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Consistency December 12, 2007

Posted by dreamom in Parenting.
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I have determined that the single most important quality of a parent is consistency. It comes into play all the time. Consistency tames the two-year old tantrum, controls the seven-year old outbursts, and it calms the teenagers angst.

That being said, consistency is probably the least utilized tool in the parental toolbox. Why? It is HARD! It is perhaps the hardest thing for a parent to do. How do you not give in when you are standing in the department store with your toddler shrieking like you are ripping her hair out? How do you not give in to your youngster when you see them weeping at the prospect of doing anything from homework to chores the 178th time that morning? How do you not turn a blind eye to your child breaking the rules just once, because you want to not have to fight with them all the time? Perhaps the hardest balance to find is the delicate space between consistency and grace…

Earlier this week I went shopping with my two-year old. I know, I know! “You’re crazy!”, you say? Yes. Yes I am, and there are hundreds of witnesses to prove it. Those are the exact words that were going through my head as I picked up my screaming offspring to drag her from the store, abandoning my Mother in a wheelchair to fend for herself. Now, I could have bought a Dora place mat to immediately quiet the screaming. I would have spent money on it – hated it – and ended up getting rid of it. Instead I risked all dignity and mental fortitude and chose to put said toddler under my arm, and drag her screaming from the store.

That is when I realized that more often than not consistency is both rewarding and useful. Right now the toddler in question is sleeping peacefully in her bed, totally unscathed by missing out on owning such a coveted possession as a Dora place mat. Furthermore I realized that in moments like those none of us are alone in the pursuit of raising our children to be responsible adults. I came to that conclusion as people started to catch my eye, and mouth the words “It’ll be okay”. Others touched my arm and assured me that it won’t last forever. There were females, males, young and old, witnessing my child’s meltdown, and almost ALL of them offering words of encouragement and support. It was as though the screams were morphing into the music played as people go to the podium to receive a gold medal. Although I typically have to rely on my own internal drive to stay consistent – with the encouragement of pure strangers the battle seemed a little easier.

Perhaps the most embarrassing aspect of this story is that this was not the first time I received the encouragement of passer-bys. In fact as I stand observing the timeout of my strong willed daughter, or continuing to shop despite the screaming of my ‘little princess’ while in the grocery store, I have been the recipient of many a stranger and well wisher. Several elderly folk, both male and female, have assured me that “this too shall pass”, and “stay strong Mom. It will pay off.” Through this I have realized one enormous truth. When you see a Mom struggling to maintain her sanity, perhaps we can take on the role of the ‘village’ that it takes to raise a child by encouraging the parent. Most are just trying to get through that moment with out giving in. With out your stepping up and saying “I see what you are trying to do, and you are doing the right thing” that parent might not see the fruits of being consistent until they are watching that child grown – and even then it may be too hard to see all those battle’s as steps towards the person in front of you. In an effort to not interfere we have completely stepped away from each other. I propose that the job of being a parent was not made to be done in isolation.

I am not suggesting that we should start correcting people’s technique. There are certainly many techniques that you just can’t, and shouldn’t support. What I do think – is that if you see a parent who is clearly trying to stay the course, to do what you can. Smile. Give words of support. Your encouragement might make the difference. Actually – Your encouragement will make the difference. It might not change the person forever, but it will change their day. When you are a parent – forever is a day.

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