Stance: Studies on the Family

Brigham Young University Student Journal

Tag: parenting tips

Parenting Tip Series #3

Consistent Parenting

There’s an old saying:  A jug fills drop by drop (Buddha). In light of the saying:  What do these stories have in common?

  • My daughter was home schooled for two years of middle school.   Each morning we had school:  math, history, reading, science, and electives. Then we ate lunch. If all her homework was finished, we did fun things.
  • Every Monday night our family had family home evening. We varied the activities—sometimes having a lesson, sometimes playing games, occasionally inviting neighbors to join us.  But not matter what, we had family home evening and spent time together.  
  • Saturday was a time for chores.  In the morning there would be a list of chores that needed to be done with a note telling the kids how many chores  to sign up for.  Those who came first got to choose their chores first, and as soon as they were done, they could move on to other activities.
  • If the kids had to be taken out of church, they had to sit on a chair in a room with no toys and no treats and no interaction with others.  We never changed or varied from this rule.
  • Bedtime was a time for reading!  Every night we tucked our kids into bed with a story.  

The common denominator here is CONSISTENCY.   Good parenting requires consistent parenting.  Children need consistency.  It’s important that they know what the rules are and what is expected of them.  When children understand what is expected, they know what to do, how to behave and better understand consequences for their actions.   

Consistency works in multiple areas of life. Our kids loved to play at all hours of the day. Like most kids, they would beg us to let them skip dinner to continue playing. While this was sometimes tempting, I knew that the lesson they needed to learn of consistency (and eating nutritious meals) was more important than the short reprise it might mean for me if they skipped dinner. As soon as Dad came home, we would make sure the kids would come in and be ready to eat. This allowed us to enjoy quality family time and helped my kids learn important values.

Our kids didn’t always jump at the opportunity for family scripture study, so we made it an expected routine just like dinner. While we would vary our family scripture reading time, we always read with our children. This helped our kids learn the value in consistently putting our Heavenly Father first and also helped our children learn what we, as their parents, valued.

Another way to look at consistency is to think of it in terms of routine.  As you build routines into your parenting, you actually reduce the stress of everyday life and help children to feel secure.   For example, if you teach your children that they should brush their teeth every night, and you consistently make sure that happens, soon they brush their teeth by themselves without putting up a fuss.   They just know it’s part of the daily routine.  This eliminates discussion and arguments and hopefully cavities.

As you develop a routine for chores, children can learn that doing chores quickly and efficiently allows them to move on to more pleasurable activities.   This, in turn, motivates them to work hard and to organize their time.    When you have a routine for fun things (going to the park, visiting the library, etc.), then children learn that they can put off their wants for a period of time because they realize that the fun activity really will happen.  They are able to trust that you mean what you say.

Never too old for Easter egg hunts.

Never too old for Easter egg hunts.

Even as teenagers, (maybe especially as teenagers), children feel secure when they know you mean what you say.   When my kids were out with friends and we had agreed on a curfew, my kids knew that I would be sitting up waiting for them.  They also knew that if they didn’t come in on time, there would be consequences.   (Yep, once I made my teenage son put 30 puzzle pieces into the jigsaw puzzle I was working on because he came in late!)

These words of advice make sense and seem easy to follow.  Unfortunately, kids like to test you and your resolve at almost every stage of life.  When my oldest son was about twelve, I discovered how valuable consistency was, not only for the kids’ security, but also for making parenting easier.    My son started giving me a lot of grief about obeying the rules.  When I’d remind him it was time to do his chores, he would whine and complain and twist the issues around until we were arguing about all kinds of things—like why didn’t his brother have to do this chore?  Why did he always get the hard jobs? or Why did I love his sister more?  It got so out of control I finally I went to a counselor for help. The counselor changed my life. He explained I didn’t have to answer all the accusations my son was making.   All I had to do was be consistent. So then the dialogue went like this:  

Mom:  You need to clean your room
Son:  What??????????????   I just cleaned it.
Mom:  Oh, really?  Well, you still need to go clean your room.
Son:  Why doesn’t Steph have to clean her room?  Her room looks worse than mine!
Mom:  Really?  I’ll have to look.   But you still need to clean your room.
Son:  But I want to go outside to play!!!!!!!!!!
Mom:  Great idea.   As soon as you clean your room you can go outside.
Son:   Mommmm!
Mom:  I’m sure you can do it.   Let me know when you are done.

No matter how many excuses or changes of topic he introduced, I consistently returned to what I expected of him.   AND IT WORKED!   He eventually gave up and did what he should.   All it took was consistency on my part.

Being consistent isn’t always about chores, consequences, or nagging mothers. Being consistent is just as important when it comes to traditions and family fun.

Every family has traditions; and what builds traditions? Consistency.

One of our favorite family traditions is an annual Easter egg hunt.   Every year, on the Saturday before Easter we get out the dying gear and color our eggs.   Then later in the day, we hold our annual Easter egg hunt.  We fill plastic eggs with candy and then hide both the plastic and the boiled eggs all around the yard.   This is such a tradition, that we even took eggs with us (plastic ones!) when our family was on an outing over Easter.   We hid the eggs at the cabin where we stayed!

