One of the most prevalent pieces of parenting advice today is “be consistent.” We have all had that drilled into our heads, haven’t we? But what exactly is consistency? Is it sticking to your guns no matter how ridiculous the consequence was? Is it applying the exact same consequence every single time? Let’s take a closer look at what parental consistency is and what it is not.
Consistency is . . .
- Making sure that you mean what you are about to say before you say it. You won’t have to go back on what you say if you think before you speak. For parents who live their lives in fast forward mode, this can be difficult to do. Take a deep breath. Slow down. Try saying it in your head first before you say it out loud. It will be much easier to be consistent with a response, command or consequence if it has been given intentionally.
- Keeping your word. If you say you will take your kids to the park tomorrow, do it. I know – life gets in the way and things come up. But if you find yourself apologizing for broken promises all too often, it is time to do a little evaluation. Are you making false promises to avoid behavioral fall out? Do you try to make changes in routine easier to swallow with rash promises of postponement? Our children need to know that we are trustworthy. They will learn that if we are moms and dads of our word.
- Having a calm and steady demeanor when delivering consequences. A tone that is consistently firm and loving is something that needs to be consistent. It is all too easy to let our tone slip into the territory of disrespect and belittling. A little practice with a recording device can go a long way to help us develop the “right” tone for discipline. You may be surprised at how you sound.
Consistency is NOT . . .
- Sticking to an impulsive or harsh consequence with no sign of remorse or grace. You definitely don’t want to make a habit of going back on your word, but there are times when we will need to humbly retract that which was said in haste or a fit of anger. The best solution to harsh punishments is to monitor what comes out of our mouths in the first place (see the first point above).
- Giving the same consequence for the same behavior. If your child is struggling with backtalk and you take away his use of the Wii every time it happens, you are engaging in a type of parental consistency that can backfire. Knowing what is coming, your child may calculate the risks and decide that a little backtalk is worth the loss of the Wii for an afternoon. Children should not be presented with a list of misbehaviors and a corresponding list of consequences. To do so, is to make the list the parent and not you. Of course your child must be held accountable for his behavior, but you need to be the one to decide what consequence “fits the crime,” not a piece of paper on the wall.
- Softening the impact of a consequence because you fear a “blow up.” Sometimes we fear that we might trip our child’s hot buttons so we hesitate to discipline in order for his behavior to stay consistent. But if we make keeping the peace our highest goal, we may do so at the cost of our child’s character. Training and re-direction is our mandate as parents. If we avoid the job for fear of headaches and strife, we need to turn to the Lord and lean on Him to give us the confidence to discipline in love.
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