On Consistency in Parenting

If you’ve ever read a parenting book, you have experienced the tireless bleat of the Ph.D toward consistency in parenting.  Now, on kid number 3, I vaguely remember and agree that this is important, but I get it right about as often as I pick the fastest line at the grocery store.  And the kids just keep getting older and craftier, and we parents are beginning to wear out, and leading and discipling our kids with consistency begins to feel like too much to hope for.

What I must remember, as I’m tempted to slide into lazy parenting, is these little kids are just like me.  They thrive on consistency, because they are looking for the rules to the game of life.  And just like I am much more productive and pleasant to be around when I have some consistency in my work schedule and other important areas of my life, children will grow and bloom with more room for joy and wonder if they are secure in their surroundings.  To our kids, our rules and our leadership are like the palette to a painter.  When we are inconsistent with how we treat them and how we lead them, they paint with a muddy brush.  And when we stick to our guns and have consistent consequences for unwanted behavior, it sets them free to be brilliant little artists on the canvas of life.  (OK, that sounds like a hallmark card).

There is a caveat here – and that concerns our tone.  A friend recently reminded me of the parenting tendencies of the Mennonites, and how they are relentlessly demanding of proper behavior, but they are also fiercely gentle.  I don’t care how consistent you are with your kids, if your tone is biting or sarcastic or demeaning with them, you’re fighting a losing battle.  Respecting our kids and their personhood is the counterweight to consistent discipline.

So next time you see your kid roll his eyes at you or huff down the hallway after you just asked them to pick up their wet towel off the floor… maybe gently call them back and see if they can try again.  You might need to invest in a punching bag to keep from wringing their scrawny necks, but the world will be better for it.  And so will your kids.

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