Sneaks of many colors in a rowThe Impossibility of Consistency

Have you read the HuffPo article, What If Consistency Isn’t the Key to Good Parenting? Author Beth Woolsey challenges the concept of consistency. She states, “I think I’ve read it in every parenting book. Heard it from the lips of all the parenting experts. Consistency is the key to good parenting, they say, and there are few principals more important.”

She goes on to further challenge that theory, it’s a good read, and I agree with her.

I think it’s impossible to be consistent 100% of the time. I think adhering to the “traditional” definition of consistency makes parents feel like failures, when getting through the day is hard enough. No one can be consistent 100% of the time. However, there is another way to look at consistency, one that makes being consistent extremely doable.

In order to achieve this new way of being consistent, you have to look at why the “traditional” model of consistency no longer works in our world.

Reason #1: I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but life is far different now than it was when your parents where parenting you. Life isn’t static; the way it was yesterday isn’t the way it is today. Life requires you to keep up with the moment-to-moment changes that are occurring in response to new stimuli. And these days it seems like the pace of life, and the pace of the changes coming at you, has increased ten-fold. 

Reason #2: Your children are growing and maturing each time they experience new situations, people, and aspects about themselves. You too, are growing and changing. You’re not the same person you were when you began parenting. You’ve changed in response to the shifts you’ve experienced out in the world, and from parenting your children.

So, if you use the “traditional” definition of consistency, you know the one your parents used with you, that states, “Once a I make a rule, the rule stands, no matter what,” you’ve just boxed yourself in to a situation that makes no allowances for those moment–to–moment changes that you and your child are experiencing.

Wait. Breathe. Don’t start typing a comment just yet. I do know there are some kids that absolutely need the “traditional” type of consistency. It just works for them. If you’ve been reading me for a while you know I have one rule, “if it works, do-not-change-it!” So if consistency is what allows your child to feel safe, listen and cooperate, then please don’t change it.

However, if being consistent feels like a rule you break more often than you’d like, I have a solution. Reframe it. You heard me. We can reframe the word consistent and redefine how we use consistency in parenting? Let me explain.

Instead of believing that changing a rule can only translate to your child as, “See Mommy and Daddy really can be talked into breaking a rule,” think again. This is where we can reframe and redefine consistency.

Since you and your child are changing each and every moment of the day, why not honor that, and at the same time be firm and consistent in a way that teaches self-regulation.

What if you redefine consistency as, I am, and always will be the authority in this house. I am, and always will be the one who loves you more than anything and will always have your best interest at heart. I am, and always will be the one who knows when you’ve grown past the rules of yesterday and need to have new rules. I am, and always will be the one who understands the silent messages you’re sending by your behavior showing me that it’s time to support your growth by relaxing the rules so we can both see how you do with more responsibility?”  What about using those statements to define consistency?

When you use that definition of consistency you’ll find that you can change the rules without losing your authority. You’ll find that you can help your child stretch and grow. And you’ll find that the new boundary that’s created is teachable, firmer, empowering and supportive all at the same time.

Here’s how it would sound. “I know we always had a rule that there were no snacks before dinner. But I see you’ve grown up a bit since the time that rule was made, so I think it might be time to give you a chance to show me that you can have a small, healthy snack, and still eat dinner without reminders from me or Dad. What do you think? However, if Dad and I need to go back to reminding you to eat, which we haven’t had to do since we stopped having snacks, then you’ll be showing me you aren’t ready to have snacks again. Do you agree to all of this?”

Most of us are trying to teach our children to self-regulate and begin thinking for themselves. Most of us want to parent differently than our parents did. Changing the definition of consistency let’s you change your mind, or relax the rules, and let’s be honest, you were doing that anyway. Also this new definition empowers kids to learn about self-regulation within the new boundaries that are now far easier to enforce.

This is just another way to respond, not react, when parenting. Just thought you’d want to know.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and please if you agree, share this with others, especially those who think like you do!

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