As my oldest son and I strolled hand-in-hand through the store (yes, my twelve-year-old still likes to hang with his mom), he casually mentioned that I needed to be a stricter disciplinarian.
This isn't the first time he's mentioned this. And he did follow that comment up by saying, "I'm probably going to regret telling you that." And I believe he is in fact regretting it this very moment as he sits in his room grounded, but that's a story for another post.
So I've been pondering his words and have come to a realization.
When the kids were little, I was pretty reactive and easily frustrated (though in my meager defense I had three toddlers running around and a mountain of dirty clothes creeping from the laundry room—when the mountain comes to Mohammed . . .)
So I was exhausted and short tempered and my husband worked six days a week.
And I was a perfectionistic controller. Yeah, you see the volcano brewing, don't you? Exhaustion and the need for control and order are the main ingredients for spontaneous combustion. And I combusted on a frequent basis.
Added to this, I hadn't been raised around small children, so didn't understand how to discipline and had no one to learn from. The net result is that the consequences I implemented were often too strict for the offense. Which is something I truly regret.
Fast forward through years of growing and learning and seeing myself through a more accurate (though grace-filled) lens and I find that I'm now an uncertain mother.
I throw a potential consequence out there, like say, "If you choose not to change your attitude, then you won't be going to the party," and then second guess myself. Is it too strict? Is it fair? And when my child continues on his course of disaster, rather than give the consequence I just keep reminding him of it, hoping desperately that he'll toe the line and get to go to the party.
Or I'll threaten unreasonably steep consequences that I don't really mean, assuming that'll motivate them to get themselves under control. Like that ever works. And then I undermine my own parenting when I back pedal.
So when my son told me that I threaten and threaten and threaten with no follow through, I realized he was absolutely right.
Parenting isn't about doing it perfectly, but it is in great part about being consistent.
So I'm much more thoughtful about what comes out of my mouth. I first think through whether it's a consequence I'm willing to uphold. If I am, then I am fairly certain it's reasonable.
And heaven knows that when it comes to parents and kids, someone has to be reasonable.