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The Importance of Consistency
Here's a great story:

Mom: "Are you still awake? Good...why aren't you dressed? Get dressed NOW or you're going in your underwear."
Me: "Ok."

Mom: "Alright, let's go. Grab your backpack."
Me: "But Mom, I'm not ready..."
Mom: "Tough."

She grabbed me by the arm and escorted me out the front door. No shoes, no shirt, not a stitch of clothing besides my tighty whities. She held me by the wrist and led me to the car. I can't remember this very clearly because I was somewhat upset. I do remember that I was crying uncontrollably. Likely pleading and begging in some fashion. She put me in the back seat, got in, and drove away casually as if nothing in the world was out of place. And as I began to calm somewhat, I sat, mostly naked and full of fear, in the back seat pondering my next move. I didn't have any more outs. I had no clothing and no plan. .... I was going to school in my underwear.

Never once did it cross my mind that this could be a bluff. My mother didn't bluff. She wasn't turning the car around. Heck, we were halfway to school already! Here I was, in my undies and headed toward certain ridicule and major embarrassment of the worst kind, the ridicule of grade-school peers. And all because I'd chosen to sleep when I should have been getting dressed. When I should have been enjoying a nutritious breakfast. I slept this upon myself. I had learned my lesson. It wouldn't happen again. I'd always get up from now on at first call. Various other reasoning and begging followed. I gazed into the rearview mirror, looking her in the eyes. I grovelled. And she stared back and me, cold and firm in her resolution.

We pulled into the driveway of my school, and up the lane to the front doors; the main car-rider drop off point. My mother didn't even put the car in park. She just looked at me expectantly in the rearview. Not a speck of emotion. "Well?...," said her eyes. I began to cry again. She put the car in park, killed the engine, unfastened her seatbelt, and got out. I was completely prepared. I had mentally readied myself to be dragged from the car, in a cliched kicking and screaming fashion. My mother went around back of the car and opened the trunk, from which she removed a brown paper grocery bag. She came back around to the side and opened my door. She stood there looking at me, like I was the worst child ever. And she handed me the brown bag with my clothes inside. "Get dressed."

Twas indeed the last time I ever failed to hearken to my mother's wakeup call.

Read the whole thing.

We've been talking a lot lately about discipline and the importance of consistency, and I think this story illustrates a great point:

Don't threaten something unless there will be consequences, and if you do threaten, follow through!

My aunt and uncle did a similar thing with my cousin when she was 4. She would never get up and get dressed, and she put up a real fuss in the morning. So one day they just took her to kindergarten in her pyjamas. Her teacher and the other children made her so embarrassed (she changed quickly) that she never did it again.

The best discipline for most infractions is usually the natural consequence of the action. Sometimes, of course, that isn't possible, as this post when I talked about the 16-year-old boy who had been caught speeding. But the consequence the mom did find certainly fit the crime!

All we need to do is once or twice follow through on these things, and then kids know we're serious. They'll listen to us from now on. My children rarely talk back to me (though they do grumble when they do chores, etc.) because they know I'm serious. They know there will be consequences. And they learned that because a long time ago, when they were young, my husband and I followed through in big ways with a few things. Message learned.

Consistency is hard, but it has such a payback because it means the rest of your years of parenting will be much easier. You only have to do drastic things a few times to get your message across. But when kids see that you are prepared to do drastic things, they listen! And they react.

Have you ever come up with some creative consequences for your kids? Leave a comment!

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At 8:52 AM , Blogger A Marriage After His Heart said…

I LOVED this story! This mom is soo old school. I remember once before I got married, I had an incident with my then 6yr old about her dinner. As a single parent I would alway find grocery to be the hardest finance to control. I prided myself in cooking natrual and healthy meals for my girls. Well one evening after an extremely long day at work I decided to do something nice for my girls. So with my last few dollars I went to the store to buy what they wanted for dinner: popcorn chicken breasts, corn and mac n cheese. So I go home and make dinner and as we got ready to eat my finicky child threw a hissy because her BBQ sauce touched her chicken. Well I wasn't about to fry anymore and I had reached my limit of hissy fits over dinner so I told her to eat it. she got upset and threw the plate(paper plate) in the just emptied trash. Mind you I had just put a new trash liner in and she put her plate in bottom up so the food didn't waste out so I looked at her and I told her to get her plate out of the trash and to sit and eat. I told her I would spank her and that she could not leave the table until every bite was finished... she thought I was crazy... but I made her eat that plate.through cries and fake throw up attempts. afterward I told her this one thing: I said " at this very moment, there is a child some where in this world who is digging through the trash to find something to eat because they are starving" I told her that we are no better than they are but for whatever reason God has blessed us to have nice dinners, and that at any moment he could blink and take it all away and we could be those people digging through trash to eat" I taught her that night the lesson of humility and thankfulness. Now she always finds ways to donate can goods and we can't see a Feed The Children commercial without her wanting to donate. To some here in America my actions were questionable but to this day she has yet to throw away her food. and I won't send her to bed hungry bc that's cruel in my eyes.


At 8:56 AM , Blogger A Marriage After His Heart said…

I just wanted to add her plate was the only thing in the trash. had there been anything else in there I would have just given her cheese and crackers or something like that.


