Lessons in Parenting #2: Putting Your Foot Down

December 3, 2012 · 5:24 pm

We’ve all heard plenty of advice from parenting books, weather we read them ourselves our had them quoted to us by some fanatic.   It seems like the holy grail of parenting advice is to be consistent.  I guess I thought it meant, “I am consistently not a push-over,” or “I am consistently the boss of you,” because I always associated that phrase with laying down ultimatums and putting my foot down.

I have since learned that the exact opposite is true.  If you want to be consistent (follow through on what you say,) then don’t ever put your foot down ever.  The reason for this is quite simple: In all likelihood, your child can put their foot down harder than you can.

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Feet

You say, “Child, you are not getting up from that table until you finish your food.”  Now who is responsible to enforce that  ultimatum?  You are, you stupidhead poor lost soul.  If you want to be consistent you are going to have to make sure that your child stays at the table until they finish that food.  Should I tell you a secret? The child doesn’t want that food.  The child will not eat that food.  At 10:00 p.m. they will be asleep with their face in a pile of spaghetti, and you will have missed that precious hour you are supposed to have to yourself between putting the kids to bed and passing out from exhaustion.  (Thankfully, this exact scenario has yet to happen.) The battle is over and they’ve won, because you can’t teach anyone a lesson when they’re asleep.  Taking a hard line in other situations is often just as futile.  For example, saying, “Stop crying,” or, “Go to sleep,” in a firm tone of voice is successful approximately 0% of the time.

Next time, try saying something like: “Now I see you haven’t finished all of the food that I labored to put on your plate.  I’d like you to finish it, but I’m a reasonable human being.  Let’s negotiate. I’ll let you get off with two more bites if you promise not to wake up before 6 a.m.  Deal?”

In conclusion, try not to say anything you’ll later regret if your child turns out to have a stronger resolve than you do.  In most cases, putting your foot down really is going  to hurt you more than it hurts them.

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