I love being a parent.

I also love watching people. Especially at stores. Recently, I was at a store standing next to a mother who was having a hard time controlling her children. They were not being bad, simply doing something she didn't like. She said to them, "Stop it right now, or I am cancelling Christmas!!!"

Her children snickered. So did I. Come on, really? She's going to cancel Christmas? No she's not. That's a silly, pointless threat. You know she's not going to do it. I knew she wasn't going to do it. So did her kids. In fact, they didn't stop. She just took them out of the store. They were either tweens or teens.

Her objective that night was not to teach her children anything other than to stop. Now, don't get me wrong. I understand that sometimes kids need to learn to obey simply for the sake of obedience.  Obeying your authority is because they are your authority is a lesson that is often lost today.

But she didn't teach that lesson. What she did teach was that she was not in control. The kids were firmly in control.

Every interaction we have with our children teaches them something. For parents who are constantly struggling with obedience a possible issue is that they are teaching the kids the wrong thing. Let's look at a few potential issues.

1.Cancelling Christmas; pointless threats. What happens when a parent offers a consequence that they either cannot or actually will not enforce. The child learns that mom and dad aren't really serious and nothing will actually happen that would cause them to consider not doing something.

2.Disciplining without explaining. Some of my friends really bristle at the idea that they need to explain to their children the discipline they are doing. I confess, I don't understand this at all. How much longer does it take to say why we want our children to do something or not do something? I realize it's not always possible but by and large when it is possible, I only see benefits to explaining. Saying "because I'm the parent" really doesn't seem to all that great of a teaching model.

3. Inconsistent parenting. Three years ago I received a speeding ticket for going 35 in a 25. The next week, the speed limit in that exact spot was changed to 35. I still bristle when I drive by that spot. Inconsistent parenting happens when something is OK this week, but not next week. Two weeks from now, it will be Ok again. This causes confusion in our children.

4. Failure to follow through. This is perhaps the biggest issue I see in parenting. Johnny or Susie is told that is he or she does something this consequence will happen. And then it doesn't. The next time that consequence is threatened the child waits to see if mom or dad is serious this time.

5. Going strait to the big guns. Ultimatums are a dangerous way to parent. What happens if the child says, "So what?" Where do you go from there? There is a fine line between parenting and controlling. There is a finer line between parenting and manipulating. Parenting is hard work. It will often inconvenience us. Sometimes, parents can help themselves by thinking through what they are going to say before they say it. Considering if they will really want to enforce this discipline for the offense is an easy way to avoid being inconsistent.

What about you? What are some ways that you have seen or done that you learned from and want to pass on to others? Tell me in the comments.

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