I think there's a few tried and true parenting techniques that are most important for being a successful parent - and at the top of the list is consistency.
That also happens to be one of the most difficult ones, in my opinion.
Last weekend, we took Cole to Ashland for some lunch out, playground time, and pictures in the gorgeous fall leaves. We even got to look at the ducks in the creek:
Now, Cole was FASCINATED looking at those ducks. We're talking holding completely still for five or six minutes (that's a record in toddler time, you know). He loved them.
But then, he started to push it. He wanted to get closer to the water. Dad told him no, stay on this step. Cole tried again. "Stay on this step, please, Cole." So Cole sat down on the (wet) step - clever move, he's thinking. "Now I'm closer to the water and still TECHNICALLY on the step...oh yeah, I am a GENIUS at this following directions deal!"
"Cole, it is too wet to sit. Stand up, please." Cole stands up but stays on the lower step. "Cole, come up to this step, please."
"Cole...if you do not come up to this step we are going to have to leave."
"Five...four...three...two...one...ok, that's it. Now we have to go."
And Chris carried Cole, kicking and screaming, amidst many watching eyes in the park, to the car where we endured his crying for fifteen minutes.
I'm not going to lie...it was hard. I didn't WANT to leave - I still had photos I wanted to take, I wanted Cole to play on the swings and the slide. I WANTED him to stay and enjoy the ducks. It broke my heart to have to take that happiness and joy away from him, however temporarily.
But more important? More important is the lesson Cole learned. If you don't listen when we ask you to do something, we leave.
Every. single. time.
It doesn't matter if it's super duper fun; if it's incredibly inconvenient; if we are one a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disney Land - we will follow through with natural consequences no matter what.
We talked about it a lot on the way home, after Cole calmed down. We discussed why we had to leave - "Because Daddy asked you to step up and you didn't listen to Daddy. Next time, you will listen when Daddy asks you to do something, right?"
And we'll refer back to this frequently, as a reminder to Cole that we aren't afraid to - respectfully and calmly - follow through with any consquences.
Even if he breaks my heart, like he did on the way home by asking pitifully, "DUCKS, MAMA? DUCKS PEESE! SEE DUCKS PEESE! PEESE!"
I have to remember that the long term goal of raising a young boy into a young man is far more important than an hours' joy at seeing some ducks. Five years from now, his teachers will appreciate that he is quick to follow instructions. Ten years from now, his coaches will thank us because Cole won't argue with referees or coaches. If we are ever in an emergency situation, he will know to do what we say, immediately. Twenty years from now, his bosses will love his ability to take direction and get along with coworkers.
In the long run, raising a responsible and thoughtful man is the goal - and if we have to have a few tears as a result of consequences on the way, so be it. It's called being a parent, right?