Thursday, February 5, 2009

Staying consistent from the start

Some people are inconsistent in how they treat their children, cycling through disciplinarian, cosseting, bribing, despairing and other modes. With Sonny in his tenth month and increasingly forging a (at times frustrating) personality of his own, we hope in our dealings with him to set a course - and then stick to it.

There'll be our baby-carrier experience to remind us to be constant.

At the moment, Mum is preparing to junk our current model in favour of an alternative we had tried out in Abu Dhabi (from which we have just returned). The newly-favoured 'Ergo' carrier, which Pa's sister-in-law had championed, provides a more secure ride for the little fella, is easier on the back of the adult and is less of a bother to buckle up boot.

The thing is, we already own four other carriers of various descriptions and types, some gifts and others purchased. Each proved to have its own fatal flaws, from an excessive number of clasps or straps to undue strain being placed on some body part or the other of the carrying parent. Mum is trying to sell some off some of the discards on the Internet, to prevent our little flat from taking on the appearance of a showroom.

Of course, with such an item, cycling through an ever-changing selection of products is unlikely to have any deleterious effects on Sonny. It's hard to see him suffering any psychic shock, for instance, or developing "Carrier Uncertainty Syndrome". Yet if we were to prove as change-prone when it comes to setting ground rules for the little fella, things could get pretty problematic. It is widely accepted that parents should provide an environment that is settled and secure, and this extends to the do's and don'ts that will shape the child's earliest acquisition of habits and dispositions. Constant variation, and the jumble of mixed signals that it will engender, may disrupt the laying-down of this essential foundation.

Of course, we're not advocating that parents stubbornly stick, come what may, to a regulatory regime that they have come to consider flawed. Yet it may be that, broadly speaking, the fact that a rule has been laid down is a point in favour of retaining it, or at least of not modifying it too soon (If 9pm is bedtime, then it shouldn't be 10pm the next week, and 8.45pm the week after, even if there may be no overwhelming reason why any of these times should be independently preferred over any other). We wouldn't want Sonny to conclude that what his parents' decrees can be easily revised, especially with a few well-timed tantrums.

Some folks would argue that children aren't such dark plotters as all that. But the little devils are certainly shrewd enough to begin to try to get their own way from a very early age (just as Sonny already knows who to appeal first if he wants something, and who is more likely to be extra-accommodating). And as the the child grows older and the sorts of issues he will encounter become increasingly complex, the parents certainly will not want to be viewed as indecisive and "unreliable".

Who would want to carry that sort of label?