It is not just holiday traditions that are important.  Birthday traditions, family outings, or extended family get-togethers can also add consistency to the family.   One of our favorite habits as a family was the Sunday evening game night.   We spent many happy hours playing board games, card games, and in the summer—croquet!   These consistent moments built memories that glue our family together even today.

So if you feel like parenting is the hardest thing you’ve ever done, pause and ask yourself if maybe a little consistency wouldn’t help to smooth things out and make parenting easier.

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Written by Phyllis Rosen

Ten Best Parenting Tips Series: #1 Read Aloud

Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 5.40.34 PMMy husband and I have six children.  Six!!!  Who can believe it?  This fact puts Dave (my husband) and I into the  “experienced parents” category–especially since the youngest is now 23 years old.   Parenting is not easy.   Should I say that again??  Parenting is not easy.   It’s not for wimps or the faint of heart.   It takes commitment and effort and patience and effort and humor and effort and…….you get the idea.      

The other night, Dave and I decided to each compile a list of Ten Best Parenting Tips and then compare them.   Turns out we had very similar lists, so we combined them and narrowed them down to our favorite ten.   As some of you other parents might be looking for advice, we decided to share our list.  Each week on Stance we will discuss one of the ten tips.  So sit back, relax, and try to remember how excited you were to be a parent in the first place.

Read Aloud: Connecting with your Children

Read aloud to your children: From the time our children were born, we read aloud to them. When they were babies they just enjoyed being cuddled and hearing the rhythm of our voices.  As they got older, they loved the sounds of words, especially rhyming and alliteration.  To this day I can pretty much quote the entire story of The Cat in the Hat (Dr. Seuss). These rhyming books were not only fun, they were vital in helping our children learn how sounds go together, which in turn helped them learn to read.  Beyond that, we found that simple books teach great principles.  We have a son named Sam, so of course we read him Green Eggs and Ham (Dr. Seuss).  Because of that book, we were able to encourage him to try new things. It’s fun to quote to our kids “You do not like it, so you say.  Try it! Try it! And you may!”  This phrase helped our kids with trying new foods, new clothes, and even making new friends.  When we read Horton Hatches the Egg (Dr. Seuss) we were able to mosey into principles of responsibility and promise keeping.

When the kids reached elementary school age, they still loved being cuddled, IMG_0788  held, and sitting close, plus now they really enjoyed and understood the story line.  Some of the first books we chose were Thornton Burgess’s books about the creatures of the forests and the meadows.  In this series of books, the characters; Danny Meadow Mouse, Lightfoot the Deer, etc. are intertwined, with each book focusing on a different animal.  (My oldest son, Kevin, loved them so much that for one of his birthdays, in his 20s, he asked for the complete set!)  These books also taught important life lessons, like what it means to be a friend, the importance of preparation, and the wonderfulness of diversity.  Charlotte’s Web (White) helped our kids learn to not judge others by their looks.  Where the Red Fern Grows (Rawls) allowed us to talk about sorrow and death.  Sometimes a book was so sad I had to hand it to my child to read because I couldn’t stop crying.  We continued to read aloud even as the kids got older.   Books that were exciting pulled them in.  Hatchet (Paulsen), The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi), and of course Harry Potter (Rowling) let us explore new geography, pirates, and wizardry as though we were having the experiences ourselves.  

You might think that the only time to read is at bedtime.  While we did read at bedtime almost daily, we found many other times to read.  Taking a break from playing—or working—to relax and read was something I cherished as a young mother.   Everyone needs a change of pace and I loved taking 15-20 minutes out of the day to read.  Whenever we went on vacation we packed some books along.  The kids liked to read their own book, but we also would choose two or three books to read aloud together.

Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 5.40.40 PM During the summer we joined the public library reading  programs.  Having prizes to earn motivated the kids to try  new genres and broadened their world.  We liked  checking out books so much that I finally had to make a  rule that each child could only check out as many books as  they could physically carry.  (Our record for checked out  in one week was 54 books!!!)   We sometimes read  outdoors, sitting under a tree or on the patio.   We would  also read by the light of the Christmas tree, choosing one  Christmas story each night before bed.

So why is reading to your children so important?  Why did it make the parenting list for both my husband and me?  There are three main reasons:

  1.  Because reading aloud to a child can be a totally positive activity.  You aren’t asking the child to  perform or behave in any specific way.  You are simply enjoying being entertained together, and can laugh or cry or react in any way you want and it’s ok.   It’s a time to relax and be yourself and let the child be a child.  
  2.  It’s a way to enlarge a child’s world.  How else can they discover what it feels like to experience war—Shades of Gray (Carolyn Reeder), try to coax a goose to fly—Chester, I Love You (Blaine M. Yorganson), or live alone on an island—Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell).
  3.  It’s a way to teach values without preaching.  (Tom Sawyer:  “you can’t pray a lie.”)

Now that our kids are grown, do they still read?   Yes, they do!  I laughed when I found out that my son Stan has a public library card from every city he’s ever lived in.   My kids like to recommend books to me and we enjoy discussing what we’ve read.  So don’t hesitate—sit down and start reading.   You don’t like it, so you say…try it, try it, and you may!

Written by Phyllis Rosen