My son, Jim, suggested I do a daily parenting tip right out of my Handbook to Joy-Filled Parenting. The first tip is about consistency.
One of the most important traits a parent can exhibit when parenting is consistency. If you struggle with consistency and self-control in your own life, it would be good to get help and work on that as you parent. Children see in us what is really there, not what we tell them we want them to see. They are so intelligent and very observant of every weakness we can have. They will take advantage of that at every possible moment. Because of this, it appears that they want their own way all the time. That is true to a point, but a bigger truth is that they want secure, consistent boundaries that communicate to them, “You are safe here and you can depend on me to take care of you—even if you’re trying to tell me you want it your way.” We can communicate this with clear procedures, clear consequences, and clear follow-through.
Consistency is tied to the bonding styles that we talked about in Chapter Four. If the parent’s style is consistently dismissive the children feel insecure, fearful and ignored. If the parents are consistently distracted, the children feel insecure, fearful, and clingy. As I have said before, parents struggling with the disorganized style with consistent anger and/or fear may need to ask for help from others.
In order to discipline well, the consistency has to be loving and unchanged by circumstances, flighty whims, and moods of the parents. Discipline cannot be based on bribery for good behavior. This is what I mean by consistency—that the children know what is expected and most every time the consequences are timed and carried out the same way. Mommy and Daddy don’t make idle threats that everyone in hearing distance knows will not be done. They don’t command something over and over without carrying through to see it is done. Mommy and Daddy don’t yell, scream and never ask forgiveness when they blow it. Mommy and Daddy don’t say, “Do what I say,” and then not practice it themselves. Consistent parents can be depended on to mean what they say and model it as best they can, admitting and asking for forgiveness when they don’t. All of us will be consistent—but which kind of consistent do we want to be?
“Let your yes be yes, and your no be no…” James 5:12