Kids love to float through phases, don’t they?
Interests change, abilities grow, and challenges that once seemed insurmountable eventually become old news. And so, our parenting goes through phases too.
In a matter of moments, we move from cradling our little ones with the utmost care to chasing them down the hall to wrestling them on the floor to watching them pull out of the driveway–all the while sending up prayers for wisdom.
After all, we want to do right by our kids. And in no way is this goal more taxing than in the need to be consistent–through each and every phase.
Why Consistency Matters in Parenting
Our kids will grow no matter what we do. But if we hope to grow kids who become kind, confident, God-fearing adults, we need to help them along the way.
Consistency provides kids with a secure understanding of how the world works before we send them out into it. Let’s take a look at one small example:
Each time my four-year-old stomps his foot and growls at me, I smile and say to him, ad-nauseum, “Baby, that does not intimidate me. If you are upset, you can talk to me about it in a calm, kind voice.”
I stay calm and kind myself. If silence or a grunt-and-stomp follows, I say, “When you’re ready to talk in a calm, kind voice, let me know,” and I walk away.
Through this brief interaction, he’s learning that a big show of power gets him nowhere. It’s my hope that after years of going back and forth in this way, he will recognize that he can voice his frustrations and concerns in a respectful manner and he will be heard.
I’d like to think his future wife will thank me.
Still, sometimes when he stomps that chubby little foot, I’m tempted to say, “Sure, pumpkin, go grab another cookie.” Because let’s be honest. Consistency might be key but it ain’t easy.
It’s Tough to Be Consistent When . . .
Regardless of what we’re working on–potty training, attitudes, hygiene, chores, patience, you name it–kids benefit from consistent expectations and a consistent response to both desired and unwanted behavior.
Easier said than done, right?
Let’s look at a few reasons parents find it challenging to stay consistent and what we might do to overcome these challenges.
It’s Tough to Be Consistent When You’re Tired
Who isn’t? In fact, exhaustion might just be part and parcel of the parenting experience. And when we’re tired, as you well know, anything goes.
Susie Allison, of Busy Toddler fame, jokingly refers to this as “Willy Wonka Parenting.” As in, “No . . . Don’t . . . Stop . . .” A half-hearted attempt at behavior correction spoken softly from the couch.
We all need days like this from time to time, but we can’t stand idly by like Wonka forever–we saw how that worked out.
How to hop this hurdle:
Give yourself a bedtime. Yes, you’re an adult. And yes those nighttime, kid-free hours are precious, I know. In fact, I have to trick myself into getting more sleep by giving my phone a bedtime. At 9:30, off she goes, and I’m free to do what I’d rather do anyway: wind down with a good book or a nice chat with my husband.
During the day, take a couple of pre-planned mental breaks. Go for a walk, enjoy a hobby, call a friend–do something that’s just for you. Being a parent is a rewarding role, no doubt, but it can wear on a person. Spending time alone allows you to recharge for the time you spend together.
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Listen in to a conversation on How to Be a More Consistent Parent with child and family counselors, Sissy Goff and David Thomas. on the Raising Boys and Girls Podcast.
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It’s Tough to Be Consistent When You’re Up Against External Pressure
None of us parent in a bubble. We’re surrounded by so many others doing the same job we’re doing but in a myriad of ways. You’ve got your own pals who are parents, your kids’ friends’ folks, your parents, your in-laws, and lots of other people in-between.
Chances are, you and another adult agree about a few parenting approaches here and there and disagree about many others. So when it comes time to uphold your own values with your child, you may find doubt creeping in. You might think to yourself, “This behavior doesn’t seem to bother them, why does it bother me?” About other issues, you may feel the opposite, “Gosh, I don’t understand why they care if their kid does that. Should I care more?”
As a result, we can end up reluctant to follow-through so we don’t come across too strict or rushing to discipline so as not to seem unaware. Have you ever been there? I have.
How to hop this hurdle:
Choose a few parents to look up to for wisdom and advice and decide not to care what the others think. (Preaching to the choir here.) Look for families who interact in a way that you would like to emulate. Ask how they do it and consider what might work for you. Supplement what they say with a few (not all) solid books, podcasts, and Instagram accounts that encourage and educate parents.
Make it a habit to jot down your parenting goals and approaches. If you’re married, discuss them with your spouse and come to an agreement together on what you want this to look like. Do what you can to build confidence as a parent and to move forward with what’s best for your family regardless of what others do around you.
RELATED POST: Family Devotions: How to Be Consistent When Life is Busy
It’s Tough to Be Consistent When You’re Picking Too Many Battles
As parents who care about how our kids turn out, we must be careful not to overdo it. After all, our kids–even the teenage ones–are still young and growing and learning. We can’t expect perfection on all counts. We can’t even expect perfection.
We’re better off looking for effort. Right? And with their still-developing brains and bodies, our absolute best bet is to pick one or two areas we’d like to focus on at a time.
My seven-year-old spent 2020 with me as a homeschool teacher (not the first choice for either of us, you might say). I could have chosen to focus on all the things, saying, “Sit up straight. Eyes on me. Put the marker away, we’re using pencils. Your 6’s are backward again. No time for a snack break. You gotta pay better attention to what I’m saying. Put the crayon away.”
Or he could learn to read. And love it.
How to hop this hurdle:
Trying to correct too many things at once benefits no one and might just damage you both along the way. And from a logistical standpoint, it’s simply overwhelming. Instead, write out a list of things you’d like to work on with each kid.
Then go over the lists, item by item and ask yourself, “Will this get better with time, or do I need to step in and help? How important is it to me that this changes? How important will it be to my child and his future?” Let your answers guide you as your cross items off, prioritize what’s left, and provide consistent correction accordingly.
With one or two things to focus on at a time, the confidence that comes from solid education and encouragement, and the power of a good night’s sleep, you’ll be well on your way. We’re cheering you on from here.