Consistency in parenting is key to success. Every mom worth her Pop-Tarts knows this. But, if we are being honest (and isn’t that always the best policy?) consistency in parenting is consistently difficult to achieve with any sort of, well, consistency.
Today I am earning my consistency badge – or I’m going to die trying. The situation involves the D-word: discipline.
Contrary to popular kid-think, parents do not enjoy discipline. Most of us dread it because discipline most often involves consistency, which can be difficult to achieve and as tricky as making good gravy. Despite diligent whisking and constant stirring, my gravy almost always ends up a little lumpy. I am lacking consistency, in everything from gravy to child rearing.
Like a good swing of a tennis racket or golf club, it’s all about the follow-through. I’ve never been what you’d describe as athletic and find this aspect challenging, to say the least. Oh, I start out strong. When it comes to discipline, I enter the ring with both arms swinging: "You broke the rules and are now banned from TV until you turn 18, mister!"
Trouble is, statements like this are hard to implement when your child is 10. Discipline lasting upwards of a decade demands a level of consistency I just can’t muster – and forces me to reconsider my strategy and redefine the punishment.
In other words, I cave.
My husband pointed this out recently during a lively discussion where terms like chaos and pushover were tossed about. I was the one being called a pushover, and have to admit he was right. It’s all about my follow-through, which, if followed through would result in the desired outcome of consistency. Sort of like whisking a good batch of gravy.
My current situation started yesterday when son number three wanted a dish of ice cream – 30 minutes before supper. My husband and I told him to wait. A united front is another key aspect to top-notch parenting. Five minutes later, the adults in the family went outside to check the garden. We were brief and returned to the kitchen within a few minutes. Upon entering, we noticed a mysterious splotch on the counter that had not been present prior to our garden visit. After further investigation, the splotch was positively identified as none other than melting strawberry ice cream.
I found our snacking son in another room, with the suspicious smell of strawberries lingering on his breath. I made a polite request, "Hand over the ice cream," whereby he produced a small bowl and guilty frown.
I thought about exiling him to another country or maybe grounding him until high school, but I remembered about follow-through. And consistency. And being a pushover. So I said (calmly), "I told you if you broke a rule you’d lose video games. No playing tomorrow." I felt strong resolve in my words. Sort of like was being a good parent. Which I am. I think. Maybe.
Trouble is, today is tomorrow and I’m dealing with an immediate need for consistency. It’s time for diligence and good parenting skills – not to mention willpower. This is definitely not the time to be pushed over, no matter how weebly and wobbly my legs (or resolve) might feel.
It’s 9:00 a.m. Only 9:00 a.m. My son’s asked twice already if he can play video games. Claims he didn’t understand the crime of ice cream equated to lost screen time. He’s begging the warden for leniency and the warden is wavering. He’s currently sitting on the couch attempting to appear extremely bored. He’s doing a convincing job. I love him. He is cute.
I stick to my guns, but am feeling weak. What mom hasn’t been tempted to rescue her child from boredom, bad choices, bad grades, bad friends, bad hair or bad anything? But if I do (and I might) I will eliminate the opportunity for him to learn from this experience. In the end, that is what consistency is all about. We help our children learn from their trials and successes. We watch as they grow into healthy and mature adults who know enough not to spoil their supper with a dish of ice cream. It’s all I can hope for at this very (weak) moment.
After that, the rest is just gravy.
(Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication" You can read more columns at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.)