Parenting can be exhausting and frustrating. There are many days when we’re just trying to survive the day. But regardless of our actions, doing what’s best for our children is always our number one goal … even if we’re unknowingly sabotaging ourselves.
We’re willing to bet that all of us (ourselves included) make this mistake regularly without even knowing. A mistake that can cause your children to feel confused, insecure and anxious. A mistake that makes life harder for both you and your children.
Not to worry, this is not a guilt trip. In fact, we’re here to tell you how to fix it.
But first …
What is this dreadful mistake we’re all making?
Consistency is one of the most important and essential concepts when it comes to effective parenting. For many of us, expediency can easily take precedence over consistency because we’re just trying to get through the day. But, taking the time to consistently parent our kids will actually save time in the end once your children understand what’s expected of them and what they can expect from you.
What do we mean by inconsistent parenting?
A few common examples include:
No set routines
A normal routine brings comfort and consistency to a child’s life. They help establish expectations, encourage independence while reducing stress and anxiety since a child knows what to expect. Routines offer stability when other areas of life are stressful.
What happens when a child doesn’t have routine in their life? It can cause chaos, stress and anxiety for the whole family.
Are there going to be changes in routine that are unavoidable? Absolutely! Whether it’s a last minute work trip for mom or dad, a move to another house or even something fun like a family vacation, routines will be interrupted and you may see changes in your child’s behavior. By offering children a predictable routine as a foundation in their lives will help them rise to the occasion to handle the changes in routine when they need to.
Varying expectations of your child’s behavior
We realize the patience you have with your children varies daily, depending on many external factors. Some days we may have the patience of Job and the next day, the tiniest thing can set us off. That’s understandable, we are human after all and dealing with many other things besides “just” parenting.
Whether it’s work, a sick family member, marital problems or another one of life’s many challenges, our patience level runs on a spectrum. However, it sends mixed messages to your child when you let them get away with something one day and punish them for it the next. Mixed messages can lead to confusion, anxiety and ultimately undesirable behaviors.
For instance, if they have daily chores, they need to complete them every day or a consequence needs to be enforced. If they’re only allowed a certain amount of screen time, that shouldn’t vary unless they’ve done something to earn extra time.
Not only is it important to establish and enforce these expectations with your children, it’s important that anyone parenting your child be on the same page as well. That avoids the frustrating “Well, Daddy said I could do so and so” or “Mommy doesn’t ever make me do this.”
How many times have you threatened to take away your child’s Christmas and birthday presents, their I-pad or told them they couldn’t have a play date if they didn’t improve their behavior or do what you asked? Probably more than you can name. Again, we all have.
As a parent, taking something away is often number one in our arsenal because it’s one of the quickest ways to get their attention. BUT, how often do you actually follow through with your threat?
So, why is it such a problem?
1) We’re probably threatening to take away things that will never be taken away. Are you really going to cancel Christmas or take away their birthday presents? Probably not.
2) By not enforcing the consequence of your child’s negative behavior, you’re actually reinforcing it. You’re teaching them it’s OK to misbehave because you won’t actually follow up with any sort of consequence. That’s a very simple way to lose your child’s respect.
Bottom line, on those days less than perfect days when you want to give in, remember being consistent not only helps your child, it also helps you. Yes, it takes strength and a little extra work but the rewards you’ll receive are tenfold.