Rant with Randi: The Golden Rule of Parenting

I have a friend who is a phenomenal parent. When it comes to parenting, she knocks it out of the park. Here’s just a short list of why I admire her skills: As a mom, she’s fun, smart, demands a lot from her kids, expects them to work hard and then she rewards them hard.

But mostly, she has a “Golden Rule” of parenting. She says what she means and she means what she says, period. She is consistent, which is something that I aspire to adhere to on a daily basis.

Earlier this year, we ended up at the same party. She arrived with no fewer than eight kids trailing behind her (her own kids as well as her nieces), and we hung out and celebrated the holiday. But when she said it was time to go, she grabbed her bag, told the kids it was time to leave, and everyone listened. Literally, every kid she brought, stopped what they were doing, with zero hesitation, and fell in line. Her son had been running around playing with a big group of boys, but he didn’t hesitate when she said it was time to leave.

Now I don’t know about you, but in my house, it doesn’t work that way. I say it’s time to leave, and 20 minutes later we’re still negotiating. Nobody stops what he or she is doing without putting up a fight. I wouldn’t know what to do if I made a statement and the whole house actually listened. We’d probably buy ourselves about one to two hours a day! Don’t get me wrong, I have good kids, but this was an entirely different level of parenting. It felt like I was in the “Twilight Zone.”

So the next day, I decided to call her to find out how she does it. I mean, seriously: Who has a group of that many kids, and every single one of them listens to her without putting up a fight?

Apparently it all started when her kids were young. I think her advice can help so many parents, especially those with young children (trust me, there’s still time). She drove her three kids to Disneyland and they were behaving poorly on the ride up. She kept telling them that if their behavior didn’t change, she would turn the car around. But what kids think their parents will actually turn the car around once they get all the way to Disneyland?

I’m sure you can guess what happened next. She pulled into the parking lot, stopped the car, the kids were still arguing — so she drove all the way back to San Diego. Her kids cried the entire way home, but she sent a pretty strong message that day.

She also had a policy that when her kids were young, they always took two cars when they went out to eat. They didn’t actually set the kids up to fail, but they always had an “out” in case one of them misbehaved. They would order food, wait for it to arrive, and then ask for a “to go box” because “X child” was not behaving and needed to go home. Can you imagine? Who thinks of that? I’ll tell you who ... my ninja parenting buddy who has raised three incredibly humble, gracious, smart and happy kids.

Why is this important if we don’t have toddlers? Because as our kids get older, all of the decisions we make get much tougher. You go from relatively small decisions, to decisions that could actually have a long-term impact on your child (see previous article regarding the Poway Party Parents).

I couldn’t resist the urge to write this rant, because I can’t begin to count how many empty threats we (my husband and I) have made to our kids over the years. Sometimes we let big threats slip out and then regret that we now have to follow through and enforce the threat. I have seen my friends do it, too, and we laugh afterwards about our “parent of the year” award that we’re never going to receive.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. Do you follow the Golden Rule?