con·sis·tent [kən-ˈsis-tənt] –adj
marked by harmony, regularity, or steady continuity : free from variation or contradiction
How many of us would describe our parenting as any of those words? Marked by harmony? I mean, we all have our moments but would I really consider myself to be a harmonious parent? When I really consider this question I have to admit that my parenting often sounds more like cacophony. And if that didn’t make me feel bad enough, regularity and steady continuity don’t particularly make me feel much better. Perhaps you are doing better at this than me but consistency is often times the biggest challenge in my parenting.
As we strive to guide and teach our children, consistency can be demonstrated in several different ways. First, is with the way we react and interact with our children. A consistent parent has an even temperament rather than flying off the handle or breaking into whines and tears, this parent steadily reacts to his child’s needs. His voice is calm, his stance is non-threatening and his words are not heightened with emotion or rich with sarcasm. He is his child’s steady rock. This parent gives his child the message that he has it under control, he is the boss, and he can handle what is thrown his way. In order to implement this kind of control I highly suggest that parents begin to use “Mommy and Daddy time out”. What I mean by this is when you feel yourself overreacting and you cannot calmly approach a situation call a TIME OUT, leave the room, go splash water on your face, take a deep breath, and then return when you are calm. Modeling this kind of regulation is a gift to our children.
Second, we can be consistent by the way we enforce our family rules (more on this in later posts). It is important that a consistent parent sets rules that they are really willing to enforce ALL of the time. If jumping is not allowed on the couch it is never allowed on the couch. This parent will not make exceptions even when she is busy, tired, or distracted. Exceptions are what create contradictory parents not consistent ones. I challenge parents to spend three days writing down all of the inconsistencies they see in their rule enforcing. It is a sobering activity but one that helps with re-evaluation of rules and of parenting behaviors. Try it. Let me know how it goes for you.
Finally, consistency is found in the routines and rituals we implement in our homes. We often overlook how important this is to the little ones we raise. Routine creates predictability, predictability creates security, and security is foundational for healthy development. A consistent parent will see the importance of schedules not because she has a Type A personality and wants control over her household but because she wants her child to be able to wake up and know what to expect. She wants a child who knows that after dinner we will take a bath, then put pajamas on, then have a snack, read books, and head to bed. Children who have routines and family rituals tend to have lower stress levels, sleep better, and have more school success.
Take some time to think this week about being “marked by harmony, regularity, or steady continuity” as you interact with the world. Take my three day challenge. As you work to create more consistency in your life also remember the importance of consistently caring for your own needs. A wise mentor of mine once said “We can’t take children where we haven’t been”.