30 Seconds for Hope: Do you ever wonder if you are following the right path on how to raise a child? Do you feel mystified by all the conflicting advice? For every question you’ve ever asked, it seems a multitude of answers abound (which can be so confusing). Yet all over the world children somehow mature into respectable citizens, even with parents using contradictory game plans. How is this possible? Actually, most of the time the parents have simply stuck to their plan, whatever it is, and faithfully enforced it. My mother-in-law clued me in about this secret of consistency, and in doing so, she gifted me hope.
And now the full story:
Gem Number 2…
I relaxed in a lawn chair, chatting with my mother-in-law while enjoying her autumn garden. Since I was expecting our first child in a few months, I relished this chance to gather some child-raising tips from a lady I so respected. She had loved my guy for over twenty-five years and had raised him well. What were her secrets?
After a lot of pleasant chitchat, I finally turned the conversation to the subject most on my mind. “I’m wondering,” I said. “What do you feel is the most important thing in raising kids?” The question of the day was on the table. I waited expectantly.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she replied after a pause.
What? My inner thoughts swirled. That wasn’t exactly the reply I had expected. I had thought she would give an in-depth answer that would save me from all kinds of drastic mistakes. “I don’t know?”
My mother-in-law continued, “But whatever you do, just be consistent.”
That was all? The earth-shattering advice I’d dreamed of was “be consistent”?
Yep, that was it. She really didn’t have anything else to say, so eventually we went on to other topics. Hmmm, I’d have to think about that.
Over the next months and years I had plenty of time to think about Helen Bergen’s advice, and I concluded it was profound. In the plethora of opinions on child raising that I heard over the years, I discovered a variety of views (to say the least) and lots of differing advice. Even the experts didn’t agree!
During that visit I didn’t yet know about all the opinions I would hear in years ahead, but my mother-in-law already knew. She knew all the contradictory teachings out there. So she gave simple advice that proved to be of great help as I navigated the books, seminars, and advisors. In two words she gave me permission to sift through the opinions, land on the helpful, and then be consistent. Even if I did things differently from her, be consistent. What a gift!
Children need to know what to expect from parents. Not a whim here and a wham there, but rather a consistency in the rules given and enforced. Children need consistency, even if your directives differ from the family next door, which will happen, for sure. And just to clarify, I’m talking about consistent directives that have the welfare of the child in mind, not selfish directives given by self-absorbed parents. That’s another subject for another day!
When your instructions are predictable and the consequences are consistent, children figure out a major reality of life—that you reap what you sow. Plus parental consistency gives children the assurance that parents can be trusted, which then builds love and security. Even when families have different game plans, children learn important lessons for life simply by experiencing their parents’ reliability and consistency.
Be consistent. These two words conveyed a wealth of wisdom. Many thanks to my mother-in-law for her great advice!
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