Thursday, April 11, 2013

Precedents and Parenting

In college I took a Business Law course and learned all about “precedents”.  You see, in law, once a case has been determined it sets a “precedent” for other similar cases.  If a ruling is set that something or some act is deemed “OK” (or not "OK"), then future lawyers can site that case saying, “If it was ‘OK’ then (or not "OK"), it is ‘OK’ (or not "OK") now.
I am not sure why (since I was a young college student) but during that study of “precedents” in the Business Law class a light  bulb went on in my mind!!  This is an important parenting principle!!  Parenting?  Why was I even thinking about parenting???  I didn’t even want to think about parenting….anyway….I am digressing….

Fast forward a few years and my husband and I have become parents and I still have on my mind the precedent principle….and we raised our children on this principle.

When our children were small I did not want them eating and/or drinking all over the house….only in the kitchen….and I wanted them to sit down when they did!!  I can picture it to this day….I am handing them their cup and their little bottoms hit the floor!  Reason?  I wanted to contain messes!!  A selfish motive on my part you might think, but that was one way I could help manage our home as well as teach them boundaries. 
So, I am on the phone and our toddler daughter wants to walk around with her milk/juice/whatever all over the house….what do I do?  My goal is for them to stay in the kitchen (yikes, that sounds like a dog command!  Stay!”) when they eat and/or drink….yet I am on the phone.  Busy.  Distracted.  I think to myself, ‘What’s the harm just this one time?  It will be fine.’  So, there she goes….doing the very thing I don’t want her to do and I have just set a “precedent”! 

In her little mind I am saying, ‘it is OK for you to eat/drink out of the kitchen when I am on the phone or busy or distracted’!  So she thinks that since it was "OK" last time….next time it should be "OK" too!  Yet the next time I correct her and she is confused!!  No wonder our kids are frustrated and out of control sometimes!!  It is because we confuse them!!  Sometimes it is “OK” and other times it is not!!???
What I learned is that if a parenting principle is important to me and/or my husband….consistency is key!!  It is hard.  It takes time and focus and discipline on our part but it is so important to remember the precedent principle!! encouraged!!

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