“The secret of success is consistency of purpose.”
— Benjamin Disraeli
I’m aware that it sounds like inconsistent parenting is a kind of parenthood that you get to start and stop at will, and oh, how I wish that was the case. I would love nothing more than a pause button at four a.m. when I’m up with a sick kid. That, and a Snickers ice cream bar. Sadly, that’s just not possible yet, and in the meantime, we’ll talk about consistent parenting.
When in doubt, aim for consistency with your kids. If you say you’re going to take them to the park, take them to the park. If there’s any doubt in your mind as to whether it will actually happen, don’t tell them you’ll take them to the park.
Of course, this is tricky. I can just hear your responses now…
- What if it rains? Well, I’d try to grit my teeth, toss some towels in the car, dress them in rain gear, and try it. Simply because I told them I would.
- What if the car doesn’t start? In my books, that’s an act of God (or the universe, same difference) and a good time to teach them that sometimes Things Don’t Go As Planned. I’d try to come up with something equally fun to do at home, like a blanket fort, or baking bread.
- What if they’re sick? For goodness sake, keep them home to rest. This works as double good motivation to rest, since they can go to the park when they’ve rested, eaten their soup and medicine tea, and are feeling better.
Now, there’s a sanity safety clause here: don’t feel pressured to make a spur-of-the-moment decision. It’s perfectly fine to tell your three-year-old, “You know what? Mommy needs to think about it for a moment.” I do this regularly if I have any hesitation about the answer. I try to make sure I come back with a yes as often as I come back with a no or a maybe later. Dr. Harvey Karp refers to this in Happiest Toddler on the Block as patience-stretching. I try not to make them wait longer than one minute for each year of age. Three minutes for the three-year-old and five minutes for the five-year-old.
The end result that I’m aiming for is kids that know I mean exactly what I say. Nothing undermines that effort more than telling them one thing and then doing something else.
“Consistency is what matters the most in triggering something important to your life.”
— Abdul Rauf
More conscious parenting resources…
- Boundaries for Gentle Parenting: Why? How?
- Authority: The Challenge of Our Times
- Three-Year-Old Behavior Challenges