Today I had the opportunity to chat with some really great people (who are also parents) about gentle parenting. During our conversation one of them mentioned how we really can only use a method once on our children because the next day that same thing won’t work. He joked how as parents we are told to stay consistent in our parenting techniques, while at the same time told to have a lot of “tools in our toolbox” and be ready to change things up. So true. It was funny because it’s true…sort of…
But there is a difference. A difference between staying consistent as parents, and at the same time being prepared to try something different when the thing that worked yesterday isn’t working today.
We stay consistent in our basic rules, guidelines, and expectations. If my daughter is not to put her feet on the counter when she’s sitting up there helping me with something, I am consistent in enforcing that rule. I don’t sometimes let her keep her feet up there, and then on other occasions tell her to put her feet down. That gets really confusing for anyone, let alone a child. So I consistently tell her that only her bottom can be on the counter, not feet. Now, the methods of getting her to comply are what can be (and need to be) changed up. Here’s where having a bunch of ‘tools’ comes in handy. On one day, I may simply say, “I need you take your feet off the counter, please,” and she listens and puts her feet down. A few days later, when I say the same thing and she does not listen, I know that my simple command was not motivating enough this time around; that whatever she is doing that is requiring her feet to be on the counter (such as reaching for some neat things on the shelves) is more motivating than me telling her to put her feet down (after all, she needs to have her feet on the counter to be able to reach up higher… duh, mom). So here’s where I switch it up. “Hey, I need you to help me mix up this pancake batter! Want the spoon?” She replies, “Yes!” So my next statement goes something like this, “Oh my gosh THANK YOU! Sit your bottom on the counter and I’ll hand you the spoon.” She does, I hand her the spoon, she begins stirring, and I’m a happy camper because feet are no longer on my counter.
My request suddenly became more motivating than whatever she was looking for on the shelf, so she complied.
Had this trial not worked, I may have briefly explained that feet do not belong on the counter, and that she’d have to get down from the counter altogether and go do something else. If I was still met with resistance, then I would follow through and help her off the counter. In this situation, a limit was set, consistency maintained, and multiple tools utilized.
As parents, we are often given incredibly conflicting information and advice… and while it can be frustrating, just remember: we can be consistent and still change it up. 😉