At 10:36 AM , Blogger Mrs W said…

A natural consequence, where the mother does indeed have clothes waiting like she should so that SHE doesn't get into trouble with the law for dropping off a naked child is one thing. A mother so angry that SHE was embarrassed by her sons behaviour that she has to "make him pay" by a stupid punishment is QUITE another. The story you linked to about the 16 year old said he was awaiting trial, which means there would be punishment anyway without mom being ridiculous.


At 10:40 AM , Blogger Mrs W said…

I find that discipline is what I do when my children have acted up and I want what is best for them and I want them to learn something. Punishment is something that happens to my kids because I am ANGRY at them. Big difference.

Like last night. We have been teaching my children to sit in church. Last night they refused. I wasn't mad. I calmly took them to the car, buckled them in their car seats, got in myself and we just sat there till church was over. They will learn that they have to sit in church. Punishment would have been dragging them out kicking and screaming and making sure everyone could see that they were having to leave because they were naughty.

There really is a huge difference. I find the difference usually happens with what is going on in my head. Am I upset because these children acted up and therefore we need to work on some character issues, or am I upset because *they* embarrassed *me*? If I'm upset because they embarrassed me, I am likely to harshly punish instead of lovingly discipline.

To me, it's all a matter of who I am worried about when the kids act up, myself, or them. It plays a HUGE role in how they are treated when they have misbehaved.


At 11:38 AM , Blogger Joanne Sher said…

Oh man. This is my BIGGEST struggle. I needed this. BOY.


At 12:05 PM , Blogger Mrs W said…

I was talking about this story and the other example with my husband. He agreed with my take on it, and he brought up something else. While WE wouldn't do it, there are a LOT of people out there who would call CPS over things like that and the mom would find herself without a child. I don't think that's right, but it's a reality in this day and age. I've had threats made towards me just because my baby wasn't wearing a coat, or socks, because another lady was cold so she was certain that the baby was too.

While we own our children and not the government, we do need to be careful to not antagonize a situation so that our kids might be taken away.

And in reality, after thinking over it a bit more, I believe that this mother was sinning. Why? Well, the Bible condemns nakedness, and she took her child out while he was naked (in the Bible, nakedness is exposing the thigh, so the child was Biblically naked). Our discipline or "punishments" as you like to call it here shouldn't be sin itself.


At 1:18 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Mrs. W, I understand and agree with what you're saying about nakedness, but I don't think this child was naked. I think he was in his pyjamas. And his mom did have clothes with her for him to get dressed in! My kids have changed in the car lots of times, for swimming, etc. You just have to be creative with the use of towels!

I do think your point, though, about being careful about CPS is a good one. When you think of the people who have been accosted for spanking their children in public or other such things, we do need to be wise!

Also, you wrote this: "To me, it's all a matter of who I am worried about when the kids act up, myself, or them. It plays a HUGE role in how they are treated when they have misbehaved."

I think that is right on the money! I have seen people disciplien their children simply because they are embarrassed. They often overreact so that those around think that they are strict (even though they probably aren't). They're thinking of their own image, not the children's character.

All discipline, and punishment, or whatever we want to call it, needs to start with our love and concern over our children's character first and foremost!

A Marriage After His Heart: That's great that your daughter learned what it meant to be hungry! My daughters have a real heart for Africa, too!

And Joanne, I think we all need to be reminded to be consistent, don't we? We need consistent reminding towards consistency :).


At 1:48 PM , Blogger Mrs W said…

Hi Mrs Sheila,

I thought he was just in his underwear (it said he was sitting in the back of his car in only his tighty whities...that's where I got that).

I'm glad we agree on principles even though we may not always agree on the methods. You had me worried for a minute, lol.


At 2:32 PM , Blogger Beth said…

I love, love, love this...but am hesitant to share it because of the profanity in the story. It doesn't particularly bother me, but I know some would be offended by that.


At 2:55 PM , Anonymous Dana said…

I too love this story! It's a perfect story for consistency. I do wish that the profanity was left out so I could share it with some of my other friends and family.


At 2:59 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Hi everybody!

Mrs. W.: I think you're right. On rereading it, he was only in his underwear. But I'm still under the impression he changed in the car!

Beth and Dana--sorry about the profanity! I don't use it myself, but I have to admit I've become almost immune to it given my extended family. (My kids recently told my father-in-law that they learned about swearing from him :) ).

Anyway, you know what I love about that post? Despite the profanity? It's that someone gets parenting who isn't necessarily a Christian (not that Christians don't swear, but generally....)

I find so often that it is mostly within the church that we talk about parenting. When I talk about consistency, or discipline, to some of my friends who are not Christian, it seems as if they haven't given these types of things a lot of thought. In the church, we do.

Again, I'm generalizing horridly. But it is encouraging to see the rest of society clue in to the importance of parenting!


At 6:59 PM , Blogger Bernice said…

This is why I am careful what I say. That way I don't have to take my kid to school in his undies. :)


At 9:13 AM , Blogger Kelli said…

Loved this story, but the "f-word" could've been left out!


At 9:26 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Kelli: You're right! I just edited it out. I didn't realize I had copied it, because I had cut out the profanity from other bits of the article when I chose what to show, but that slipped through. I thought when others were referring to the profanity they were referring to the original article. So I am sorry that I included it here! I did edit others out; I thought I'd got them all.

I still think it's neat, though, that someone who doesn't share our value system entirely still totally gets it with regards to parenting. It gives me hope for our culture!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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