Consistent Parenting

There’s an old saying:  A jug fills drop by drop (Buddha). In light of the saying:  What do these stories have in common?

  • My daughter was home schooled for two years of middle school.   Each morning we had school:  math, history, reading, science, and electives. Then we ate lunch. If all her homework was finished, we did fun things.
  • Every Monday night our family had family home evening. We varied the activities—sometimes having a lesson, sometimes playing games, occasionally inviting neighbors to join us.  But not matter what, we had family home evening and spent time together.  
  • Saturday was a time for chores.  In the morning there would be a list of chores that needed to be done with a note telling the kids how many chores  to sign up for.  Those who came first got to choose their chores first, and as soon as they were done, they could move on to other activities.
  • If the kids had to be taken out of church, they had to sit on a chair in a room with no toys and no treats and no interaction with others.  We never changed or varied from this rule.
  • Bedtime was a time for reading!  Every night we tucked our kids into bed with a story.  

The common denominator here is CONSISTENCY.   Good parenting requires consistent parenting.  Children need consistency.  It’s important that they know what the rules are and what is expected of them.  When children understand what is expected, they know what to do, how to behave and better understand consequences for their actions.   

Consistency works in multiple areas of life. Our kids loved to play at all hours of the day. Like most kids, they would beg us to let them skip dinner to continue playing. While this was sometimes tempting, I knew that the lesson they needed to learn of consistency (and eating nutritious meals) was more important than the short reprise it might mean for me if they skipped dinner. As soon as Dad came home, we would make sure the kids would come in and be ready to eat. This allowed us to enjoy quality family time and helped my kids learn important values.

Our kids didn’t always jump at the opportunity for family scripture study, so we made it an expected routine just like dinner. While we would vary our family scripture reading time, we always read with our children. This helped our kids learn the value in consistently putting our Heavenly Father first and also helped our children learn what we, as their parents, valued.

Another way to look at consistency is to think of it in terms of routine.  As you build routines into your parenting, you actually reduce the stress of everyday life and help children to feel secure.   For example, if you teach your children that they should brush their teeth every night, and you consistently make sure that happens, soon they brush their teeth by themselves without putting up a fuss.   They just know it’s part of the daily routine.  This eliminates discussion and arguments and hopefully cavities.

As you develop a routine for chores, children can learn that doing chores quickly and efficiently allows them to move on to more pleasurable activities.   This, in turn, motivates them to work hard and to organize their time.    When you have a routine for fun things (going to the park, visiting the library, etc.), then children learn that they can put off their wants for a period of time because they realize that the fun activity really will happen.  They are able to trust that you mean what you say.

Never too old for Easter egg hunts.

Never too old for Easter egg hunts.

Even as teenagers, (maybe especially as teenagers), children feel secure when they know you mean what you say.   When my kids were out with friends and we had agreed on a curfew, my kids knew that I would be sitting up waiting for them.  They also knew that if they didn’t come in on time, there would be consequences.   (Yep, once I made my teenage son put 30 puzzle pieces into the jigsaw puzzle I was working on because he came in late!)

These words of advice make sense and seem easy to follow.  Unfortunately, kids like to test you and your resolve at almost every stage of life.  When my oldest son was about twelve, I discovered how valuable consistency was, not only for the kids’ security, but also for making parenting easier.    My son started giving me a lot of grief about obeying the rules.  When I’d remind him it was time to do his chores, he would whine and complain and twist the issues around until we were arguing about all kinds of things—like why didn’t his brother have to do this chore?  Why did he always get the hard jobs? or Why did I love his sister more?  It got so out of control I finally I went to a counselor for help. The counselor changed my life. He explained I didn’t have to answer all the accusations my son was making.   All I had to do was be consistent. So then the dialogue went like this:  

Mom:  You need to clean your room
Son:  What??????????????   I just cleaned it.
Mom:  Oh, really?  Well, you still need to go clean your room.
Son:  Why doesn’t Steph have to clean her room?  Her room looks worse than mine!
Mom:  Really?  I’ll have to look.   But you still need to clean your room.
Son:  But I want to go outside to play!!!!!!!!!!
Mom:  Great idea.   As soon as you clean your room you can go outside.
Son:   Mommmm!
Mom:  I’m sure you can do it.   Let me know when you are done.

No matter how many excuses or changes of topic he introduced, I consistently returned to what I expected of him.   AND IT WORKED!   He eventually gave up and did what he should.   All it took was consistency on my part.

Being consistent isn’t always about chores, consequences, or nagging mothers. Being consistent is just as important when it comes to traditions and family fun.

Every family has traditions; and what builds traditions? Consistency.

One of our favorite family traditions is an annual Easter egg hunt.   Every year, on the Saturday before Easter we get out the dying gear and color our eggs.   Then later in the day, we hold our annual Easter egg hunt.  We fill plastic eggs with candy and then hide both the plastic and the boiled eggs all around the yard.   This is such a tradition, that we even took eggs with us (plastic ones!) when our family was on an outing over Easter.   We hid the eggs at the cabin where we stayed!

It is not just holiday traditions that are important.  Birthday traditions, family outings, or extended family get-togethers can also add consistency to the family.   One of our favorite habits as a family was the Sunday evening game night.   We spent many happy hours playing board games, card games, and in the summer—croquet!   These consistent moments built memories that glue our family together even today.

So if you feel like parenting is the hardest thing you’ve ever done, pause and ask yourself if maybe a little consistency wouldn’t help to smooth things out and make parenting easier.

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Written by Phyllis Rosen