Five years ago, our oldest daughter, then 17 years old, said, “How do you know that how you guys are parenting is the right way? How do you know that the way you parent is better than _____ family or _____ family?”
“Well,” we explained to her, “we don’t know. We will let you know in about 15 years after some of you are grown and on your own, how we did parenting. None of you came with instruction manuals.”
Married almost 25 years now, and parents for 22, with 7 children, ages 22 to 5, we have, however, come to discover some important “parenting tips” if you want to call them. We would like to focus on three:
#1 – As parents, be on the same page, especially when it comes to discipline. Even if I may disagree with how Matt handled a situation with one of our children, not saying anything in front of that child, and waiting until later to discuss with Matt is essential. That way our children see that we are one; a united front, so to speak.
#2 — Sticking to our discipline; doling out reasonable consequences. For example, while on a road trip, if one of the kids is misbehaving (which has included fighting with someone else, throwing a fit, talking back or simply annoying all in the vehicle) we should make sure our discipline is something we will follow through with. If I say, “No. 5 (I call them by numbers when I am upset), one more outburst like that and we will leave you at the next rest stop.” I may be thinking that deep down, but the reality is that we are not going to leave her alongside the road. Something more realistic might be, “Since you continue to act this way, the next stop we are getting ice cream, but you do not get to have any” which is something we can stick to, although hard for some parents.
Our weakness might be, “Oh, look at all the other 5 kids enjoying their ice cream cones, just let him have one.” Standing strong in our discipline and follow through are essential. If I say that one of the kids is going to lose dessert at dinner that evening, then I had better stick to that, or else they know mom is a softy. Admittedly, as I have gotten older, I need to write down what I said would be taken from them, because I tend to forget.
#3 – We have found it beneficial to talk about discipline before the discipline is given. Meaning, we will discuss various scenarios that could come up, and how are we going to handle the discipline. One example that comes to mind is breaking curfew; determining ahead of time what the discipline will be, letting the child know that as well, and then if curfew is broken, we all know what consequences will be enforced.
Some common comments from our children, over 22 years of parenting, have included: “That’s not fair.” “You never would have let me get away with that when I was his age.” “Dad said it was ok.” “I didn’t do it, she did!” “Why am I always the one with all of the chores?” Know that you’re not alone!
One helpful and funny resource we recommend is Dr. Ray Guarendi, who is on Catholic Radio (1060 am) daily, and can be found at drray.com, for numerous books and CDs regarding parenting.
As married couples, being on the same page; discussing ahead of time what the discipline will be and follow through have been keys to parenting with some type of peace involved. Do we fall short? Of course we do, but being strong and a united front when the next situation arises might help ease some of the struggles.
To all parents out there, keep up the good work!!