The nuts and bolts of parenting are simple. Below are the rules to avoid raising an emperor who ruins your life and annoys me at Starbucks. Get these basics down, and then you can deal with what makes parenthood enjoyable (as opposed to barely tolerable.)
- FOLLOW THROUGH (I had to yell this one, also.)
If you say, “Timmy, don’t do X, or we will have to do Y” you best be ready to follow through with plan Y.
If you don’t follow through with Plan Y, you’re setting yourself up to become a human treadmill for a tyrant.
It drives me nuts to hear open threats in public. “If you don’t stop throwing truffle cavatelli, Bunky, you won’t get to watch Real Housewives, on my iPhone.” (And two seconds later, Bunky is watching the iPhone. Because the parents gave up.) “Don’t puncture the heirloom tomatoes, Bordeaux, or you won’t get an heirloom cookie.” (And two stalls later at the farmer’s market, mischievous Bordeaux sports gluten-full crumbs all over his cashmere jumper. Because the parents gave up!)
PARENTS! (Yes, I’m yelling again) YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW THROUGH!
Showing your kids you mean what you say will give them limits, make them respect your word and stop them from acting out (too much) in the future.
The one time you yank your horrendous progeny from library story-time draws the line.
The one time you leave a restaurant without receiving your mozzarella sticks gains you respect.
The one time you send your kid to bed hungry because they refused to eat Shake’n Bake and only wanted cookies will give you more time to watch Real Housewives and drink wine. Um, I mean teaches important lessons.
Prepare yourself to:
• Leave the full grocery cart in the middle aisle.
• Get your wine in a to-go cup.
• Turn the car around.
• Saw the wheels off the Thomas train.
• Get off at the next bus stop. (There’ll be another.)
• Waste the money you spent getting into the puppet show to save your sanity down the line.
• Drag a child throwing a tantrum down the street. (It’s OK. You’re the boss.)
• FOLLOW THROUGH! (stop yelling)
Usually you just need to step out of the library/restaurant/poetry-slam for five minutes to change their behavior.
And you can’t seriously be afraid that childish protests in public are worse than showing who’s boss. If they sense you’re embarrassed because you’re in public, your kid will steamroll all over you.
They’ve got to learn there are consequences to bad choices. And parents teach consequences, which prepare kids for good future behavior.
You might feel bad in the short-term. But parenthood ain’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.
And they might say “I hate you.” Fine. You can just respond, “That’s OK. I love you. Now we’re going home because you spit on the banquette, threw a book at your brother and stuck a french fry in that Dowager Countess’ hairdo.”
Oh. And the other two rules?
- See above.
- See above.
I wrote “3 Rules” because “1 Rule” seemed misleading.
But this is the important one.
Gavin Lodge is a Broadway performer, father and blogger. This essay was first published on Daddy Coping In Style.