For many years parents have been told to be consistent. To follow through with the consequences we set. Not to back down when we’ve set a limit.
This is a good strategy in theory, but it also binds us as parents.
We make an impulsive decision to take away TV for a week, then feel stuck when we realize that there is no way to enforce it.
We feel confident about a parenting decision until we hear a compelling argument from our kids. Even though they make a good point, we feel pressure to stay firm.
Consistency may not be the key to good parenting as we’ve been led to believe.
Instead, let’s try flexibility!
Why Flexibility is Key to Good Parenting
- We can explore options: Sometimes we feel like our choices are limited. Instead of feeling trapped by one decision, give yourself time to look for other solutions. Flexible phrases include: “Let’s talk about this when we are both calm” or “I need to talk this over with dad before I make a decision.”
- We can make mistakes: Let’s face it, it’s hard to make good decisions when we are in the heat of the moment. If you let your anger, frustration or anxiety gets the best of you, it’s ok to go back and say, “I was upset when I grounded you earlier. I realize that was not the best way to handle the situation.”
- We can change our minds: Your initial decision may not have been the best solution. It may have been unrelated to the problem, too extreme, or difficult to enforce. Or, maybe you learned something that made you think about it differently. Kids can learn that gathering new information may lead to better decision making.
- We can work together: Rather than feeling burdened by creating consequences, encourage a teamwork mindset in your family. Talk about challenges, brainstorm solutions together. Be open to listening to your child’s point of view, and teach them to respectfully explain their position.
- We can grow up with our kids: What works for your 3-year-old will probably not work for your 13-year-old. As your kids grow and mature, you can change our parenting strategies. You can offer different opportunities for learning and allow them to take more responsibility and make more of their own choices.
- We can learn: So much of parenting is trial and error. Instead of being locked into one particular way of parenting, we can be free to try something different or think about things in a different way. Not everything will work for your family, and that is OK! Being open to learning and growing as a parent may allow you to meet each of your kids in a way that works best for them.
Is there a place for consistency?
Consistency is not BAD.
Following through with what you say you are going to do can be a great parenting strategy and a good life lesson for your kids.
Children feel most secure when they know what to expect. When they have routine and structure to their day or a predictable rhythm to their life.
Like most things in parenting, it’s striving to find a balance that is right for you. If you are more of a passive parent, focusing on being more consistent may make the most sense. If you are very rigid in your parenting, it may be important for you to look for ways to be more flexible.
If you’ve been tied to the idea that you must remain consistent in your parenting decisions, give this some time to sink in. Look for opportunities to be flexible and see how it works.
As always, I’m here to support you as you explore this idea.