting is calming and comforting to children. As I talked about in this article, children aren’t made to be our leaders. It isn’t fair to them. Consistently following through on whatever you say shows strong leadership which puts their minds at ease.
But again, if surviving is all you have in you for now, don’t think I’m judging or looking down on you. Parenting is a hard gig and it doesn’t always come natural. I applaud you for even caring enough to click on this link and read the article. I promise, you will survive.