[Shared by Best Dad I Can Be]
Ben lost his temper and threw a cricket stump at me the other day. It missed, but only just. Was it deliberate? I don’t know – at the time I didn’t care. I was tired from work, the sun was shining, and I’d drunk two glasses of red wine.
Then Jessica bumped into me yesterday. I’d just told her off so it may have been deliberate – I don’t know. But it made my spill my tea – so I lost my temper, sent her upstairs and came pretty close to smacking her. After all, I was tired from work, the sun wasn’t shining and I hadn’t drunk any red wine.
“Be consistent,” the parenting books tell you. “Children appreciate boundaries. Good parents let children know how far they can go – and no further. Make rules and stick to them – consistently.” That’s what the experts say, and as a parent of nearly eleven years standing I say… Well, they can’t print what I say.
Because consistency is impossible. Sometimes you’re tired, sometimes you’re not. Sometimes you’re happy, sometimes you’re sad. Sometimes you’ll dash the length of the garden to stop them attacking each other…and sometimes they can just sort it out themselves – after all, it doesn’t take that long to drive to A&E.
Do you do that – enforce boundaries? Set rules and stick to them? Be 100% consistent all the time? If the answer is “yes” may I politely suggest words along the lines of “Get a life?”
Did we religiously enforce bedtime? You must be joking.
I considered it a vital part of my children’s education to watch the penalty shoot-out in a football match. Besides, the sooner the children learn that the main function of football is to make you suffer the happier they’ll be. I have to get them ready for a lifetime supporting Scarborough.
So Mister Consistent I’m not. Jane and I talk about it from time to time. The conversation is pretty well rehearsed now.
“We’ve got to do something about Tom/Jessica/Ben.” (Whichever one is the problem this week.)
“We’ve got to be more consistent.”
“I’m not criticising you but…”
“OK, OK, we’ll start at the weekend. When we’ve both got some energy back…”
Expect that it never happens at the weekend, and on Monday you’ve still the same nagging doubt that you’re not doing it quite right. And those wretched ‘Famous Five’ books I read to Jessica keep reminding me of a golden age of perfectly disciplined children. Except I don’t think it was really that good…
My Dad used to tell me a story about a pound of apples (I think that’s about four hundred grams these days). He’d been sent to the shop for the apples. He was a child, he was hungry, so he ate one on the way home. When he got home his father weighed the apples – then he took his belt to my Dad.
Would I have been hit for that? If my Mother had been baking and she’d needed exactly a pound I might have been sent back to the shop, but hit? Never.
And what would happen today – well apart from the fact that Jane hasn’t time to bake and apples now grow in little plastic bags of four or six, we’d have a major celebration. “You’ve eaten some fruit, Jessica! Brilliant.” We’d congratulate ourselves on an amazing new parenting strategy – and then we’d probably give her a Mars Bar as a reward. And yes, we’d probably do that consistently…