Does the title make you wince? It’s one of the more critical parenting skills, yet at the same time one of the more challenging. For infants and toddlers, consistency mostly means eating regular intervals and sleeping on a regular schedule. I found that with my own children, the more consistent their routines were at this age, the less I had to deal with cross or misbehaving children. That was an outcome worth a little bit of sacrifice, so I tried very hard to be consistent. (I have to note my personal belief in not punishing young children for misbehavior if they are tired or hungry. Fix the problem first, then see if the behavior doesn’t fix itself.)
But consistency is difficult. And, I found that it gets more challenging as my children get old enough to remember and negotiate. I have children who don’t forget that a week ago I promised them we would get donuts after school in a week. Or, that once when my girls were fighting I let my seven-year-old sit in the front seat with her car seat. I ran across a quote this week in a book I happened across at the library – Guilt-free Motherhood by Julianna Slattery. “The average kid has much more time and energy to devote to lobbying than his mother does to staying consistent.” Ain’t that the truth?
But, this blog is about sane parenting, not expecting perfection out of ourselves with unrealistic goals. Is being consistent good? Absolutely. Is it possible to always be consistent? Maybe, but not likely (didn’t we all have parents who forgot they grounded us? I know mine always did.). So, what do we do instead? The best we can. Know what the really important things for you are and stay consistent with them.
The easiest way to be as consistent as possible? Don’t promise anything you aren’t sure you can remember and deliver. I’m really good at vague responses – just ask my kids. Or, better yet, make your children responsible for reminding you.