Parenting With Consistency
The achievement of a level of performance that does not vary greatly in quality over time.
Jerry Patterson and I knew that when we had children, being consistent was something that would be important to us. “No” would mean no and there would be nothing that could transform it into a yes. As a teenaged couple, we would see kids beg their parents to change their minds about a no and be embarrassed by the manipulations that worked every time on those parents.
Eventually, we married and had our first child. I remember being at a friend’s house when that child was about a year old. She had recently starting walking but had crawled towards a small wooden statue in my friend’s living room. I said a firm, “No, we don’t touch that” and she stopped in her tracks. She looked at me and I looked at her and repeated, “we don’t touch that.” She wasn’t thrilled but had heard these words before and clearly understood them.
My friend immediately chimed in and said, “it’s ok. She can play with that. She can’t get hurt on it and it won’t break”. She started towards it to get it and put it in Erica’s would be accepting hands and was shocked to hear me say, “No, I all ready said no. It’s too late. It would be confusing to her for us to give it to her now.” “Oh, but it’s ok. She can play with it”, my friend repeated. I was amazed at how I had to speak MORE firmly to an adult about saying no than I did a one year old child. My child understood me perfectly and the adult tried to convince me to change my mind.
We didn’t want our children to be wishy-washy adults so we didn’t show them an example of wishy-washy adults. We made decisions and we were consistent about them. It was deliberate and with a purpose. We were raising, nurturing and shaping children into adults.
When our second daughter was about two and a half, we went to my mother in laws for dinner one Sunday. The kids were on the floor in the family room with us coloring when my mother in law announced that dinner was ready. Jerry said to the girls, “OK dinner is ready, put the crayons back in the bucket.” 2.5 year old. Ty, refused. Jerry repeated, “put the crayons in the bucket”. Ty again refused. Jerry sat down next to her, calmly. He took her hand in his, opened her fingers with his other hand, placed her open hand over the first crayon, closed her fingers around the crayon, moved her hand over the bucket and opened her fingers causing the crayon to fall into the bucket. He did this again and again until the crayons were all cleaned up. He didn’t do it FOR her and there was no amount of crying, kicking or screaming that would have gotten her out of cleaning them up. He knew it. I knew it and most importantly, SHE KNEW IT!
As they got older, having taught these lessons at an early age really paid off. I remember one of them having a friend over for a play date on a Friday afternoon, some time around the fifth or sixth grade. The friend came off the bus and we had planned that she would stay for dinner. Before dinner time they came to me in the kitchen and my daughter said, “can she sleep over?” I said, “no, not tonight” Her friend started hopping up and down with her hands in prayer position saying, “please, please, please, can I???” My daughter looked at her friend and said, “stop, you’re embarrassing yourself, she all ready said no…”