Calm, caring and consistent
By Randy Cale, PH.D
As parents, you want to do the best you can to raise your children to be loving, caring successful adults. The foundation for this begins in childhood. In my years of consulting parents, I have found that good parenting is the result of a calm, caring and consistent approach. I invite you to consider the power of the Three C’s.
This is, of course, about remaining calm in the face of difficulty and struggle. It’s not about remaining calm when things are easy. Most of us can do that.
When life isn’t giving you what you want, this commitment is about keeping your cool in the face of challenges. You may often find that your children don’t give you what you want (in terms of behavior and emotion). When you can stay calm in the face of parenting struggles, you can begin to use reasoning, intellect and the skills that you’ve learned throughout the years to solve the problem in front of you. However, when you lose your cool, none of those resources are available to you. The tools you have learned about all go flying out the window!
Staying calm in the face of turmoil provides an additional benefit. You provide a healthy model of how to walk through the world. Our children will often find that the world doesn’t give them what they want…and keeping our cool is essential for success.
This may seem obvious, as I have never met a parent who has stated that they didn’t care about their children. Of course we care, but the secret here is about how and when we show that we care.
It’s not about unconditional love for our children, as that is a given. It’s about the caring behavior that flows from that love and learning to master how we offer our caring. For example, nurture lots of caring and attention for the moments that you value. If you care about kindness, be attentive to it. If you care about hard work and effort, notice it. If you care about cooperation, give your attention to it. If you care about healthy eating, nurture it.
On the other hand, make sure that you don’t show lots of caring for things that you don’t value. If you don’t want more drama, whining or negativity, then don’t show lots of caring attention.
The lesson here is to learn to care with discretion, when it comes to specific moments and behaviors.
Let’s imagine you put some fleas in a jar and put a metal lid on it. You would hear this “ticking” sound as the fleas jump up against the lid of the jar. They are quite literally bumping against the limits of their reality at that moment.
But, within a few moments, the ticking noise will calm to a complete quiet, and you would see the fleas still jumping in the jar, but only coming within a half inch or so of the lid.
Even with their tiny “flea brains”, they have learned to respect the limits imposed by the lid on the jar. Every now and then you might hear an occasional tick, but then it is eventually completely silent. The learning is complete.
If you take the lid off the jar, you’ll see that the fleas keep jumping, but stay within the limits they just learned moments ago. How did they learn to honor this limit so quickly? They learned because there was a consistent limit.
This metaphor is remarkably important as you consider the role of consistency in your parenting. Just think about it…a flea learns to honor the limits when limits are consistent. But let’s imagine for a moment that the lid on the jar kept changing—moving up and down when the fleas would jump. Would they ever learn with an inconsistent limit? Doubtful.
The same is going to be true for your children. If you place limits on their behavior, and the limits keep changing from day to day, or from parent to parent, children have trouble learning where the limits are. If bedtime is at 7:30, but it moves to 8:00 when you have a “good day”, then you are going to be in trouble. The same is true for homework routines, healthy eating and all the rest. If you are inconsistent, your children will be constantly negotiating and pushing the limits.
Bottom line: The three C’s set a solid foundation. When you remain calm, you show discretion in your caring, and you’re impeccable in your consistent setting of limits. This will undoubtedly establish a solid foundation for your children.
Dr. Randy Cale, a Clifton Park based parenting expert, author, speaker and licensed psychologist, offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. Dr. Cale’s new website, www.TerrificParenting.com offers valuable free parenting information and an e-mail newsletter.