Each week I'm writing about a mistake we parents can avoid, and this week's mistake is one that is very difficult for all of us, inconsistency.
Even though it's very difficult for us, it's one thing our children crave. It gives them security and boundaries in their life. Regardless of whether we tend to be a strict parent or a lenient one, we can all be a consistent parent.
Have you ever heard yourself say, "I'm telling you for the third time" or "I'm not going to tell you again"? When I heard those words come out of my mouth, I knew it was a bad sign. It tells me I have not done what I said it was going to do. Likewise making exaggerated threats undermine our authority. Have you ever said something like, "If you do that, I'll ground you for the rest of the year"? Our children know that's a threat, it will not be carried out, and we're being inconsistent. And then there's my personal big failing -- making a rule but not checking up on it. All of these are signs of the same problem. Why are we consistently inconsistent?
Again I'm going to Dr. Tim Elmore as the source. He lists these reasons why we're inconsistent.
First, and perhaps most frequently, we're not sure what to do. We haven't thought it through sufficiently, or we don't have the moral compass or confidence to make a good decision.
Second, parents are not on the same page. Children learn at a very young age how to work one parent against another. We may not want to ascribe such manipulative motives to our children, but we're in for a rude awakening if that's the case.
Third, we are so busy with the demands of our family and work. This causes us to make quick decisions in the heat of the moment without considering the long range effects.
So what's the solution? Dr. Elmore suggests the following goals for us as parents.
Clarity. As hard as it is, we must take the time to think through a rule, directive, or procedure. State it in clear concise language and ensure that our children understand it.
Transparency. When we model transparency our children will seek to emulate it. This is closely related to honesty and the opposite of manipulation.
Boundaries. What are the right number and the specifics of our children's boundaries? Thinking this through together with our spouse or even other significant people in our children's lives will give them the security that they crave.
Consistency is not easy. Practicing the three things above as suggested by Dr. Elmore will help us move in that direction.
Blessings on your parenting,