Using Your Parental Toolbelt

Child with toolbeltWhen I started this blog, I was systematically listing the parallels I perceive between parenting and management. They are many and varied, but after talking with a young mother of two the other day, I thought this one was definitely worth re-visiting. This is basic advice I would give any couple, new parents or parents to be.

In every job, there are a few basic tools.

As a title insurance escrow officer, I made it my business to make the closing an educational process. In the 80’s that was a rather risky thing to do, because I was closing adjustable rate mortgages with steep initial buy downs that lacked caps on the negative amortization. Those things eventually changed, but it did not change the fact that even when the government enacted 125% caps on negative amortization and 1 or 2% caps per year on how much the payment could adjust; buyers were still going to be in for a payment shock. I explained that their payment could go up hundreds of dollars between one year and the next, exclusive of what taxes did independently of their mortgage. They were still blinded by house lust and signed away. We all know what happened a few years later when interest rates went higher than we had ever seen them go before.

What does this have to do with parenting, you ask? Here’s what I learned that I took home with me. “Invest in the hard stuff up front and the way will be easier later.”

Well, that sounds pretty darned obvious, doesn’t it? But it isn’t easy. Just as it isn’t easy to save up a down payment large enough to avoid paying extra for mortgage insurance or interest buy downs, or picking a house that isn’t your dream home because it is the one you can really afford with only one income; it isn’t easy to do the hard stuff up front with your kids.


You are tired. They are little and they won’t remember. You can do it tomorrow. Just this once. You owe them something special or some slack on the rules because you are working so much and not spending enough time with them and sometimes it is just easier to give in.

The justifications can be endless.

I thought back to the management training I had received and realized,”If these were my employees and I was this inconsistent with them in the very important things I wanted them to learn, what would happen?”

  • They would not respect me.
  • They would feel afraid that I could not protect or lead them.
  • They would start to look for guidance from someone else.

That’s how it works. So if you are wise, you put yourself second and do your job. Equip yourself with the tools needed to do the hard stuff and enforce the fair and consistent rules you and your spouse have set. This will reassure your children that you are in charge and they are safe.

My favorite story about this was when Daughter 2 was acting up in a restaurant where we had gone to dinner with my mother. I gave her a  warning and a consequence: If she did not behave, she and I would go out to the car and wait while the others finished their meal. She did not and so we did, and it just so happened that we parked where we could see through the window as they ate and had a wonderful time while we sat in the dark by ourselves in the car. I never had to do that again and people for years after would come up to our family at restaurants and comment on how well-behaved our children were. No spanking, no yelling, just fair consequences after a warning was given. Now, did I enjoy sitting out in the car looking at the remains of my unfinished meal? Not so much. But I did enjoy the following years when our daughters knew that we meant what we said.

Your Tool belt so far…

Parenting Tooltip: Don’t Make Rules You Can’t Explain. If you can’t explain it, then it isn’t fair or valid. “Because I said so,” doesn’t ever cut it.

Parenting Tooltip:  Invest in the Hard Stuff First. If you invest your time and energy up front, you will spend much less in future discipline issues.

Parenting Tooltip: Make Fair Rules with Fair Consequences and then Enforce Them Consistently. Stick together on this. If children request an exception, (as they grow older, it is inevitable) say you need time and then talk with your spouse before you make one.  If a rule has grown outdated (and they will) you may change them but only with notice to the children or negotiation from them.

You may even have situations when they are old enough, when you can ask, “What consequence would cause you never to do something like this again?”

Our kids’ consequences were often more severe than we would have applied and we had to moderate them, but at least we knew they grasped the seriousness or danger of the activity.

As they become older, the rules will become what you all agree to, until finally you are merely a mentor to them….and that is the real prize you are working for!

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