We adults love spontaneity. Doing something spur of the moment is exciting and refreshing and we are drawn to those experiences like bees to honey. But here is a huge pearl of wisdom for parents. Children are not like adults. Young children thrive on routine and consistency. It is how they make sense of their world and how they begin to form their first feelings of confidence.
Why is this important? Because if you are the parent of young child. Understanding this concept will help you immeasurably. Children learn to trust their parents based on consistency of language, actions, and routine. Try to think of your child as a detective. They are little detectives trying to size up the people they come in contact with. The messages that you are sending them everyday are the only way they have of understanding their world. And they are watching closely. So how can you make this knowledge work for you? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Only promise what you deliver. If you say you are going to go somewhere or do something. You need to follow through. If you don't follow through you are teaching your children not to trust you. Even if you view the change in plans as insignificant, your child is watching and making a mental note that you don't really mean what you say, at least sometimes. Remember, they are trying to figure you out.
2. Don't make idle threats. A parent who continually says, "If you do that again, you are getting a time out!" but never carries out the punishment is LITERALLY teaching their child to ignore them. Time after time, the child makes a mental note that the parent doesn't mean what they say. Then the parent is shocked when they say something they really mean and the child ignores them. You have taught them to do this, People! Wise up and only threaten punishments that you are prepared to enforce!
3. Be mindful of how you treat other people. If you are rude to a waitress or gossip about your mother-in-law behind her back, guess what? Your young children are watching. They are picking up clues about who you are and how you think. And in a few years, you will see some of your own faults mirrored back at you, when your children are rude to others or gossip mongers. Be the person you want your children to become and act in a manner that illustrates this.
I like to compare being a parent to the Colorado River. It took millions of little drops of water, over time, to carve the wondrous and awe inspiring Grand Canyon. It takes millions of little actions repeated over hours, and days, and months and years, to raise your young child into a capable and successful adult. It is healthy to be aware of how all of your words and actions lay the foundation of your child's world view, relationship to others and ultimately, their self-identity. And parenting, when done right can result in some pretty wonderful and awe inspiring results!