Consistency: how many parents sigh or roll their eyes when they hear that word? I know, I get it a lot. That’s because consistency is tough, and most parents don’t feel like they are nearly consistent enough. This is probably the most critical topic that I cover when I begin coaching a mom and we work out a plan to get things back on track in the home. I thought that it might be a good time to cover a few basic guidelines when it comes to parenting our kiddos, especially with us embarking on Christmas break soon, having the possibility of traveling, visiting family and getting things out of ‘whack’! We all know what no routine does to everyone’s behavior! No one is consistent 100% of the time. But aiming for consistency the majority of the time is not unreasonable or impossible. As Hal Runkel says in ScreamFree Parenting and what I share in my online coaching program, we need to be ridiculously consistent! It is hard, but it is worth it! Here are some tips on how to be more consistent as a parent and understanding why it is important.
Why Be Consistent?What’s the big deal about consistency anyway? The point of all this consistency talk is simply this: if kids know the consequences of a behavior, and there’s no area of doubt, then they’re probably more likely to modify their behavior. BINGO! That is what you are trying to help them learn, to make better choices! Consistency puts action behind your words; it shows your kids that you do mean what you say. It gives your words power, and prevents you from having to take action every single time (often a different action every single time, which gets exhausting). So it pays to deliver!
“It comes down to integrity: meaning what you say, saying what you mean, and following through with what you promise.” – Hal Runkel
The Role of PlanningPlanning ahead is important for consistency. Determine what your expectations for your kids are, from the broad (doing well in school) to the specific (behaving in the grocery store). Armed with your knowledge of your kids’ idiosyncrasies – you know what sets them off and you know the “problem areas” – come up with a plan of action based on their behavior and the behavior you expect. Then calmly implement your plan…consistently. This strategy has helped me immensely over the years. Different children, personalities and unique issues are prone to wear us down as moms, but we can use our minds and think ahead to trouble areas and try to avoid them.
Involve the Other ParentWhether you are in a traditional marriage or not, if Mom and Dad are both in the home, it’s important for them to be on the same page regarding discipline and expectations. So a good idea is to sit down with the other parent and discuss your plans of action. Having both parents on board with the plan of action, expectations, and consequences just adds to the consistency. If you do not have this, do not think things are doomed. You will just be doing what you decide to do and cannot worry about the actions of the other parent. Allowing them to dictate what you do is not a good idea.
Involve the KidsReally? Yes, involving the kids is a healthy idea. Let them have a voice in the consequences, and make sure they understand the expectations. It’s not really fair to spring the consequences and expectations on them unexpectedly; it makes more sense for kids to follow rules if they know the rules (and the consequences of breaking them) ahead of time! Having a family meeting to set up expectations is a great way to get everyone on board. Allowing discussion on family rules and expectations as well as consequences for not following them is a great way to share in the process of working together for the whole good.
Consistency Is Not the Same as InflexibilityThere’s really no need to be rigid and inflexible for fear of appearing inconsistent. Sometimes, flexibility is required, and that should not undermine your consistency if you go about it the right way. For example, explain the change to your child – if it’s an exception to the usual rule, let them know why and that this is not going to be a habit. Or maybe one of the consequences does need to be adjusted; talk it over as a family and agree to make the change together. This is not being inconsistent; it’s being flexible and willing to make changes where necessary, which is likely as good a model for your children as being consistent! Learning to be open and allowing for different circumstance to enter into your thought process is one way you show your children that you can be realistic and reliable as well.
“Consistent enforcement of consequences is the single most effective application of authority in the parent-child relationship.” Hal Runkel