Consistency is a word that makes every parent want to roll their eyes. That’s because consistency in parenting is tough. And chances are that no matter how consistent you are, you probably don’t feel consistent enough.
His room was an absolute disaster. The pile of dirty clothes kept me from getting close to his closet and construction toys crunched beneath my feet.
“Thank goodness I am wearing shoes,” I thought as I turned to seek him out.
I walked into the living room and stopped short. There he was… again… with his feet perched against my desk and a big glass of juice precariously placed between his right foot and my laptop.
The same laptop for which I paid over $1,000.
The same laptop where I diligently work every weekday (and some weekends) to make his life enjoyable.
The same laptop that would be difficult to replace if a drink spilled into the hard drive and fried it beyond the Geek Squad’s capability to restore it.
I swallowed the angry mom voice that rose up inside my throat and calmly instructed him to go clean his room. Now.
But the response was sassy. Rude. Defiant. Disrespectful.
And not how I allow him to speak to me.
So I had a choice to make:
- Do I let him get away with his poor choices and place a “biohazard” sticker across his door?
- Do I release the angry mom who was choking my vocal chords and screaming for release like a hungry kraken ready to feast on the bones of small children?
- Do I stay focused on being a consistent parent and dish out the discipline he so rightly deserved?
Why is consistency in parenting important?
Does it really matter if I am a consistent parent? Over the scope of his lifetime, will it matter that I made him clean his room every week? That I took his electronics and gave him extra chores every time he rolled his eyes and refused to stop his Fortnite battle?
Let’s change the question…
If I consistently ignore the needs of the gorgeous, green houseplant perched on my piano, what will happen?
It will die.
Likewise, if I pretend the little oak saplings sprouting from acorns in my front yard don’t exist and allow them to grow unchecked, what will happen?
Eventually a forest of oak trees will grow in my front yard.
Consistency provides children with a foundation by which they can understand your expectations, predict your reactions, and learn to modify their behavior.
I have to feed what I want to keep and uproot what I want to destroy. And while taking a weekend off might not do much damage, ignoring these issues for a year or two years or ten years will create an impossible situation requiring major repair.
Consider these four facts about consistency in parenting:
- Consistency provides children with a foundation by which they can understand your expectations, predict your reactions, and learn to modify their behavior.
- Consistency puts action behind your words and proves that you do mean what you say making you a trustworthy and dependable parent.
- Consistency is the fuel that refines children and produces adults of character.
- Consistency prohibits you as the parent from disciplining your child with emotional reactions instead of carefully chosen consequences.
The truth about consistency
Here’s the secret… No parent – no matter how amazingly confident and Pinterestingly perfect – is consistent 100% of the time. But aiming for consistency the majority of the time is not unreasonable or impossible.
How? Grab a pen and paper to brainstorm with these tips:
1. Define your goal
Ask yourself: ”What kind of character do I want to see in my child? How can I give an example of that trait? What should I do when I see my child doing the opposite of that quality?
2. Plan your reactions
Planning your reaction to situations is important for consistency because you want to respond the same way every time. (Or almost every time.)
Make a list of the discipline problems you encounter most often in your home. Then, create a consequence chart that will define your reactions to those misbehaviors.
I have said it before but it is totally true: A discipline chart keeps me from making bad choices in the heat of an angry moment.
With a plan in place, calmly choose your actions… consistently.
3. Choose your battles
If I jumped on everything my four kids did wrong, I would constantly be raging like a tyrant.
There seems to always be a rule broken somewhere in our home, whether it is a glass on my desk or a child being defiant about cleaning his room. However, one of these behaviors is significantly worse than the other (in my opinion and based on my goals.)
While I want my children to respect the property of others (and I certainly don’t want water spilled across the laptop I use for business), a disrespectful child is far from the kids of character I prayerfully desire.
So what did I do in this situation?
I corrected the defiant child.
And when he was in his room cleaning, I dished out some reality discipline by taking the drink off my desk and pouring it down the sink. He had water for the rest of the day.
But does this make me inconsistent?
I went off the discipline chart by not scolding him for the drink on my desk and chose to handle that situation later when he asked, “Where did my drink go?”
Does this mean I am not a consistent parent?
Remember, my ultimate goal is not to be a yelling mom. I don’t want to be a rigid drill sergeant.
Sometimes, flexibility is required.
Although I did not follow through with the consequence on our discipline chart for disrespecting the property of others, I did address the behavior in a creative and memorable way.
I also made sure that he knew any further glasses found on my desk would have him doing my chores for a week (our chosen action for disrespecting someone’s property.) And if he accidentally spilled his drink on my desk, his allowance would be withheld until he had paid for the damages.
Temporarily changing your approach is not being inconsistent.
It’s being wise. It’s choosing to not overwhelm your child with a list of offenses. It’s focusing on what matters the most during any situation.
And by still showing that you expect certain behaviors from your child, you are practicing consistency in parenting.
Need more help? Check out my Parenting and Behavior board on Pinterest.