Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Consistent parenting

Yeah, we are all for consistency in our house.  Consistency will win the day, eh?  Often after another meal in which I have been soundly lambasted for my culinary choices and much whining and refusal has occurred, I smile at my husband and quip sarcastically in a sing-song voice, "See?  If we are just consistent they will come around."  I say it sarcastically but not with malice.  It's just the way it is and if you laugh at it a bit it helps.

I was reminded of that this afternoon as we tackled the only concentrated learning task we've scheduled for the school holidays.  Our handwriting - I include the whole household in this,even the cat - is lousy.  And because handwriting issues featured prominently in the mid-year school reports, we've decided some extra practice is in order.  I bought three handwriting books at our local educational bookshop and we are doing a page a day.  Five pages earn a lunch order.  There was much enthusiasm until the first lunch order was achieved.  After that it was decided that lunch orders weren't really worth the pain.  I disagreed and pointed out that they could either do the handwriting practice and earn lunch orders or just do the handwriting practice.  They opted for the former and got on with it with no small amount of huffing and sighing.

Anyway, this afternoon we sat down for our torture handwriting session and one child again dragged the process out with distractions, mild tantrums, huffing and procrastinating.  I thought to myself after it was all done, "It's okay.  Just be consistent and in a couple of weeks they'll figure out that it's just better to get on with it and do it."

And then I stopped.  And thought that through.

Nope.  Don't think so.

If past performance is any indicator, I think they'll probably try to wriggle out of it every night right down to the last page of each book.  So be it.  My job is to hang in there, even if consistency doesn't win the day.

So, can I just say, I think consistency may be a modern parenting myth?  Sure, if you are inconsistent things are probably going to be harder - nobody will know whether you really mean it or not.  But even if you are doggedly consistent, kids will just keep hating some stuff and give you a hard time about it.  That doesn't mean I am doing it wrong or that I need to consult another parenting book for a better solution.  There seems to be this constant background noise in modern parenting that says something along the lines of "if you are doing it right, it won't be painful and annoying".  Myth.  Hard work is what it is.  And if I think otherwise I am going to be (a) more likely to despair of ever getting it "right" and (b) more like to choose to side-step difficult confrontations with the kids because I don't want to face the inevitable conflict.  I suspect previous generations had a much higher whinge and moan tolerance than we do (or they just shoved them outside into the snow to play until dinner).  Because there wasn't any other option.  Now when things get tough I try to negotiate a solution, buy some kind of product to solve the situation or book them into an after-school activity that will engage them better.  Every now and then I need to be reminded that the reality of life with kids is noisy, somewhat chaotic and often messy.  And that's normal.

It just means I need to block out the whinging, drink some more tea and get on with it.  It's my job.


Anonymous said...

I really agree with your comment that "consistent" parenting is seldom easy parenting. We tend to forget our kids are stubborn little sinners (like their parents of course!) and fall into the trap of blaming ourselves for not "getting it right" in our parenting. This was a refreshing encouragement and reminder to think critically about the cultural messages about parenting that we are absorbing.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely! I used to think my baby boy was an angel because I was so consistent - his turning 2 changed my view there! And my beautiful baby girl... We have to match stubborn for stubborn with her! Keep working hard! It's the best way to love them xxx J