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Consistency is a Gift

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As I’ve written before, most of my students at the college are adults working at least one job and raising at least 2 children. So in their writing class I asked them to tell me what it takes to be a good parent. Lots of discussion ensued, and they took it very seriously. It turns out that many of them are guilt-ridden. Because of these night classes, they are missing soccer games and concerts and their husbands are picking up and dropping off kids. But they believe, rightfully so, that these classes aren’t just good for them; they are good for their children and their children’s children. They know education is the most important accomplishment. And they are excellent role models for their kids. As good as they are, however, being a role model wasn’t at the top of their list. What they all agreed on as being the most important characteristic of good parenting is consistency. Being consistent with expectations. Being consistent with discipline. Being consistent with “being there.” Being consistent with loving their children. They emphasized that parents have to present a united front. The described times when they didn’t agree with their spouses and the kids saw the difference of opinion, so they learned quickly to disagree where and when their kids couldn’t hear them. I had forgotten that; my parents seldom agreed on how to deal with my sister and with me, but we didn’t know that until we were in our 40s. Somehow they hashed it out between them, and when dealing with us, we thought they were in total agreement. It never occurred to us to play one parent against the other. You’ve read my articles long enough to know that I also think consistency is important whether you’re a parent or a teacher. You cannot send mixed messages that confuse your kids and throw them – and you – off balance. But I’d forgotten the part about a united front. Even if parents are not together in marriage, they should find a way to be together in their expectations for their children. The really nice thing about these essays on good parenting was that they all also agreed that discipline, consistency, communication, honesty, and love were a gift – even though the children didn’t always think so. I love that commitment to “doing it right.”