Do you think a quote could influence the way you parent? Quotes are short, to the point, and profound, and sometimes, life changing. I read one years ago and it could not have happened at a better time – I was a young mother. I can’t recall its author, but its brilliance shone through the parental waves of fear that sometimes yelled, “What am I doing?”
I wrote it down, plastered it on the walls, and pasted it in my memory. It was short, to the point and I knew I could use it as a blueprint for parenting.
For me, other than unconditional love, one of my main parenting goals were to teach my children how to be responsible for their actions, and not blame others when things go wrong. If I could do that, then I hoped it would drip on down the path to being considerate to others, and help them build character, which is different than building a good reputation. And on this path they would end up hopefully loving and respecting themselves, because of who they were on the inside – a product of their thoughts and choices, and their actions and consequences.
The quote read:
“Every thought has an action. Every action has a consequence. A build-up of these consequences, good or bad, develops character, and character is everything!”
I also believe that applying this strategy could be applied to all that I was teaching them and eliminate potential temper tantrums, and as they grew, arguments.
The younger years:
Did you return the toys to the basket?
I don’t want to!
Well, you thought about taking the toys out, that was your choice, then your action was playing with them. So your responsibility is to put them back in the basket.
No, I don’t want to!
Then the consequence is me showing you how to do it. I’ll take you hand and show you how to pick them up. Because I’m Mommy, and that’s MY responsibility to show you.
No, I can do it myself!
And so she did.
I don’t like that floor. I fell in the kitchen.
I’m sorry. What could you have done differently to prevent falling?
Umm... Don’t run through the kitchen with socks on.
In that moment, her face released the anger, and she took responsibility instead of blaming the floor.
On to the tween years.
“Mom, I’m going to bake, okay? Can I play my music and be alone?”
“Of course. Sounds fabulous!” Said after years of kitchen preparedness.
Following the delectable aroma of fresh baked brownies, I found that the kitchen looked as if a tornado had styled it – with my child was nowhere in sight.
“But I baked! Why do I have to do dishes, too?”
“Though it’s appreciated, it was your choice to bake. The result of those actions are washing and drying the dishes, wiping down the counters, and sweeping, but since I’ll be enjoying the brownies also, I’ll clean the counters for you. But the rest is your responsibility.”
“Alright... thank you...”
Move to the teen years where the challenges were a little more stressful, and where they often heard, “Choose wisely for every thought has an action, and every action has a consequence.” They got it, but they were learning in those pre-adult years, so naturally mistakes were made, and they endured the consequences.
For whatever reason you ditched school and was at a place you should not have been.
How did you know that?
I’m your mother. I know people. Someone saw you and I’ll figure out tomorrow why the school did not call, but for now, you thought about leaving school. Your action was hanging with friends instead of going to class. Your consequence is me taking away your phone, and you not leaving the house unless you want me two feet behind you regardless of where you choose go and with whom.
For how long?
Until I can trust your judgement again.
Let me explain.
Explanation was unacceptable!
Your showers are too long. Please shorten them.
Where’s my bedroom door?
You chose to neglect our request over and over again. Your action of long showers is money wasted, and valuable resources lost. So the consequence is no bedroom door for a while.
We also have to take into consideration that we are human - we are allowed to make mistakes. That’s fine. But regardless of our ages, we are not growing unless we experience, and then learn from, the consequences of our choices and behavior.
Children cannot grow into responsible adults unless they are taught how to be one. Though they are not responsible for everything and everyone around them, they should be held accountable for, and take responsibility for, their actions and starting at a very early age.
So let’s guide children to learn how to use life’s shovel, but let’s not dig for them. Let them take those mounds of dirt and build mountains. And when they do, we’ll stand back and smile as they climb each step on the ladder that they earned the right to build..
Teaching responsibility and encouraging the imagination are two of the best gifts we can give children!
Do you have a favorite quote or or an old adage that encouraged your style of parenting? If so, please feel free to share it. Parents helping parents makes parenting a lot easier!