What does it mean to be consistent? For busy parents, it’s not just about checking the box on all the things you need to complete in order to deliver on your external responsibilities. It’s also about showing up as a version of yourself that is deeply grounded in what you value most highly, such that, no matter the circumstances, you can rely upon yourself to express certain qualities or characteristics that will beneficially shape the way things move forward.
Developing consistency, then, requires a focus that goes beyond just external tasks and activities, and it also requires a willingness to examine oneself with a high degree of honesty. Understanding that there is almost always some degree of inconsistency – and orienting oneself using the lens of “how can I be more consistent” – can be a helpful approach with which to examine one’s choices.
This blog post can be used as a “personal consistency diagnostic” in the sense that it offers several potential angles for parents to review their decisions, behaviors, and outcomes. Take time to consider how you are approaching each aspect below and identify steps you can take to develop greater consistency as a parent.
Areas to Be Consistent
Parenting involves establishing supervision for countless areas of your children’s lives, and also for those same areas in your own life. Below are examples of several dimensions in which it can be beneficial to examine the underlying principles that are guiding your choices, and how well you are living in alignment with them on an everyday basis.
Setting and enforcing rules and consequences helps children understand what is expected of them and reinforces good behavior. It demonstrates strength in acting according to one’s principles, and children are provided good feedback about how to manage themselves effectively. The more that they are able to internalize the considerations leading to rules, the more likely they are to guide their decisions beneficially. In general, how are you approaching discipline and consequences? Where are things working well, and where are they not working?
Schedules and Routines
Establishing regularity within daily routines and weekly schedules helps children feel secure and provides structure for their day. They are able to learn the value of organizing their own lives in ways that drive purposeful, meaningful outcomes. This makes progress easier, as the training happens with higher degrees of intent and presence. If you take a step back, during what periods of time could your children benefit from more structure? What activities would be good ones to add to the schedule?
When parents are consistent in their emotional responses, they earn the trust of their children, which provides them with a more supportive framework through which to view life. Love is expressed with great care and respect. When there is anger, it is used in ways that are ultimately supportive to the children’s well-being. By being more vulnerable as you fight to serve your children’s best interests, you help them see what’s worth fighting for. When have your responded emotionally in ways that you regret? What caused those responses?
It is important for parents to communicate their standards and thresholds to their children so that their children can understand what they are to hold themselves accountable for. Expectations need to be reinforced regularly, whether verbally or in writing, so that they serve as strong internal scaffolding to support your children’s decisions. This leads to more harmony in the household. What expectations would it be beneficial to express more clearly to your children?
Family values help children develop a sense of identity that is rooted in the broader principles that they embody and stand for. When they encounter challenging situations in their lives, they know they have virtues they can rely on to influence the outcomes they experience. This develops faith, boldness, and greater horsepower in overcoming obstacles. What can you do to prompt discussions about your values more often?
Obstacles to Consistency
Whatever order you are aiming to establish in your life and in your family’s lives, you can be sure that bumps in the road will arise. The key is to not let those bumps send you off course, and to respond with the commitment to stay on track for the long run. Below are some areas to be particularly cautious of as you lead your family forward.
Life changes – anything from starting a new job to dealing with illness to going through a divorce to becoming pregnant to moving to a new home – can disrupt routines and cause stress for parents. When going through a life change, it as critical to regularly take time to strengthen your self-awareness efforts. Carve out time to stay in touch with the underlying things you want to “get right” as you deal with all the challenges around you.
Differences in Parenting Styles
Different parenting styles between partners can make it difficult for parents to agree on and maintain consistency in their approach to child-rearing. It’s ok for each parent to have their own way of dealing with situations as long as they are consistent with each other and they acknowledge the value of each other’s approach. These qualities enhance the scope of feedback provided to the children and increase the degree of unity within the family.
Exhaustion and Burnout
Parents who are physically and emotionally exhausted can struggle to maintain consistency. The more tired that parents are, the less control they have to influence their responses during periods of stress. This makes it more likely for them to have an outburst or to fail to take an action that is needed, both of which are unsupportive. Whatever their daily responsibilities, parents must schedule their days and weeks with the spirit and the strategy to stay sufficiently rejuvenated.
Lack of Agreement on Consequences
When children start to see their parents as anything other than a united front, they can feel as though an aspect of life is letting them down, and this can negatively affect their enthusiasm. Children greatly benefit from seeing alignment demonstrated again and again. When they know there are consequences to their actions, it helps them develop greater respect for life as a whole.
Parenting in Isolation
Parents who lack support from family and friends may face more challenges from their children and may find it more difficult to influence their decisions. In these situations, it is critical for parents to continually seek to act in the children’s best interests, and to have the courage to be vulnerable while doing so. This brings greater clarity for the children and increases the likelihood that they will make decisions with an understanding of the consequences.
Tips to Stay Consistent
Practically, what can you focus on to give yourself a better chance of deepening your consistency over time? Below are five considerations:
Evolve your approach as your children age
Children's needs and behaviors change as they grow, and the way you relate to them must adapt as well. Doing so forces parents to refine what exactly it is that they are choosing to hold consistent, for they have to repeatedly find new ways to adhere to it as the things around it change. If parents have the expectation that their relationships with their children will continually grow, face difficulties, and transform, then they can create bonds that are deeply meaningful.
Allow children to take on new responsibilities and make choices, within limits, to help them develop independence and self-confidence. Set the guardrails in ways that give them leeway to make their own decisions; if you like, you can call out the potential consequences of certain actions, but you should also create room for them to explore and cultivate their sense of agency.
Remain open to feedback
Empower your children to offer you their thoughts on the situations you go through together, and take their feedback to heart. Use it to learn how they are processing what they are experiencing so that you can more effectively support them to act in their best interest. By keeping the dialogue open, parents can reduce the chance that children build momentum down paths that are not beneficial.
Reflect on your actions
Take time to reflect on your approach to parenting and regularly reassess what is working and what can be improved to find the right balance between flexibility and consistency. Revisit this blog post, or consult other parenting guidance to make sure you are staying sharp with who you want to be. Keeping a journal can also be helpful for building awareness of what you are experiencing and how you can shape it for the better.
Prioritize your principles
Find inspiration on a daily basis by choosing to sacrifice comfort, convenience, and other personal preferences for things that are more important to you as you raise your children. In other words, get clear on what will fuel you as you face the everyday battles of parenting. When you live in accordance with what you care about, you can rest easy and without regret.
Value consistency as you navigate parenting your children, and you will create an experience for them that is more likely to hone and strengthen their psyche. Additionally, you will cultivate relationships with them that acknowledge the specialness of the parent-child connection and that promote a high degree of respect for its existence.
Good luck. Please feel free to share your thoughts below. Have a wonderful day!
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