Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

THE, (Yes), THE Most Important Parenting Principle


Thousands of books have been written on how to parent and many of them contain outstanding, practical ideas regarding tactics, strategies and plan old actions that effective parents do. Of course, some ideas work well in some families and some accomplish more in different homes with different children.

You always have to pick and choose, use some trial and error and know your kids well before you land on the Holy Grail kinds of parenting skills. I wrote my own book that I think has helped some moms and dads. It's called Turn Up or Turn Around Your Parenting and is available at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle.

However, I want to highlight something I cover in the very first chapter that I think too many parents overlook, play down or at best give too little importance. And I'm convinced that in a home where there is a mom and dad that this is THE most important parenting theorem and rule of all time. And if parents don't make this a priority the rest of the ideas in those thousands of books will matter little because they won't work, at least not for long.

So what is this gem of principle that I've baited you long enough with? Here it is: Moms and dads must be on the same page and carry out the basic rules, guidelines and disciplines they decide on. This sounds so simple but many parents knowingly or unintentionally actually undermine the discipline and guidance of each other by doing just the opposite.

It happens in a couple of ways. Sometimes parents actually do talk about what they're going to enforce at bedtime, for a curfew, regarding parties, riding in other cars, going to a weekend activity, etc. But then when that guideline is broken or questioned one parent or the other looks the other way, thinks the change is no big deal and the child wins.

Other times, parents have to deal with a more spontaneous ask from their child about what to wear, going out with friends, playing with their video game, going to bed at a unique time or whatever. These kinds of events can't be talked about specifically because they don't fall into any regular pattern, category or previous discussion's content.

But the problem is that parents often then make a quick decision not knowing whether their son or daughter has already asked about this or if the other parent knows a good reason why a decision one way or the other isn't a good idea.

The result of either of these scenarios not handled in tandem together and based on previously agreed upon parameters is two-fold:  One, the children begin to believe that they really don't have to keep most rules because they can be easily broken. Or two, one spouse begins to think that their input or discipline really doesn't matter because the other partner continues to allow the opposite. And the corollary is that the kids begin to think that one parent is an easy mark.

What's the answer?  First, parents must have those meetings that lay out the basic rules and guidelines for discipline. Of course these things change as the kids get older, but the meetings and clear determinations are important nonetheless.

Second, parents must commit to keeping those rules (there are of course exceptions but should be rare) even if the other parent isn't there to help enforce them. And when we don't know if the other parent has weighed in or has a perspective particularly regarding a more spontaneous ask that needs our decision, we came up with a phrase to say to our kids.

If you need an answer now, the answer is "no."  If you can wait ten minutes (or whatever time is required) the answer is "maybe." Which option would you like to go with?

Of course, 90% of the time they took the maybe route.  That was the option with some hope and promise behind it. Once we began to respond that way all the time our kids figured out that working us against each other or pushing back on the rule wasn't going to work.

So how are you doing?  Do you and your spouse need to have a staff meeting to re-visit your discipline partnership?  If you're having trouble enforcing healthy actions and attitudes at home it's possible that you need that gathering and a new team perspective.  Chances are you need to renew your commitment to helping and supporting each other when it comes to leading and guiding your children.

And for more detail on this and other practical stuff check out my parenting book at: http://amzn.to/1SCJv53.  Happy and more fulfilling parenting!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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