Of all of the things that helped us raise our kids well, I think, is a decision at some point to have few clearly defined rules that we consistently enforced.
After all, who wants to try to please someone who is always changing the rules and doesn’t always enforce the household rules, based on how they feel at the moment? Talk about frustrating.
If any of you have ever had a boss like that (I have), you know it’s maddening. You go into work wondering, “Okay, what kind of day will we have today?”
That’s no way to live…for you or for your children.
If you are flipping and flopping back and forth, changing the rules constantly, you will have some really frustrated children who are not sure what the rules are. If your children are not sure what the rules are, how will they obey?
So, how do you get some consistency in parenting?
Here are some tips that we’ve implemented successfully:
Have a few clearly defined rules of the house.
When it comes to house rules, everyone obeys them. This includes parents and children.
Teach your children what you expect, and train them in doing right, instead of just correcting them when they do wrong. When they are little (toddlers/preschoolers) there usually is more correction going on, but as they grow, training them in what is right helps to make a happier home.
Have Clearly Defined Consequences to Go with those Rules
Let them know ahead of time what the consequences of disobeying the rules are. As kids get older and can understand cause and effect better, I think it’s a good idea to have consequences that flow from the logical result of the rule, as much as possible. Make sure it’s a consequence you’re willing to follow through on, and not just some empty threat.
Enforce the Consequences Consistently and Lovingly
Don’t base your enforcement on how you feel, what mood you’re in, etc.
Rehearse the Rules as Needed
One of the things my kids have mentioned many times, now that they are older, is remembering the way in which I would rehearse rules with them when we were going somewhere special. On the car ride to the park or the store, I’d go over the rules by asking them questions.
Do we run through the store?
They would answer no.
Do we climb on anything not meant to be climbed upon?
And so on…
I didn’t really do this as if I was a drill sergeant. Actually, we usually had a little fun doing it. I made it clear to them that I had confidence in them. They knew what I expected of them, and they knew that the rules were there to help us be a blessing to others. Sometimes we would talk about how running around in the store is a hazard to them and to others in the store who may not be as steady on their feet.
Teaching Respect for Others When in Public
Let’s deviate for a moment, while on the topic of rehearsing how we behave in public.
First off, I think we’ve all been there, where we’ve had our kids act in some stupendously awful way while we had an audience. Yikes. It stinks. And it happens.
We can’t control how our kids act in public. However, we can control how we respond to it. My basic consequence to bad behavior in public is that we will leave immediately (unless it’s somewhere they don’t want to be, in which case it’s something else).We can't control how our kids act in public. However, we can control how we respond to it. Click To Tweet
Why? Respect for everyone else around me.
My child misbehaving isn’t just a bit embarrassing for me, it disturbs the otherwise nice evening out someone else has planned and saved for.
Paying $7 for a (non-child) movie only to have someone’s child carry on most of the way through the movie is rude and disrespectful behavior on the part of the parent who doesn’t remove their kid. (the kid doesn’t know any better). Don’t get me started on people who let their child play on the floor of a restaurant while waitresses carrying heavy trays of hot food and plates have to navigate around them or people who don’t think it’s any big deal to let their kids run through stores and roughhouse. It’s a store, not a playground.
Manners and training our children to be out in public isn’t so much about saving face or not being inconvenienced, as much as it is about showing respect to others and being safe.
Most parents who are unwilling to take personal responsibility and keep their child from tripping waitresses also aren’t going to be willing to pay for any damages should the waitress not successfully navigate around little people running around.
Lately, it’s getting worse.
Businesses have, for a while, been hesitant to ask parents to stop a child’s behavior for fear of the mom or dad taking offense. Now, they even more worried because of the number of parents who then immediately take to social media to call out the business for “hating children” or some other nonsense. Really? Sometimes I read stories like that on social media and the news and wonder how this is even an issue.
No one out on a date night, having hired a babysitter, wants to listen to someone else’s kid caterwauling through a movie and a meal. And, I say this as a mom of five who loves kids.
So, what do you do?
I’ve only had to do it twice, and twice is all it took to learn that I meant it. (That’s the benefit of consistent, clear consequences).
I got up and left, with the kids.
Food on the table? Too bad.
Hungry? Shouldn’t have gotten out of your seat after I told you not to wander around.
Want to see the end of the movie? I’m so sorry you couldn’t seem to stop disturbing everyone around you.
In fact, the one time I got up from a restaurant, I found out, as I tried to pay for my meal, that the couple we had been disturbing paid for our meal as a thank you for respecting them enough to inconvenience myself by leaving. I had made each of my kids apologize to them as we left, and told the waitress I’d be back to pay the bill after I got them into the entryway.
This kind of discipline, providing a logical consequence to breaking a rule, sticks better than something like a time out or a spanking. It only happened once at a restaurant and once at a movie, but let me tell you, the lesson stuck. My kids still talk about it and remember it. Sometimes they joke that they’ll be telling that story to the therapist years from now. 🙂