All Parents Fail Without This Ingredient
A young parent asked me to describe ways to help her 12-year-old daughter become less self-centered, more giving, and more compassionate. She asked, “What if we feed the homeless one day so she can see how good she has it?” and “Maybe she should give some of her toys to more needy children…would that help?” This mother had good intentions. She wanted her daughter to grow in happiness, humility, and generosity. However, she needed to think about a couple things. First, she needed to remember the less fortunate are not a tool for our goals. People who have needs are, first and foremost, people like you and me. Of course, when I mentioned this, she agreed. She had not intended to make it sound like she was using the needy to help her daughter. She truly had a desire to help others and share her love, time, and wealth. Still, she was missing one other important ingredient.
She was missing one of the most important ingredients of effective parenting. Without this one ingredient, anything a parent does will prove ineffective. Parents need this ingredient for a child to learn and grow. What is this ingredient? Consistency! That’s right. Effective parenting demands consistency over time. Reaching out one time to those who are less fortunately will only be an event. It will have little to no lasting impact. The sights and smells, feelings and sounds of that day will fade away and become a distant memory. However, if you and your children consistently engage in volunteer work, your children will come to understand the benefit of helping others. They will begin to experience the joy of sacrificial giving and humbly accept their own fortune along with the responsibility to help others.
Consistency is important in other areas of parenting as well. For instance, discipline must be consistent over time in order to prove effective in helping children internalize values and move toward becoming self-disciplined adults. For children to grow into confident young adults, they need to have experienced consistent love over the years of their childhood and adolescence. Consistent teaching allows children to learn how to care for themselves and keep their home. The areas in which consistency are essential goes on, but you get the idea. We teach our children nothing when we do any parenting tasks only one time. Model these skills over time, teach them consistently throughout childhood, and your children will grow into mature young adults. Yes indeed, consistency is an essential ingredient for successful parenting…and it begins today!